It's game, set and match to everyone who's made Eastbourne Tennis Week a success
They did it! Organisers of Eastbourne’s international tennis week overcame the odds and numerous obstacles to deliver a memorable week of action.
After missing out last year because of the pandemic, the LTA were determined to bring top-level tennis back to Devonshire Park this year with crowds present.
And even though capacity has been only 25 per cent, and the English weather has done its best to disrupt things, organisers can be praised for their ‘show must go on’ attitude that has seen an absorbing and at timeS scintillating week of thrills and spills on the lush grass courts.
Bosses are confident local tennis fans have enjoyed the action – and say they have also worked hard to spread the tennis gospel to local children and the wider Sussex community.
Tournament director Gavin Fletcher told us it had been a challenging but rewarding week. “At the LTA, we have a long track record of delivering world class events all year round, and we’re happy to bring top level tennis back to Eastbourne this year,” he said.
“We know all the players are delighted to be back in Eastbourne.
“It’s incredibly challenging staging events in the current climate and the cost is pretty much double that of any normal year.
“We’ve been working closely with government, the ATP and WTA Tours and the All England Club to bring back playing opportunities for players and the chance for fans to enjoy live grass court tennis again.
“We’ve been operating at 25% crowd capacity this year but fans unable to watch live have been able to watch at home on the BBC and Amazon Prime.”
Players have spoken in glowing terms about how much they have enjoyed their Eastbourne visit.
Aussie John Millman said: “It’s great playing in front of a crowd again, it really is nice, so thanks everyone for coming out. Eastbourne is a really special place, I’ve been here multiple times, there is a real homely feel here and it makes it special that people can come out and really appreciate tennis.”
Latvian star Jelena Ostapenko told us: “I love to play on grass, this week I’ve been starting to get used to the grass, which is good because Wimbledon is ahead.
“Eastbourne is a really nice place, I like this place so much, but the weather is sometimes really tricky! It can rain and then in one hour, 30 minutes it can be sunny, but so far, now, the weather is good so I hope it’s going to be like that the rest of the week.”
Meanwhile Fletcher stressed the LTA was working hard to take tennis to the masses – not just through top tournaments.
“It’s not just the professional tennis at Devonshire Park that’s happening; there have been lots of opportunities to get the community involved to open tennis up through the new LTA Youth programme and our work with the local authority to get more people playing on public park courts,” he added.
“The LTA have invested in the renovation of the Old Town Hun at Old Town Recreation Ground, the Hampden Park Community Courts and The Tennis Care in Gildredge Park in Eastbourne.”
“This summer we’ve seen more than 900 children from primary schools across Sussex take part in a virtual skills festival.
“One of the British players from the Eastbourne tournament, Fran Jones, made a virtual visit to Bourne Primary School where the Year 3 children were taking part in a skills session.
“We had a Disability Tennis Skills Festival where four local special educational needs schools tried tennis for the first time – and tomorrow Judy Murray will be visiting Eastbourne Park to run an LTA She Rallies session for local Brownies and Girl Guides. She will also be delivering a training session for local female coaches.
“Hopefully the return of this event will inspire people from all backgrounds to pick up a racket and head to their local park, venue or club.”
TENNIS WEEK REPORTS AND PICTURES n Pages 68-71