Centre court classics

11974: Chris Evert v Virginia Wade - The inaugural Eastbourne International, then known as the John Player Championships, proved to be a key stepping stone for the legendary Chris Evert.

Fresh off the back of her first-ever Grand Slam win at the French Open, Evert carried this momentum on to Eastbourne to beat British favourite Virginia Wade in straight sets 7-5, 6-4. Evert’s run at Eastbourne contributed to a stunning winning streak of 55 matches for the season in which she also won the Wimbledon crown. For Wade though, she didn’t have to wait too long to taste victory at Devonshire Park.

2 1975: Virginia Wade v Billie Jean-King - Having been frustrated by the outstanding Chris Evert at the previous year’s tournament, Wade found herself up against another legend from the other side of the Atlantic in Billie Jean-King.

The 12-time Grand Slam winner came to Eastbourne at the peak of her powers, and breezed through a tough-looking semi-final against world number eight Olga Morozova to enter the final as a firm favourite.

Yet Wade wasn’t in the mood to follow the script book. In a topsy-turvy final that was delicately poised throughout, Wade scored the crucial break in the third to go on and win the match 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in one of the tightest finals ever at Devonshire Park. King wouldn’t let this affect her though, as she went on to win Wimbledon just a few weeks later while Wade could only reach the quarter-finals.

3 1978: Chris Evert & Betty Stove v Billie Jean King & Martina Navratilova - In a showcase of iconic figures at Devonshire Park, this Women’s Doubles Final featured four players who between them would go on to win 129 Grand Slam titles in both singles and doubles competition.

The match itself was a thriller. Evert and doubles-specialist Stove just nicked the first set, only for King and Navratilova to peg them back in the second via a tie-break. Not to be denied, Evert and Stove fought back and clinched the title by breaking Navratilova’s serve in the final game of the match.

In the same year, Navratilova actually beat Evert in the Singles Final to leave the rival’s with one win apiece over the other on the Devonshire Park courts, and a year later the two giants of the women’s game would clash yet again to settle their rivalry once and for all.

4 1979: Chris Evert v Martina Navratilova - Two of the greatest female tennis players of their generation clashed in an epic finale that is widely acknowledged to be the best in the tournament’s illustrious history.

In a game that ebbed and flowed from start to finish, the game evolved into a straight fight between Navratilova’s serve and volley tactics against Evert’s glorious ground strokes, with their contrasting styles producing a series of thrilling rallies that enthralled the watching crowd.

After a two-hour war, with both women holding a set each, Evert just edged ahead of her younger rival with a crucial break of serve, and went on to win the final set to take the match by a score of 6-4, 4-6, 9-7.

5 1986: Martina Navratilova & Pam Shriver v Claudia Kohde-Kilsch & Helena Sukova - After her loss to Evert in the 1979 Final, Navratilova displayed the mental toughness and resilience present in all great champions and set about a mission to completely dominate the Eastbourne International in both the singles and the doubles.

Having teamed up with Pam Shriver, who would end up being her long-term doubles partner, the duo went on to win every doubles competition at Devonshire Park from 1981 until 1986, where they disposed of German Claudia Kohde-Kilsch and Czech Helena Sukova with relative ease (6-2, 6-4) to win their record-breaking 6th straight doubles tournament, which remains a record to this day.

6 1993: Martina Navratilova v Miriam Oremans - While her doubles’ success was impressive, it was in singles competition that Navratilova really stamped her authority. She reached 11 finals between 1982 and 1993, winning all bar one of them, but Navratilova was thoroughly tested as she looked to win an unprecedented 11th singles title.

Miriam Oremans, whose career-high world ranking was 25, took the first set at a canter, winning 6-2 and looking comfortable doing it. However, Navratilova, now 36, resumed her usual control on centre court and came back strongly to take the match 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 and lift silverware at Devonshire Park for the 17th and final time.

7 1999: Natasha Zvereva v Nathalie Tauziat - Belarusian Zvereva produced arguably the biggest comeback ever at the Eastbourne International.

Frenchwoman Tauziat, who reached the final of Wimbledon in 1998, had sauntered through to the final of the Direct Line International Championships, and looked set to cruise to the title following a resounding 6-0 first-set win over Zvereva, and sat comfortably 3-0 ahead in the second.

However, the tenacious Zvereva refused to give in and dug deep to somehow take the second set 7-5. This completely sucked the fight from Tauziat, who was powerless to prevent Zvereva clinching the deciding set 6-3 to finally finish the ladies’ 3-hour 28-minute war and claim what was one of only four singles titles she won in her whole career.

8 2007: Justine Henin v Amelie Mauresmo - In a clash of two modern-day titans, it was the finesse and grace of the Belgian Henin that won the day against the power of Amelie Mauresmo.

It certainly wasn’t easy though. After Henin had just edged the first set 7-5, in which both women broke the other, Mauresmo came right back and bulldozed her way to the second set via tie-break having been 4-2 down.

The third set was a similarly tight affair and, after Mauresmo blew the chance to win the match when serving for the set, Henin came back to win another tie-break and clinch her second Devonshire Park crown in one of the best matches the historic arena had seen for many years.

9 2009: Dmitry Tursunov v Frank Dancevic - After the conspicuous absence of top-class male tennis from Eastbourne’s courts, 2009 saw the arrival of some of the world’s best boys to add an extra dimension to the newly-named AEGON International.

Top seed Igor Andreev fell at the first hurdle to Canadian Frank Dancevic, and the classy qualifier eventually played his way through to the tournament’s final where he faced second seed Dmitry Tursunov, the Russian Davis Cup captain who went into the final as a heavy favourite.

Despite some fierce resistance from Dancevic, the final followed a fairly predictable pattern as Tursunov won the final 6-3, 7-6 to become the first male winner of the Eastbourne International and signal a new era of tennis at Devonshire Park.

10 2010: Lisa Raymond & Rennae Stubbs v Kveta Peschke & Katarina Srebotnik - In a showdown between two of tennis’s best doubles teams, it was the American / Australian duo of Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs who won the day over their Czech / Russian counterparts.

In a real barnstormer, Raymond and Stubbs easily took the first set 6-2 and displayed just why they had won three Grand Slam titles as a team. But Peschke and Srebotnik are no mugs either, and came back defiantly to take the second set by the same scoreline.

It set up a classic final set in which neither team was willing to give an inch. After trading service games for nearly two hours, it was eventually Raymond and Stubbs who grabbed the crucial break of serve, and they held their nerve to take the set 13-11 and finish yet another thriller at the AEGON International.