Game, set and match to THE groundstaff

The Centre Court scene as Ladies Singles Winner Elena Vesnina is interviewed for TV at the AEGON International tennis at Eastbourne Devonshire Park June 22nd 2013 E26141P
The Centre Court scene as Ladies Singles Winner Elena Vesnina is interviewed for TV at the AEGON International tennis at Eastbourne Devonshire Park June 22nd 2013 E26141P

Saturday morning , 8am, Devonshire Park, Eastbourne. It’s finals day and the rain is lashing down on the ‘Sunshine Coast’. Players and fans alike curse Mother Nature as they hunt for umbrellas and practice their sundance in the hope the day’s play will go ahead.

They can rest assured, though, no one would have been more busy than the Devonshire Park groundstaff, whose responsibility it was to keep the grass green and the white lines perfectly in place, irrespective of what the Heavens unleash.

The tournament’s success is a credit to them, the players’ love of the courts is a credit to them and the fact finals day took place relatively on schedule despite the deluge is a credit to them.

Of course, no one can contest with the gale-force winds that grace the town and were, unsurprisingly and as every other year, a major talking point of the 2013 AEGON International.

Each of the finalists mentioned the difficulty they faced coming up against, not only another top-class tennis player, but also a strong and swirling wind on Centre Court - one they felt restricted the quality of the tennis they showcased.

It’s doubtful any of the crowd were complaining about that as the tournament served up yet another year of sublime tennis and endless entertainment to a record and satisfied crowd of 42,000 people - 4,000 more than last year.

It was a tournament of many firsts, with both Elena Vesnina and Feliciano Lopez winning their maiden titles on grass on the WTA and ATP circuits respectively.

World number 36 and 2013 French Open Doubles champion Vesnina beat qualifier Jamie Hampton in the women’s final, with Hampton playing in her first ever WTA final.

Despite her loss, the American declared how proud she was of herself and limited herself to a maximum of two hours to ‘sulk and eat chocolate’ before heading to Wimbledon.

Many others headed to SW19 earlier than planned, with top seeds Agnieszka Radwanska and Milos Raonic exiting the competition at the first round - the second successive year that’s happened to world number four Radwanska.

There were a fair few success stories, too, with the Brits mustering up their fair share of good news.

While crowds will have to wait at least another year to see a home-grown face lift the AEGON International trophy, they can at least remain encouraged that they seem to be getting a step closer, with this year boasting three British women in the second round for the first time since 1991.

The trio in question - Laura Robson, Heather Watson and Elena Baltacha - all crashed out on the Wednesday but not without a fight.

Robson held her own against fifth seed Caroline Wozniacki but mistakes at crucial moments saw her squander the opportunity to progress.

Watson was knocked out by eventual winner Elena Vesnina while Baltacha pushed sixth seed Maria Kirilenko all the way before being edged out in three sets.

There was cause for celebration in the men’s draw, with British number 13 and world number 442 Kyle Edmund marking his ATP senior debut with victory over Kenny de Schepper in the opening round - defying a 360-rank difference to set up a meet with second seed and eventual finalist Gilles Simon.

Even here, the 18-year-old wasn’t fazed and fought to the death before two tie-break sets spelt the end of his journey.

As ever, the entertainment continued off the court with Drusilla’s Zoo introducing some furry friends to defending champion Tamira Paszek, including fat-tailed gerbils and Hoglett the Pygmy Hedgehog.

Not all were so cute, though, with the Austrian also acquainting herself with Tilk the Python and Fred, the Australian Bearded Dragon. All can hope her walk on the wide side had nothing to do with her withdrawal from the tournament in the first round...

Now, organisers must decide what awaits for Vesnina when she returns to defend her title next year. Watch this space.