Q&A with tournament director Gavin Fletcher

Gavin Fletcher
Gavin Fletcher

1. What makes the tournament in Eastbourne special?

Gavin: We consistently attract a strong player entry – some of the biggest names in tennis along with the sport’s brightest young up-and-comers. The chance to get up close to the action, and the loyal band of supporters who come to the event year-in-year-out, create a unique atmosphere that appeals to fans of all ages.

2. What players should fans look out for this year’s event? Gavin: The entry list at the AEGON International has always been very impressive and this year will be no different. Both draws look really strong and I’m sure they will deliver some world class tennis which the Eastbourne public can enjoy.

On the women’s side Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Agnieszka Radwanska and defending champion Marion Bartoli are all down to play while on the men’s side we have Bernard Tomic, Marcos Baghdatis and Richard Gasquet. Family Day at the AEGON International is Saturday, June 16 with free entry and the chance to see the stars, and on Sunday June 17 we have four legends of the game: Martina Hingis, Conchita Martinez, Mark Philippoussis and Greg Rusedski, in action.

3. Why do the players enjoy coming to Eastbourne?

Gavin: Thanks to the hard work of the ground staff the courts are always in great shape which makes Devonshire Park the perfect place for players to prepare for Wimbledon. The players enjoy the tournament’s relaxed atmosphere and the opportunity to prepare in a low-key environment before the intensity of Wimbledon.

4. How do you feel the British players will fare this year? Gavin: There are some very encouraging signs from all the players in recent matches. Our AEGON GB Fed Cup team – Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong, Heather Watson and Laura Robson, made it to the World Group II play-offs this year for the first time in 20 years. A great run that shows real progress.

5. What does it take to ensure the smooth running of the event? Gavin: We have a fantastic event team with a track record of staging a world class event year after year and this team, along with the Eastbourne Borough Council team, our grounds people and stewards, all work together to make the event run so smoothly.

6. Who decides what player plays on what court? Gavin: I work with the WTA and ATP Tour supervisors and the tournament referee Tom Kinloch to plan each day’s play. Requests from TV broadcasters and player requests factor into the decision making.

7. How many fans are expected to attend this year? Gavin: This year we’re are hoping to break the 38,000 mark.

8. What challenges are faced to encourage the top 10 men to the tournament? Gavin: We have to position the event at the right level as well as giving the players good courts, good practice facilities and a can-do attitude. Basically as a team we have to do everything in our power to make their week memorable so that they talk about it to their colleagues and the tournament reputation grows.

9. Do you expect to see the tennis remain in Eastbourne in five year’s time? Gavin: The LTA and Eastbourne Borough Council are continually working on plans to take the tournament forward. At the moment we have agreement to stage the event this year and in 2013.