Roddick to roar

Andy Roddick
Andy Roddick

Former world number one Andy Roddick will be bringing his A-game to Eastbourne after accepting a wildcard into the AEGON International tournament.

The big-hitting American will debut at Devonshire Park this year after reaching the semi-finals of the event when it was held in Nottingham in 2001.

Roddick, a three-time Wimbledon finalist, excels on the grass courts and has treated British crowds to some spectacular contests over the years.

He said, “Players talk about the laid-back atmosphere at Eastbourne and I’m really looking forward to putting the finishing touches to my Wimbledon preparations on the grass courts down here.”

The current world number 27, Roddick hit his prime in the early 2000s when, after winning the US Open in 2003, he was propelled to the top of the world rankings.

He’s competed in four Australian Open semi-finals with the most recent being in 2009.

That same year, he engaged in an epic battle with Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final but the Swiss stole the title with a 16-14 victory in the fifth and deciding set.

Roddick’s arrival in Eastbourne will no doubt delight the audiences at Devonshire Park, with the 29-year-old star being a well-known character both on and off the courts.

AEGON International tournament director Gavin Fletcher said, “Andy plays a spectacular brand of tennis and has treated British fans to some breathtaking contests on grass courts over the years.

“He’s a real crowd-favourite and I know they’re going to enjoy his classic serve-volley playing style.”

Roddick will be battling for the title alongside the likes of Richard Gasquet, Philipp Kohlschreiber and Marcos Baghdatis.

Gasquet heads into the tournament as the number one seed and highest ranked of all the entrants at number 19.

The Frenchman, who will turn 26 during the tournament, was knocked out in the fourth round of this year’s French Open by Andy Murray but heads to Eastbourne as one of the strong favourites.

Eyes will also be on young star Bernard Tomic after he sprung onto the scene by reaching the quarter-finals of Wimbledon last year before losing out to eventual champion Novak Djokovic.

Tomic was given a wildcard to the 2010 Queen’s Club Championships, where he beat reigning Eastbourne International champion Andreas Seppi in the first round, who returns this year to defend his title. The women’s draw this year is equally as strong, headlined by former world number ones Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki.

Reigning Wimbledon champion and last year’s AEGON International finalist Petra Kvitova has also signed up and will enter the tournament on peak form after reaching the semi-final of the French Open earlier this month.

Number one seed Agnieszka Radwanska is the top-ranked female to enter this year and will also compete alongside the likes of current AEGON champion Marion Bartoli and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Legends of the game Martina Hingis, Mark Philippoussis and Greg Rusedski will also entertain the crowds at Devonshire Park during a special Father’s Day exhibition match on Sunday.

Entry to the event is free on the opening day (Saturday), when crowds can see the qualifiers in action all fighting for a place in the main draw and a shot at claiming the prestigious AEGON International crown.