While a bumper crowd were busy being blown away by the talent on the courts at last week’s AEGON International, they were also being forced to hold on to their hats off of them as strong winds whipped their way around Devonshire Park.
Peaking at 32mph during the week-long tournament, the blustery conditions were a hot topic among everyone that passed through the gates, from the umpire whose chair toppled over under Mother Nature’s force to the players attempting to control the wayward balls in the wind.
Men’s doubles champion Ross Hutchins described the winds as ‘brutal’, while women’s singles champion Tamira Paszek said they were ‘unbeatable for the rest of her career’.
Men’s singles winner Andy Roddick also said the conditions were ‘frightening’ and, after claiming the trophy, said, “I feel like I dictated points and played tennis on my terms during the tournament, apart from yesterday, when we played on the wind’s terms and nobody else’s.”
Aside from that, the tournament was blessed with fine weather.
Most days saw clouds and chilly breezes interchange with glorious sunshine, causing jackets to be shrugged off and slipped on after almost every other point.
Champagne-sipping spectators were interrupted by rain on just three occasions, with the worst only stopping play for a couple of hours.
However, while most visitors cussed the rain, a small handful was grateful for it for allowing them to get up-close to popular former world number one, Andy Roddick.
A host of disruptions caused by the showers meant the American’s quarter-final clash with Fabio Fognini was moved at the last minute from Court One to Court Three – one not restricted by upgraded tickets.
Cue an unexpected stampede as hundreds picked up their sunglasses and strawberries and flocked to the outside court to get a good view of their world-famous favourite.
He was one of the few main attractions left in the draw after fellow top seeds had either withdrew injured, like Ana Ivanovic, or were ousted in the early stages, like Richard Gasquet, Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova.
However, it didn’t take the Eastbourne crowds long to adopt a new female favourite in Tamira Paszek.
The young Austrian has family ties in Eastbourne and that, accompanied with her bounding enthusiasm, quickly turned her from playing under the radar to earning the affections of the centre-court crowds.
No wonder there were smiles galore when the 21-year-old underdog defied a 51-rank difference to take the singles title on finals day.
Aside from the tennis, there were plenty of other reasons to smile too. Former US Open golf champion Rory McIlroy swung by to entertain the crowds by playing tennis, golf and baseball with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, and British hopefuls Johanna Konta, Anne Keothavong and Elena Baltacha also put their racquets aside to decorate cakes on court with Coach Judy Murray.
And as the last points were played and trophies lifted, organisers and fans alike reflected on yet another successful year for the AEGON International: More than 5520 tennis balls had been used, more than 4,100 litres of water consumed by the players alone, 1888 kilos of strawberries enjoyed by the crowds, along with 518 litres of cream, and only one tennis racquet snapped in half in frustration.
At least with his $91,000 prize fund, Andy Roddick will be able to buy a replacement.
A record attendance of more than 38,200 were swept up in the goings-on at Devonshire Park and no doubt preparations and plans will already start being made for next year’s event in the hope of seeing more world-class tennis, just in slightly calmer south-coast conditions.