Tennis stars from both the men’s and women’s tour will take to the courts of Devonshire Park from June 23 – July 1 as the AEGON International tournament comes to Eastbourne once again.
This year will be a star studded event as the men return for the first time since 2014 after their brief hiatus to Nottingham. But with the women’s event already firmly established, it promises to be a superb week of action.
In the women’s draw there are plenty of big names players that will be in attendance during the week-long event, seven of the top ten will be in action. But some of the main attractions amongst others include hometown girl Johanna Konta, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, and recent French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.
As for the men, Eastbourne could potentially get to see the current world no. 4 and 12-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic in action. The Serbian superstar is thought to be weighing up his options ahead of Wimbledon after what has been a difficult season for the former Wimbledon winner.
But aside from that Pablo Cuevas tops a top list of names which include a trio of British players, Kyle Edmund, Aljaz Bedene and Dan Evans if he recovers from a calf injury he sustained at the Nottingham Open. Other names include John Isner, Steve Johnson, Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and former two-time Eastbourne winner Feliciano Lopez.
Hometown girl Konta is the big draw, but she faces competition from an array of top players
Eastbourne’s own Konta has produced her best tennis in the past couple of years, which has seen her rise into the top ten of the WTA rankings – and with a victory at the Miami Open earlier this year, the 26-year-old will be hoping to follow that up with a win in front of her adorning hometown fans.
Last year, Konta reached the semi-finals of Eastbourne only to lose to eventual runner up Pliskova, and with another progressive year under her belt, the British no.1 will be looking to use Eastbourne as the perfect tune-up for what could be a wide-open women’s Wimbledon in 2017.Embed from Getty Images
Konta’s recent form suggests she is in the perfect place both physically and mentally. She reached the Nottingham Open final last Sunday, only to lose to Donna Vekic 2-6, 7-6, 7-5. But before Konta heads home, the 26-year-old is competing at the Birmingham Open where she plays Lesia Tsurenko in her first match.
With many expecting Konta to replicate her form of last year where she played some entertaining tennis en-route to a semi-final appearance, there will be many hungry women looking to dampen her hometown advantage.
The women’s event is one of the best Eastbourne have put together in recent years, and with the likes of Wozniacki, Kerber, and former world no. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska all starring amongst the reigning champion Cibulkova and other top names, it could be a thrilling week of female tennis action.
Apart from the usual suspects, one girl that has announced herself on the world’s stage is 20-year-old Latvian sensation Ostapenko. The young player from Riga shocked Simona Halep to win the French Open a couple of weeks ago, and that result has firmly put her in contention as one of the favourites heading into Wimbledon.
Prior to Roland Garros, Ostapenko was a virtual unknown – she was ranked 50th but her victory in France has catapulted her all the way up to 12th. And with form on her side, Ostapenko could well be another one to watch throughout Eastbourne.
Edmund hopes to keep ‘momentum’ going heading into Eastbourne and Wimbledon
With the men returning this year, it adds another dimension to what will already be a fascinating week of tennis.
With Djokovic still deciding on whether he will head to Eastbourne before Wimbledon, there are plenty of other established and upcoming stars which will be looking to make a splash.
British no.2 Edmund is one of those players who is looking to have a good tournament before the showpiece of the summer. And from speaking to Edmund recently, the 22-year-old said: “The last three or four weeks where I’ve played in Rome and the French Open, I was happy with that. I had some decent wins there, so hopefully I can keep that momentum and keep it till the grass season.”Embed from Getty Images
Behind Andy Murray, there is a cluster of emerging British male talent and with Bedene and hopefully Evans all coming to Eastbourne later this week it’s a good chance for them to stake their claim.
One person who knows what it feels like to win at Eastbourne is the 35-year-old Spaniard, Lopez. He’s won at Devonshire twice before, in 2013 and 2014. But after a difficult year with injury Lopez is hoping Eastbourne can be a catalyst for an improved second-half of the season.
Toledo born Lopez spoke about his hopes for Wimbledon this year whilst preparing in Stuttgart a week ago: “Obviously Wimbledon is the most important tournament of the year for all of us and it will be great to play my best tennis at Wimbledon, but before that I have three tournaments to play and all of them are very important to me.”
The summer is always the biggest time of the year for tennis, Wimbledon is around the corner. And the men and women of the pro tour will be looking to get the best tune-up possible before the prestigious event in July – but before that is the matter of Eastbourne. It promises to be a packed week of superb tennis as the very best players descend on the Sunshine coast for another year.
Images credit – Getty Images – Patrik Lundin, Jordan Mansfield & Ashley Western – CameraSport