Enhanced UK grass court season announced for 2017

Return of combined event to Eastbourne and new combined event in Nottingham among new improvements to grass court season

London, UK – 7 April 2016 – The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has today in conjunction with The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, announced changes to further enhance the British grass court season in the lead up to The Championships.

The improvements see men’s and women’s professional tennis together at both Nottingham and Eastbourne, while the doubling of prize money at the pre-Wimbledon ATP Challenger and ITF Women’s Pro Circuit Events at Surbiton, Manchester and Ilkley mean that these three weeks will total record investment at this level leading into a Grand Slam tournament.

These significant changes will ensure an enhanced tournament calendar in providing athletes, fans, sponsors and broadcasters an even better platform to showcase the sport, ensuring more streamlined and effective tournament operations, while delivering against the LTA’s strategy to get more people playing tennis more often.

The main changes for the 2017 calendar include the following:
The LTA, in partnership with Nottingham City Council, will now stage a one-week tournament with the women’s $250,000 WTA International Aegon Open Nottingham amalgamating with a men’s $100,000 ATP Challenger Tour event, thus allowing the city’s fans to see this level of men’s and women’s Tour-level tennis in the same week for the first time since 1973.

From 2017, the pre-existing ATP World Tour 250 Aegon Open Nottingham event will move back to Eastbourne, merging with the WTA Premier Aegon International to form a combined event (as it was from 2009-2014) featuring the following format: a 28-player main draw men’s event and 48-player main draw for the women staged across nine days.

There will be a substantial investment into the upgrading of the Aegon Trophy Series (ATP Challenger & ITF Women’s Pro Circuit) grass court events. There will be a doubling of prize money from $300,000 to over $600,000 in 2017.

Michael Downey, LTA CEO said: “This is all about delivering a bigger and better set of grass court tournaments for the players and our fans. It represents another major step in the evolution of the British grass court circuit. I would like to thank all our partners at the AELTC, Aegon, the ATP and WTA, venues and city councils because this has truly been a collaborative effort to take our tournaments to another level of excellence. Ultimately, we want to jump-start the important summer season of participation by trying to “own the month of June” with an extensive and high quality series of Major Tennis Events to help inspire more people to pick up a racket and play tennis. At the same time, this new look calendar will help optimise the players’ preparation for competing in the world’s premier tennis tournament, The Championships, Wimbledon.”

Richard Lewis, Chief Executive of the All England Club, Wimbledon, said: “The extra week between Roland Garros and Wimbledon has presented opportunities to reorganise, extend and re-invigorate the grass court season. Substantial investment has gone into improving the standard of the facilities at the venues, including the preparation of the grass courts. The increase in marquee names and higher ranked players is not only proof of their appetite to play on grass, but also an endorsement of the quality of the grass playing surfaces which await them. I would like to thank the LTA, ATP and WTA, the tournament organisers and the venues for their substantial contribution to the greatly enhanced grass court season.”

Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman & President, said: “The grass-court swing has seen a number of significant enhancements for players, as well as fans, since the introduction of the additional week between Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2015. The latest improvements announced today represent further good news with increased investment and enhanced facilities at both ATP World Tour and Challenger Tour events in the UK leading into Wimbledon. We would like to thank both the LTA and the All England Club for their continued co-operation in making these improvements a reality.”

Steve Simon, WTA CEO, stated, “The Aegon International Eastbourne has been a staple of women’s professional tennis in the UK for over 40 years, boasting champions such as Martina Navratilova, Monica Seles, Justine Henin and most recently Belinda Benic. I am pleased to see this historical event expand even more as Eastbourne returns to a combined WTA and ATP event. This is a true testament to the continual growth of tennis in the UK and worldwide.”

Eastbourne Borough Council, Councillor David Tutt, said: “I am delighted that the men’s event will be returning to Eastbourne. This is a real vote of confidence in the town by the LTA. Together, we are not only working to enhance facilities at Devonshire Park, but have also upgraded the community based tennis offer within the town. Devonshire Park has a proud reputation for top quality courts and has played host to the pre-Wimbledon women’s event since the 1970s, the addition of the men’s tournament opens a new chapter in the Eastbourne story.”

Tara McGregor-Woodhams, Head of Brand and Sponsorship Aegon UK, commented: “Grass court tennis is synonymous with British summer and to see such a strong programme of events in place suggests 2017 will be a year to remember.”

In 2015, the revolutionary new three-week gap between Roland Garros and The Championships saw total prize money across pre-Wimbledon grass court tournaments increased from $4.1 to $6.6 million (61%) compared to the previous year, with nearly 300 new player jobs created. The Aegon Championships at the Queen’s Club was upgraded to ATP 500 status, Nottingham hosted the first ever Aegon Open WTA International and ATP World Tour 250 tournaments plus four new ATP Challenger and ITF Pro Circuit events were staged in Eastbourne, Manchester, Surbiton and Ilkley. This followed an upgrade in 2014 to the Aegon Classic in Birmingham, taking it from a WTA International to Premier level which resulted in 2015 seeing the strongest player field ever in the event’s 34-year history, and a record 37% attendance increase. Across the board, the player fields at Queen’s, Birmingham, Eastbourne and Nottingham were the best-ever assembled for a pre-Wimbledon grass court season, resulting in a cumulative record attendance total.

From 2017, the British grass court season will run as follows:

June 5-11 (week 1)

  • Aegon Surbiton Trophy at Surbiton Racket & Fitness Club (combined ITF Women’s Pro Circuit & ATP Challenger events)

June 12-18 (week 2)

  • Combined WTA International Aegon Open Nottingham & Aegon Nottingham Trophy (ATP Challenger) events at Nottingham Tennis Centre
  • Aegon Manchester Trophy at Northern Lawn Tennis Club, Manchester (ITF Women’s Pro Circuit)

June 19-25 (week 3)

  • Aegon Championships at The Queen’s Club, London (ATP World Tour 500 event)
  • Aegon Classic at Edgbaston Priory Club, Birmingham (WTA Premier)
  • Aegon Ilkley Trophy at Ilkley Lawn Tennis & Squash Club (combined ITF Women’s Pro Circuit & ATP Challenger events)

June 26 – July 1 (week 4)

  • Aegon International (combined WTA Premier & ATP World Tour 250 event) at Devonshire Park, Eastbourne
  • Wimbledon Qualifying, Bank of England Sports Club, Roehampton, London

July 3-16 (week 5 & 6)

  • The Championships, Wimbledon

SOURCE: Wimbledon