The Boys are back in Town! Or they will be from 2017. In a re-shuffle of grass courts events the current ATP Nottingham event is returning to the South Coast of England. In a move that will be welcomed by the seaside town, the men of the ATP tour will join the WTA players in Eastbourne and bring a combined event back to the South East of England.
The Aegon International held at Eastbourne was a combined event from 2009 to 2014 when the ATP event then moved to the current location in Nottingham. The winner of the event in 2015 was Denis Istomin who defeated Sam Querry in the final in two tight tiebreak sets.
When the event ran in Eastbourne previously winners included Feliciano Lopez (who is actually the "reigning" champion of the Eastbourne event - being the last winner before the move to Nottingham). Lopez won the title twice, winning for the first time in 2013 and then retaining the title the following year. Other winners have included Andy Roddick, Michael Llodra and Andreas Seppi.
Great warm up for Wimbledon
Although this may appear to be bringing more tennis to the South of England, the draw for the men's event will only consist of 28 players, whilst the WTA side retains the 48 player draw it currently has. As the events will run side by side, tennis fans will see both the ladies stars and the men stars that join the entry list from 2017, with all the recent talk of equality on the tour between men and ladies on the tour, having a joint event in Eastbourne evens out the calendar a little. Nottingham will not lose the men completely as they will gain a challenger event to run alongside the WTA event.
Being held before Wimbledon, the addition of Eastbourne back to the ATP grass court calendar will be an ideal opportunity for the men to tune up before the Championships at the All England Club. Although an ATP 250 event, Eastbourne will hope to attract some of the major stars to its courts. It seems unlilkey that the top four players would appear, but those in the top 20 could very well add this to their preparations.
As the event has been previously held in Eastbourne, and the WTA event a regular fixture Devonshire Park organisers will relish the arrival of the men back to fold, and this writer is also looking forward to seeing both ATP & WTA players on the same courts by the sea.