Eastbourne set for its tennis spectacle - but not as we know it

As in most aspects of our Covid-fraught lives, this will be Devonshire Park tennis, but not as we know it.

Friday, 18th June 2021, 11:15 am
Devonshire Park at its finest - but with only 25% of a full crowd allowed this year, it won't look quite the same / Picture: Getty

As in most aspects of our Covid-fraught lives, this will be Devonshire Park tennis, but not as we know it.

On show to the world, Eastbourne prides itself on presenting its sunniest and friendliest face. But this year’s Viking International will see spectators – at just 25 per cent of venue capacity – all seated, spaced and orderly, rather than bustling around the outside courts, popping into the charity tents or picnicking on the lawns.

But with a sparkling WTA entry list, and a parallel men’s tournament that is far more than just an undercard, the quality of the tennis is unquestioned. And the week should get better, and more absorbing by the day.

The structure of a tennis tournament is unforgiving. In a team sport, there is always a second half. In golf, a poor back nine on the first day may hamper a player’s chances, but not ruin them. In tennis, one break of serve and you’re out, and packing your bags all too early for SW19. There will be surprises, of course. At least one qualifier, perhaps one of the bright young Brits, will upset a seed.

At least one of the established players will suddenly lose her rhythm and her timing and all her first serves. There will be heroic victories and heroic failures, tight breathless games that turn on a net cord. And matches so exciting that you want neither player to lose.

The sun, we hope, will blaze, and the breeze off the Channel will be gentle – remember this is possibly the only venue in world tennis where a ball toss can be intercepted by a swooping seagull.

The sonorous tones of the world’s most distinguished umpire Kader Nouni, like Pavarotti without the orchestra, will boom out. “Game and first set to Gauff!”

KEVIN ANDERSON

Get all the tennis updates next week at our website –eastbourneherald.co.uk