Konta out of Eastbourne's international tennis week - but plenty of stars are playing

Some of the world’s top women tennis players put their talents on show in Eastbourne’s Viking International from Saturday. But in a late change to the line-up, hometown favourite Johanna Konta will not be among them.

Friday, 18th June 2021, 8:38 am
Johanna Konta enjoying herself at a previous Eastbourne tournament - but she will be absent this year / Picture: Getty

In a blow for organisers, fans and Konta herself, the winner of last week’s Nottingham Open withdrew yesterday with a knee injury. It’s understood to be precautionary as she’s been managing the problem for 18 months.

She pulled out of the Birmingham tournament for the same reason – but it is thought it should not put her in doubt for Wimbledon.

The Eastbourne star was bursting with pride last weekend after becoming the first British woman to win a tournament on home soil in 40 years.

She was looking forward to joining many of the other top women tennis players in the world in Eastbourne for an event which was cancelled last year in the first UK lockdown but is now back – and with some crowds in attendance.

After withdrawing, Konta said: “I’m sorry I can’t make it to Eastbourne this year to play in front of my home crowd, but I can’t wait to be back playing in front of you all next year.”

Organisers are naturally disappointed Konta will be missing, but remain upbeat about the quality of the fields for both the women’s and men’s events.

Tournament director Gavin Fletcher said: “It’s a shame that Johanna won’t be able to join us this year at the LTA Viking International Eastbourne, we wish her the best with her recovery.

“However, there will still be lots of Brits for fans to get behind, as well as world-class fields including five of the top ten women in the world.

“We can’t wait to get started.”

British wild cards for the event are being announced on Friday.

In the women’s tournament, world No4 Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus is the highest-ranked player in the women’s draw and is joined by two Grand Slam champions.

They are the 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu from Canada, No7 in the rankings, and 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek from Poland, who is world No9.

Ukrainian Elina Svitolina and the defending champion Czech Karolina Pliskova, world No10, make up a strong showing from the current international top ten.

Coco Gauff, who is still just 17 and made waves at Wimbledon in 2019 when she defeated Venus Williams as a 15-year-old, will also make her debut at Eastbourne.

And Eastbourne week it’s not all about the women.

Grand Slam champion Marin Cilic is among those in the men’s draw. Previously ranked No3 in the ATP rankings, 2014 US Open champion, Cilic will feature alongside flamboyant Frenchman Gael Monfils and rising stars Casper Ruud from Norway and Australian Alex de Minaur.

British hopes will be led by in-form Cameron Norrie, who has recently reached the singles finals of two ATP 250 events in Lyon and Estoril on the clay, having previously been a quarter-finalist at his last visit to Devonshire Park in 2018.

Norrie said: “It will be great to play on home soil again after we missed out on the grass court season last year. I’ve been playing some really good tennis lately and I hope I can bring that form with me to the grass courts of Eastbourne.”

Tournament boss Fletcher added: “We’re delighted to be welcoming the players to the LTA’s Viking International Eastbourne and we are even happier to welcome back fans to Devonshire Park after missing 2020.”

The action starts on Saturday and runs for a week.

Don’t miss the Eastbourne Herald for full coverage – with daily updates appearing on this website,

An LTA spokeswoman said: “Staging events in the current climate is extremely complicated, and the cost of delivering this planned calendar is double that of any normal year.

“We’re operating at 25 per cent capacity this year but fans at home can watch Centre Court matches on the BBC Red Button and the LTA’s YouTube, Facebook and TikTok channels.

“All players, officials, organisers and staff are in bubbles according to a strict tier system.”