A repeat of the historic 1978 Eastbourne final clash between the world’s No 1 and No 2 ranked players may be in store, with Simona Halep confirming she will join Caroline Wozniacki at Devonshire Park.
The combined WTA Premier and ATP 250 tournament will take place June 22-30.
World No 1 Halep’s return to Eastbourne creates the potential for a mouth-watering final clash against world No 2 Wozniacki, 40 years after then-No 1 Chris Evert and No 2 Martina Navratilova contested their 1978 Eastbourne final.
Billed as one of the most important matches in their 15-year rivalry, that Eastbourne final saw the beginning of the end of Evert’s dominance over Navratilova, as Martina saved match point to defeat Chris 6-4, 4-6, 9-7 in a see-sawing grass court classic, before she went on to win Wimbledon a fortnight later.
At two wins to five, Halep and Wozniacki’s head-to-head falls some way short of Navratilova and Evert’s phenomenal 43 to 37 record, but their rivalry has already produced some impressive clashes, not least their three-set quarter-final at Eastbourne last year, and the thrilling three-set Australian Open 2018 final battle that saw Wozniacki overtake Halep for the No 1 spot in January 2018.
Halep opened her 2018 season with her 16th career title in Shenzhen and regained the top spot in the rankings on February 26, courtesy of a semi-final showing at Doha. She has since reached the semi-finals at Indian Wells and the quarter-finals at Stuttgart.
Halep is looking forward to the grass court season and her return to the south coast, “I loved my first year competing in Eastbourne at Devonshire Park and I’m hoping to progress even further this year,” she said. “The depth of draw the Nature Valley International attracts every year makes it the perfect lead-up event to Wimbledon.”
Tournament director Gavin Fletcher added, “We are delighted to have Simona returning to Eastbourne. She has played some of the most entertaining tennis on the WTA Tour so far this year, so it’s great to give our fans the opportunity to see the world’s top female player battling it out for the trophy.”
British No 1 Johanna Konta, who also compete at the Eastbourne International, suffered an early exit at the Madrid Open, losing in straight sets to qualifier Bernarda Pera.
The Eastbourne player lost 6-4 6-3 to go out in the second round to the American, who is ranked 97th in the world.
Konta has yet to find her top form this season and has only won nine matches and reached one quarter-final this year.