Devonshire Park is the setting for the Eastbourne International, an ATP 250 and WTA Premier event played in the week before Wimbledon.
The tournament is one of only three combined grass court competitions in the tennis calendar.
The men’s tournament began life as the Nottingham Open, first played in 1995. The event was a popular Wimbledon warm-up until 2008, when various sponsorship issues led to its relocating and combining with the women’s Eastbourne Championships, which have been held on England’s south coast since the mid-1970s.
The Devonshire Park Lawn Tennis Club is situated in Eastbourne’s oldest park, and the main stadium seats up to 8000 spectators. The club has staged amateur lawn tennis events since the 1870s, and has also been selected for several Davis Cup ties over the years.
Back in the days when the men’s event was played in Nottingham, three players managed to lift the trophy on two occasions. Britain’s Greg Rusedski thrilled the home fans with victory in 1997 and 2003, while Richard Gasquet won back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006. Big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic was unstoppable in 2007 and 2008.
Since the move to Eastbourne, the tournament has seen four different champions, the most notable perhaps being Andy Roddick, who won the penultimate title of his career at Devonshire Park in 2012.
Martina Navratilova’s record in Eastbourne speaks for itself. From 1978 - 1993, the legendary serve-volleyer won 11 singles titles, as well as six doubles trophies. Although no other woman has come close to matching these incredible achievements, Chris Evert, Tracy Austin, Chanda Rubin and Justine Henin have each won the tournament twice.
Seppi def. Tipsarevic, 2011 final:
The first men’s final in Eastbourne to go to three sets is also one of more bizarre showpiece matches of recent times. Unseeded Italian Andreas Seppi had come through three difficult matches to reach the final, where he faced third seed Janko Tipsarevic. Although not renowned as grass court players, both men produced some exquisite tennis early on in the match, exchanging breaks before contesting a first set tie-break. Seppi managed to edge it by seven points to five, but Tipsarevic recovered in the second set to set up an intriguing decider. However, the Serb, unhappy with what he perceived to be bad light, asked for the match to be suspended. When this request was overruled, Seppi raced to a 4-0 lead and looked set to coast to victory.
As the winds swirled and the cold conditions worsened, play was halted for a short time. Upon the resumption, Tipsarevic mounted an impressive comeback, breaking the Seppi serve to make it 4-3. But during the eighth game, he was wrong-footed by a Seppi forehand, and required 10 minutes of treatment from the trainer. After returning to the court and eventually falling behind 5-3, Tipsarevic decided to abandon the match, wary of doing himself further damage. It was a disappointing conclusion, but few who witnessed the spectacle are likely to forget the unusual circumstances and countless momentum shifts.
Video: Seppi v Tipsarevic, 2011
Henin def. Mauresmo, 2007 final:
Justine Henin and Amelie Mauresmo were two of the most gifted tennis players of their era, and their 2006 Wimbledon final, won by Mauresmo, was a classic. They faced each other almost a year later in the Eastbourne title match, and Henin had revenge on her mind. The Belgian recovered from 4-1 down in the first set to take it 7-5, and at 4-2 up in the second, she looked set for a hard-fought but comprehensive victory.
Yet Mauresmo, whose mental strength had often been questioned in the past, staged an impressive comeback of her own, erasing the deficit and eventually taking the second set on a tie-break. Amid very windy conditions, the Frenchwoman played controlled tennis in the deciding set to open up a 4-2 lead. Henin defended admirably to stay in contention, but Mauresmo had victory within her grasp when serving for the match at 5-4. Unperturbed, Henin played courageously to break back, and in the tie-break that followed, Mauresmo’s resistance finally wilted. With the two hour, 35 minute victory, Henin defended the title she won the previous year.
Video: Henin v Mauresmo, 2007
- The 1997 trophy was shared between Jana Novotna and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario after the final had to be cancelled because of rain.
- In 2012, a rare all-British final occurred in the men’s doubles competition. Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins beat Jamie Delgado and Ken Skupski in straight sets.
- Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert played one of the longest matches of their storied rivalry at Eastbourne in 1979. Evert eventually won 7-5, 5-7, 13-11 after three hours of play.