The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has today in conjunction with The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, announced changes to further enhance the British grass court season in the lead up to The Championships.
The improvements see men’s and women’s professional tennis together at both Nottingham and Eastbourne, while the doubling of prize money at the pre Wimbledon ATP Challenger and ITF Women’s Pro Circuit Events at Surbiton, Manchester and Ilkley mean that these three weeks will total record investment at this level leading into a Grand Slam tournament.
These significant changes will ensure an enhanced tournament calendar in providing athletes, fans, sponsors and broadcasters an even better platform to showcase the sport, ensuring more streamlined and effective tournament operations, while delivering against the LTA’s strategy to get more people playing tennis more often.
The main changes for the 2017 calendar include the following:
- From 2017, the pre-existing ATP World Tour 250 Aegon Open Nottingham tournament will move back to Eastbourne, merging with the WTA Premier Aegon International to form a joint event (as it was from 2009-2014) featuring the following format: a 28-player main draw men’s event and 48-player main draw for the women, staged across nine days.
- The LTA, in partnership with Nottingham City Council, will now stage a one-week tournament with the women’s $250,000 WTA International Aegon Open Nottingham amalgamating with a men’s $100,000 ATP Challenger Tour event, thus allowing the city’s fans to see this level of men’s and women’s Tour-level tennis in the same week for the first time since 1973.
- There will be a substantial investment into the upgrading of the Aegon Trophy Series (ATP Challenger & ITF Women’s Pro Circuit) grass court events. There will be a doubling of prize money from $300,000 to over $600,000 in 2017, creating the highest value circuit - at this level - in world tennis.
Michael Downey, LTA CEO said: “We are delighted to announce the bringing together of elite men’s and women’s tennis in the same week at Nottingham for the first time in nearly half a century. The message we received from our fans is they would like to see more combined tournaments. The current configuration of two events in three weeks staged in the same city and venue, presents a unique challenge and is not a model that lends itself for success in terms of staging. Whilst we recognise there will be some disappointment from fans that the ATP 250 event will be returning to Eastbourne, we are confident that the new format will deliver more exciting tennis and improved value for money with top ranked women and men competing alongside each other in the same week. I would like to thank all our partners at the All England Club, Aegon, the ATP and WTA. In particular I would like to mention the support that Nottingham City Council and one of the best tennis venues in the country, Nottingham Tennis Centre has shown. This has truly been a collaborative effort to take our tournaments to another level of excellence. Ultimately, our tournaments are a shop window for our sport and we want to use them to jump-start the six-week grass court summer season of tennis, and inspire more people to pick up a racket and play tennis. Working with our partners and colleagues in Nottingham, and across the East Midlands, the tournament will play a key role in driving participation in the region.”
Richard Lewis, Chief Executive of the All England Club, Wimbledon, said: “The extra week between Roland Garros and Wimbledon has presented opportunities to reorganise, extend and re-invigorate the grass court calendar. Nottingham has a proud tradition of hosting grass court tennis and the increase in marquee names and higher ranked players is proof not only of their appetite to play on grass, but also an endorsement of the quality of the grass surfaces and the enthusiastic welcome which awaits them. Many people have worked hard to bring about a greatly-enhanced grass court season and the City of Nottingham deserves our special thanks.”
Councillor Dave Trimble, Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture at Nottingham City Council, said: “We fully respect the LTA’s and ATP’s decision to reschedule their series of tournaments seeking to enhance the British grass court season in the lead up to Wimbledon and we are sure local people will relish the opportunity to see both men’s and women’s professional tennis at Nottingham Tennis Centre as part of a new look combined one-week event from 2017. When Nottingham secured the ATP World Tour 250 tournament for 2015, we knew it might only be for one year. Of course we understand there will be some disappointment to lose the ATP event after 2016.
However, we are very proud of the work we’ve done here in Nottingham to help break down some of the barriers to playing tennis and to engage a much more diverse audience, including children from local inner-city schools. Our experience shows that hosting professional tournaments helps to inspire local people and encourage them to take up tennis themselves. Given this we will be discussing with the LTA how we can best secure international tournaments like the WTA International in Nottingham on a longer term basis and also gain further LTA investment and commitment to growing tennis participation across the city and an enhanced offer at the Nottingham Tennis Centre for years to come. We have a long-term partnership in place with the LTA which we are committed to and value greatly and together we hope to continue to grow tennis in Nottingham.”
Tara McGregor-Woodhams, Head of Brand and Sponsorship Aegon UK, commented: “Grass court tennis is synonymous with British summer and to see such a strong programme of events in place suggests this will be a year to remember.”
In 2015, the revolutionary new three-week gap between Roland Garros and The Championships saw total prize money across pre-Wimbledon grass court tournaments increased from $4.1 to $6.6 million (61%) compared to the previous year, with nearly 300 new player jobs created. The Aegon Championships at the Queen’s Club was upgraded to ATP 500 status, Nottingham hosted the first ever Aegon Open WTA International and ATP 250 tournaments plus four new ATP Challenger and ITF Pro Circuit events were staged in Eastbourne, Surbiton, Manchester and Ilkley. This followed an upgrade in 2014 to the Aegon Classic in Birmingham, taking it from a WTA International to Premier level which resulted in 2015 seeing the strongest player field ever in the event’s 34-year history, and a record 37% attendance increase. Across the board, the player fields at Queen’s, Birmingham, Eastbourne and Nottingham were the best-ever assembled for a pre-Wimbledon grass court season, resulting in a cumulative record attendance total.
From 2017, the British Grass Court season will run as follows:
June 5-11 (week 1)
- Aegon Surbiton Trophy at Surbiton Racket & Fitness Club (joint ITF Women’s Pro Circuit & ATP Challenger event)
June 12-18 (week 2)
- Combined WTA International Aegon Open Nottingham & Aegon Nottingham Trophy (ATP Challenger) event at Nottingham Tennis Centre
- Aegon Manchester Trophy at Northern Lawn Tennis Club, Manchester (ITF Women’s Pro Circuit)
June 19-25 (week 3)
- Aegon Championships at The Queen’s Club, London (ATP World Tour 500 event)
- Aegon Classic at Edgbaston Priory Club, Birmingham (WTA Premier)
- Aegon Ilkley Trophy at Ilkley Lawn Tennis & Squash Club (joint ITF Women’s Pro Circuit & ATP Challenger event)
June 26 – July 1 (week 4)
- Aegon International (joint WTA Premier & ATP World Tour 250 event) at Devonshire Park, Eastbourne
- Wimbledon Qualifying, Bank of England Sports Club, Roehampton, London
July 3-16 (week 5 & 6)
- The Championships, Wimbledon