With the inaugural joint Aegon International in 2009 there was disappointment that there was not the same calibre for the Men’s tournament as the Ladies event.
The attraction of the sleepy seaside resort of Eastbourne as a Wimbledon warm-up competition has always drawn the leading ladies from the WTA Tour, yet the top players from the ATP Tour failed to materialise.
With hopes of Britain’s #1 Andy Murray coming to Devonshire Park dashed, especially as his mother Judy was usually to be seen during the week-long Aegon International, fans found the Men’s contest not quite up to the high standard set in the Ladies tournament.
The majority of the world’s top 20 from the WTA Tour have graced Devonshire Park in recent years, and the line-up tends to feature former world number ones, as well as Grand Slam champions.
Yet this hasn’t always been the case with the Men, although there have been a handful of big names at Eastbourne with the highlights being American ace Andy Roddick entertaining Centre Court crowds to capture the trophy in 2012.
Spaniard Feliciano Lopez won in 2013 and 2014. Russian Dmitry Tursunov was crowned Men’s winner of the inaugural Aegon International following a two-set success over Canadian Frank Dancevic in 2009.
Michael Llodra, coached by ex-Wimbledon winner and French compatriot Amelie Mauresmo, finished 2010 champion with a straight set win over Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
Andreas Seppi made it back-to-back finals in style, winning one but unable to retain his title. The Italian saw off ill-tempered Janko Tipsarevic in a stop-start 2011 final, triumphing after the Serbian star retired in the third set. Seppi’s fine form on grass was halted by the fearless Roddick, who the Centre Court crowds embraced as their favourite from the very start of the 2012 tournament.
Lopez followed in Seppi’s footsteps by reaching back-to-back finals at Devonshire Park that both went into three sets against leading French aces, stuttering past Gilles Simon in 2013 and struggling to see off Richard Gasquet.
Just as the quality of players in the Men’s tournament at Eastbourne was on the rise the event was switched to Nottingham: the logic behind this was to improve the status of the pre-Wimbledon contest at Queen’s Club in London.
With Queen’s Club this season being upgraded to an ATP Tour 500 event then the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) have got their wish.
The LTA will be hoping that the return of the Men’s tournament to Eastbourne will attract top players and turn the annual event into a mini-Wimbledon.