Next year, Nottingham Tennis Centre will host a combined men and women’s top-level tennis tournament for first time in 44 years. The tournament will comprise the women’s $250,000 WTA International Aegon Open Nottingham alongside a men’s $100,000 ATP Challenger event. This will enable the city’s tennis fans to see both ATP and WTA level tennis in the same week for the first time since 1973.
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) announced these and other changes today in conjunction with The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, to further enhance the British grass court season in the lead up to The Championships at Wimbledon.
From 2017, the pre-existing ATP 250 Aegon Open Nottingham event will move back to Eastbourne, merging with the WTA Premier Aegon International to form a combined event (as it was from 2009-2014).
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 250 for 2015, we knew it might only be for one year. Of course we understand there will be some disappointment to lose the ATP 250 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 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.”
Last year, following the Aegon Open Nottingham WTA and ATP tournaments held at Nottingham Tennis Centre, the number of participants in junior tennis coaching rose by 58% to 658 children, and the number of adults participating in tennis coaching rose by 66%. This demonstrates how hosting major international tennis tournaments boosts the numbers of local people who take up tennis as a sport.
Michael Downey, LTA CEO said: “We are delighted to announce an extension of our agreement with Nottingham, bringing together men’s and women’s tennis in the same week 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. 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 on 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 acceptances into all tournaments of the 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.”