The lawns of Devonshire Park are the last battleground before Wimbledon and Agnieszka Radwanska leads a strong field when the Aegon International begins in Eastbourne on Sunday 19 June.
Aegon International tennis is live from Eastbourne from 19-25 June. Watch and bet on tennis live from Eastbourne at 365
The Aegon International is the last WTA Tour event before Wimbledon, preceding the third Grand Slam of the year by just a week, and as such the Premier-level event always attracts a glittering field of WTA Tour stars aiming to tune up their grass-court games before heading to the All England Club.
The 2016 Aegon International is no exception. Defending champion and rising Swiss star Belinda Bencic is back to bid for the WTA Eastbourne title once more, and the world no. 8 is joined by fellow top-10 players Agnieszka Radwanska – the 2015 runner-up and 2008 champion – world no. 7 Roberta Vinci and world no. 10 Timea Bacsinszky, as well as by two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, WTA Nottingham champion Karolina Pliskova, 2014 Eastbourne champion Madison Keys and former world no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki when the 2016 Aegon International begins on Sunday 19 June.
Agnieszka Radwanska (Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images)
Devonshire Park is Eastbourne’s oldest park and has hosted lawn tennis since the 1870s. Just minutes away from the town centre and historic seafront, the grass courts at Devonshire Park have hosted Davis Cup ties as well as the Aegon International since its inception in 1974.
The longest-running WTA Tour grass-court event, the Aegon Classic is used to hosting the best of women’s tennis and an astonishing number of the all-time greats of the WTA have captured the title in Eastbourne, including Chris Evert (1974, 1976, 1979), Virginia Wade (1975), Tracy Austin (1980-1), Monica Seles (1996), Lindsay Davenport (2001), Kim Clijsters (2005), Justine Henin (2006-7) and Marion Bartoli (2011). But no woman has enjoyed more success in Eastbourne, or become more associated with the event, than the great Martina Navratilova who won an astonishing 11 Aegon Classic titles between 1978 and 1993 as well as six doubles titles with Pam Shriver. No woman has ever won more titles at a single event, and only Navratilova’s 12 singles titles in Chicago best her record in Eastbourne.
In more recent years, the Aegon Classic title has passed between a small group of women with eight active singles players having lifted the iconic trophy. Svetlana Kuznetsova is the active player whose title came the longest ago, with the two-time Grand Slam champion winning in 2005, but Agnieszka Radwanska – who would go on to reach the final of Wimbledon in 2012 – joined her all the way back in 2008 and Caroline Wozniacki (2009), Ekaterina Makarova (2010), Tamira Paszek (2012) and Elena Vesnina (2013) have all triumphed in recent years.
The past two years of the Aegon International have seen rising stars break through at Devonshire Park, with the big-hitting Madison Keys and the new ‘Swiss miss’ Belinda Bencic claiming the first WTA Tour titles of their young careers in 2014 and 2015, defeating Angelique Kerber and Radwanska in respective finals.
Petra Kvitova (Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Belinda Bencic, currently ranked world no. 8 after her triumphant Toronto run in 2015 and a runner-up in Tokyo and St Petersburg in the last 12 months, returns to defend her title in 2016. Bencic made a successful return to action after a two-month injury layoff due to a back problem last week in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, where she made it to the semifinals before losing to Kristina Mladenovic who in turn lost to big-serving Coco Vandeweghe – a Wimbledon quarterfinalist in 2015 – in the final (Mladenovic and Vandeweghe are also in the field for the 2016 Aegon International when it begins on Sunday 19 June).
2015 Eastbourne runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska has been quietly fantastic since last year’s run to the Wimbledon semifinals, but her consistently high level of play has often been overshadowed. Grass courts are where the Pole shines like nowhere else: Could the world no. 3 reclaim the Aegon International title she first won in 2008 this year? The equally crafty but less grass-court gifted top-10 players Roberta Vinci and Timea Basinszky are also in the field.
Two-time Wimbedon champion Petra Kvitova is joined by fellow big servers Madison Keys (the 2014 Eastbourne champion) and Coco Vandeweghe as well as her fellow Czechs Lucie Safarova and Karolina Pliskova, all very dangerous on grass, and former world no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, the 2009 Aegon International champion, is another stand-out player in a packed draw for WTA Eastbourne when it begins on Sunday 19 June.
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