To help with your Wimbledon Readiness, here’s a fan’s eye view of the 2014 Aegon Championships held at the Queens Club in London.
Today for your reading pleasure I’ve got a fab guest article with thanks to my good friend and fellow 2012 tennis fan slammer Liz Curran. Follow her on Twitter @lizcurran.
The very beautiful, short and sweet grass court season is well underway with Wimbledon just around the corner.
One of the oldest and most famous warm up events for Wimbledon is the Aegon Championships which are held at the Queens Club in west London.
The tournament starts on the Monday after Roland Garros. The weekend before hosts the two day, three round, qualifying tournament. The grounds of the club are open to spectators over the weekend so people come to watch both the qualifying matches and the host of top ranked players who come to the courts to practice.
One of my favourite days in the whole tennis calendar is the Saturday of Queens qualies.
We get to watch some very competitive matches on the grass, often watching plucky wildcard brits, and the practice courts are teeming with famous faces from the tennis world. You often get to see players who have been in the top 100 or even top 50 whose ranking has dropped.
The Weather Factor
At Queens if we are lucky we enjoy fine June sunshine, and if not we shelter under centre court or in the well stocked Queens shop and pass the time catching up with old tennis friends who we haven’t seen for several months, whilst waiting for the rain to clear and the tennis to recommence. The atmosphere is very relaxed and the players are often happy to chat and take photos with fans. It’s always exciting to get my first sight of the players on grass and it’s the perfect appetiser for Wimbledon.
A New Tournament Director
This year Ross Hutchins, who is a full time British professional doubles player on the ATP tour and sometime tennis pundit, took up the role of tournament director. He took over from Chris Kermode who has now taken on the role of leading the ATP. Ross was blessed with sunshine and a highly competitive tournament. Whilst the local hero and defending champion, Andy Murray, lost in the third round to Radek Stepanek this did not in any way detract from the tournament.
A New Champion
The final on Sunday was a hard fought showcase of fantastic high quality tennis between Grigor Dimitrov and Feliciano Lopez. The latter had a match point in the second set but failed to convert it and Dimitrov went on from there to win the title in three exciting sets. After winning, he offered his racket as a gift to Chris Kermode, who six years earlier had shown faith in the talent of a young Grigor by handing him a wildcard into the tournament. It was a touching gesture from a player who has shown us great tennis and great charm and graciousness to all those who he meets especially the ball kids who he calls his “cuties”. Dimitrov will be very welcome and a favourite at Queens club for many years to come.
Those that are Andy Murray fans can take consolation from the fact that 2014 was an even year so it was not Andy’s year to win (he has won the trophy three times so far: 2009, 2011, 2013)!
Next year the ATP schedule will be amended to allow an extra week of grass court tennis in the UK.
Wimbledon moves back a week so it will start three weeks after Roland Garros rather than two currently. As part of these changes Queens will be upgraded to and ATP 500 event, something which many of us have thought was long overdue.
One noticeable change this year was an big expansion of the hospitality area. Queens has always had a very strong corporate presence and this year the hospitality suites had expanded visibly, taking in upper levels and extra restaurants and walkways. I can only think that this is in response to the upgrading of the tournament. Strong corporate support to these tennis tournaments is essential so whilst some of these guests may be busy networking over lunch and not see a whole lot of tennis, or even understand much about the sport, they are an important element to the overall success of the tournament.
Finally the doubles tournament was as entertaining as ever.
The champions were Peya and Soares who beat Jamie Murray and John Peers 46 76 10-4. One change I noticed this year was that most doubles players were sporting their names on their shirts rather like members of a football team. I understand that this is a deliberate move to help promote the doubles game and improve understanding of who is who. This was welcomed by all those who I spoke to about it, especially casual followers of tennis.
Bring on Wimbledon 2014!