Five of the world’s top 10 players will headline an exciting women’s field at the Viking International Eastbourne, led by World No 4 Aryna Sabalenka, who will be hoping to recapture the form that took her all the way to the final in 2018.
It’s great for Heather and Harriet to get the opportunity to join the main draw in Eastbourne building on their performances from the first two weeks of the grass season and as Wimbledon approaches. We know how hard everyone at the LTA and the team in Eastbourne are working to put on the event and we’re sure it will be a great week for all the players involved. Iain Bates, LTA Head of Women’s Tennis
Joining the Belarusian are 3 Grand Slam champions – 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu from Canada, who sits at No 7 in the rankings, 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek from Poland, the World No 9, and Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open winner.
Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, ranked 6, and defending champion Czech Karolina Pliskova at No 10 make up a strong showing from the top 10.
Devonshire Park Lawn Tennis Club plays host to the long-running event again, which was first staged in 1974 and where past champions have included Chris Evert, Virginia Wade, Martina Navratilova (who has won the event 11 times), Lindsay Davenport, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin, Caroline Wozniacki and Marion Bartoli, among others.
When the main draw for the WTA 500 event gets underway on Monday 21 June when fans will be treated to a host of Grand Slam winners and finalists pitched against each other in the first round.
Recent Roland Garros finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will make the switch from clay to grass and faces a difficult opponent in Ostapenko, while Andreescu, making her debut in Eastbourne, will take on 2017 US Open finalist Madison Keys.
Swiatek will need to find her grass court feet quickly when she takes on Brit Heather Watson, fresh from her run to the semi-finals in Birmingham.
Belinda Bencic and Elise Mertens round up the seeds following the withdrawal of Sofia Kenin and Johanna Konta from the last Wimbledon warm-up event.
Teen sensation 17 year-old Coco Gauff, who made waves at Wimbledon in 2019 when she defeated Venus Williams en route to the round of 16 as a 15 year-old, will also make her debut at Eastbourne.
Both Ostapenko and Watson join other British stars given wild-cards for Eastbourne
The Latvian reached a career-high ranking of World No 5 in 2018, the same year she reached the quarter-finals in Eastbourne.
“I’m really happy to have been given a Wild Card for the LTA’s Viking International Eastbourne,” she said. “I’ve played the tournament quite a few times and it’s such a nice place, I’m really looking forward to returning.”
Watson started the grass-court season well by reaching the last 16 at the Viking Challenge Nottingham and following this up with another great week at the Viking Classic Birmingham where she reached the last 4 on Saturday.
Also joining the main draw at Devonshire Park is another Brit, Harriet Dart, by virtue of a wild-card from the LTA.
Dart is part of the LTA Pro Scholarship Programme (PSP) which is the highest level of coaching, medical and financial support offered to developing players by the national governing body and is offered to players aged between 16 and 24 with the best chance of reaching the WTA top 100 singles within 5 years.
Iain Bates, LTA Head of Women’s Tennis, said: “It’s great for Heather and Harriet to get the opportunity to join the main draw in Eastbourne building on their performances from the first two weeks of the grass season and as Wimbledon approaches.
“We know how hard everyone at the LTA and the team in Eastbourne are working to put on the event and we’re sure it will be a great week for all the players involved.”
The Viking International Eastbourne, which will be broadcast on Amazon Prime and the BBC, is one of the LTA’s major summer events, and will be able to accommodate approximately 25% of its normal full capacity.
On show to the world, Eastbourne prides itself on presenting its sunniest and friendliest face, but this year’s tennis will see spectators all seated, spaced and orderly, rather than bustling around the outside courts, popping into the charity tents or picnicking on the lawns.
The event will be socially distanced, in line with the current safety protocols required by the UK Government and the WTA and ATP Tours.
The 2020 edition of the tournaments was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic, while a record 51,641 attended the 2019 championships when Karolina Pliskova hoisted the trophy and therefore is the defending champion this coming week.