by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Although there have been some truly greats to have played singles at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park, there have been so many doubles experts as well as well-known crowd-pleasers who failed to make a real impact despite all the hype.
Fans have been extremely vocal towards the stars that have shone in the annual event, held a stone’s throw from the seafront at the ppular British resort. with Russian babe Anna Kournikova especially popular with both male and female fans despite never winning a singles title throughout her career.
And although fans have adored these aces, there have been a number of tennis stars who were due to play at the prestigious Devonshire Park International Tennis Centre and disappointed the crowds with their non-appearance.
In recent years, both Russian ace Maria Sharparova and Serbian starlet Ana Ivanovic have been pencilled in to play at Eastbourne. Sharparova won the Edgbaston event so skipped Eastbourne and went on to win become a Wimbledon champion.
Ivanovic pulled out of making her Eastbourne debut last year, partly because of injury and partly because of exhaustion following her unexpected French Open triumph, missed out on playing at Devonshire Park in 2005 because of an injury but is set to make it third time lucky in 2009 despite not being the force she was.
Appreciative fans have been treated to superb strokes and thrilling matches as well as a number of upsets on both Centre Court and the intimate No1 Court.
We have served up what we believe is the ultimate top 20 aces to grace Devonshire Park in terms of results, commitment to playing the pre-Wimbledon tournament and how the fans really reacted to their presence.
Our leading ladies | listed alphabetically
Tracy Austin, Kim Clijsters, Lindsay Davenport, Chris Evert, Justine Henin, Martina Hingis, Andrea Jeager, Anna Kournikova, Conchita Martinez, Amelie Mauresmo, Martina Navratilova, Jana Novotna, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Monica Seles, Pam Shriver, Betty Stove, Virginia Wade, Serena Williams and Venus Williams.
Ex-world no1 American teenage prodigy who exploded onto the sport aged 14. In 1979, aged 16, Austin became the youngest player to win the US Open. She added the 1981 US Open for 30 career titles, but never got further than the semi-finals of Wimbledon. Retired aged 21, made two comebacks and now works as a commentator for American TV. Austin’s record in the UK was pretty impressive, with two Eastbourne titles and became Wimbledon’s youngest ever competitor aged just 15.
Ex-world no1 Belgium who won the 2005 US Open. Finished runner-up at the Australian Open and the French Open although never got further than the semi-final stage at Wimbledon despite her runner-up spot at junior Wimbledon in 1988. Retired from the sport aged 24 in 2007 and had a baby the following year but is going to give it another shot on the Sony Ericssson WTA Tour after 2009 Wimbledon.
Ex-world no1 American who has won all the grand Ssam titles except the French Open, including the 1999 Wimbledon Championships. Took a 11-month break from the sport to give birth to her son, Jagger, in 2007. Is expecting her second child in 2009, and is unlikely to ever return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.
Ex-world no1 American in 1976 became the female athlete to win over $1m in career earnings. Evert won 18 grand slams, comprising seven French Open titles, six times a winner of the US Open, a trio of Wimbledon triumphs and two Australian Open successes. Retired in 1989, runs her own tennis academy in the USA and is almost as famous for her many marriages – to British tennis no1 John Lloyd but is currently married to veteran golfer Greg “The Shark” Norman.
Ex-world no1 Belgian who in 2007 became the first sportswoman to earn over $5m a year in prize money. Henin won her fourth French Open and second US Open in 2007, adding to her 2004 Australian Open title. She reached all four grand slam finals in 2006 but only won the French Open. Made shock retirement aged 25 in 2008.
Ex-world no1 from Switzerland who dominated the sport in 1997 by winning three grand slam titles and added two more grand slams in her career. The prodigy, named after Martina Navratilova, retired between 2002 and 2006 following injuries. Hingis was banned for two years from January 2008 after testing positive to cocaine during 2007 Wimbledon but is unlikely to return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.
American whose promising career was curtailed by shoulder injuries, but won 11 titles. Jaeger reached two Grand Slam finals, the 1982 French Open and Wimbledon in 1983. Retired aged 22 in 1987, and in 2006 took the vows to become an Anglican Dominican nun so is now known as Sister Andrea.
Russian doubles specialist who was famous for never winning a singles title. In 1997, she became only the second woman – following Chris Evert – in the open era to reach the semi-final on her Wimbledon debut. Retired from the WTA Tour in 2004 but still plays in high-profile celebrity matches for charity.
Czech Republic ace who played in four consecutive grand slam singles finals, from the 1980 US Open to Wimbledon in 1981, Mandlíkova won all the grand slam titles except Wimbledon, and finished runner-up in four grand slam singles events. Retired aged 28 after struggling with injuries.
The only Spanish woman to have won the Wimbledon, after shocking Martina Navratilova in the 1994 final. Finished runner-up at the 1998 Australian Open and 2000 French Open. Became the only player to win the Italian Open singles title in four consecutive years (1992-1996). Retired from the WTA Tour in 2006.
Ex-world no1 French ace who won her only two grand slam titles in 2006, the Australian Open and Wimbledon, following the disappointment of losing the 1999 Australian Open final to Martina Hingis. One of only three women to be crowned world no1 without first winning a grand slam singles title. W,on the 2009 Paris Indoors event. Won Eastbourne once and finished runner-up once.
Ex-world no1 Czech-born American who dominated the women’s tennis in the late 1970s and 1980s. In 1982, she became the first player to win over $1m in a single year. Reached Wimbledon final 12 times, including nine consecutive years from 1982 through 1990, and won the title a record nine times. Won Eastbourne a remarkable 11 times, though was disappointed by having to play the qualifying event at Devonshire Park in 2004.
Doubles specialist from the Czech Republic whose only grand slam success was the 1998 Wimbledon Championships. Twice finished runner-up at Wimbledon, in 1993 and 1998. Famously burst into tears at SW19 after she narrowly lost to Steffi Graf, and was comforted by the shoulder of the Dutchess of Kent.
Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
Ex-world no1 Spaniard who won four grand slam titles, which included a hat-trick of French Open victories in 1989, 1994 and 1998. Finished runner-up in eight grand slams, including the 1995 and 1996 Wimbledon finals and three French Open finals. Retired from the WTA Tour in 2001.
Former world no1 American-Yugoslavian who collected seven grand slam titles between 1990 and 1992. Forced out of the sport for two years after a crazed fan of rival Steffi Graf stabbed her in the back on court. On her return Seles won the 1996 Australian Open and retired after the 2003 French Open but suffered weight problems until 2008.
American doubles expert who reached just one grand slam singles final, the 1978 US Open, where as an unseeded 16-year-old amateur she beat Martina Navratilova but lost to Chris Evert. Currently is a sports presenter for television stations in the United States.
Dutch doubles specialist who failed to win any singles titles throughout her career, but came closest in her 1977 Wimbledon final defeat to Virginia Wade. After she retired she coached Hana Mandlikova for 10 years from 1980.
Last British player to win a Wimbledon singles title, brilliantly triumphing during the centenary year of the Championships in 1977 in front of Queen Elizabeth II. Captured three grand slam titles during a 26-year career, which included the end of the amateur era. Works as a tennis commentator for BBC TV.
Ex-world no1 American who helped revolutionise women’s tennis with her powerful style of play. Is the most recent player to hold all grand slam titles simultaneously and has an incredible tally of nine grand slams to her credit, including Wimbledon in 2002 and 2003. Still a major force on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and believes that she is really the world no1.
Former world no1 American who has help redefined the women’s game with her sheer strength and athleticism. Collected seven grand slam titles, including a remarkable set of five Wimbledon triumphs in 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2008. She was the voice who championed equal prize money for men and women at both the French Open and Wimbledon. Still on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and a true champion on and off the court with her genuineness and stylish plat.