Professional tennis returns to Shropshire this weekend with The Shrewsbury Club hosting the $25,000 Aegon GB Pro-Series women’s tournament.
The International Tennis Federation event, held in association with local company Morris & Co Homes, has been upgraded from a $10,000 tournament last year and features a host of rising stars from across Europe, including a player ranked in the world’s top 50 last summer.
Qualifying on the indoor courts at the Sundorne Road venue starts on Sunday morning and continues on Monday.
The main draw will take place during a civic reception at The Shrewsbury Club on Monday night, with the first round matches getting under way on Tuesday morning.
Admission for spectators is free throughout, including to the singles final on Saturday, November 11.
Recent Aegon finals have attracted full houses to The Shrewsbury Club, a venue which enjoys an impressive reputation on the international tennis circuit.
Richard Joyner, the tournament director, said: “We’re really looking forward to returning to Shrewsbury. This truly is one of the stand-out venues on the British ITF Pro Circuit, with fantastic support from the club and local community. This is further emphasised this year by local funding, enabling the prize money level to be increased. It’s a first of its kind at this level in the UK.
“With stands being brought in for the later part of the week, the whole event offers a great opportunity to see close up some of the world’s up and coming players.”
Dutch player Lesley Kerkhove, currently a career high 149 in the world rankings, heads the entry list. She’s no stranger to Shrewsbury after reaching the semi-finals in 2015 when she was beaten by eventual champion Oceane Dodin.
Kerkhove, 25, also has a doubles ranking of 76, after winning a WTA doubles title in Luxembourg this month, when she defeated Eugenie Bouchard and Kirsten Flipkens in the final.
Kathinka Von Deichmann, 23, from Liechtenstein, and 20-year-old Serbian Ivana Jorovic, who was the world’s No 1 junior in 2014, are other players in the top 200 to have entered, while one to watch could be German Anna-Lena
Friedsam, on the comeback trail from injury, having been ranked as high as 45 in the world as recently as August 2016.
Friedsam broke into the top 50 after reaching the last 16 of the Australian Open – losing a very close match in three sets to Agnieszka Radwanska – and also progressing to the last 32 at Wimbledon. She suffered an injury after the 2016 US Open, but has recently been able to return to competitive tennis and is an exciting addition to the Shrewsbury line up.
The British challenge is expected to be led by Harriet Dart, the current British No 8, and 18-year-old Katie Swan, who represented Great Britain in the Fed Cup aged just 16, and will arrive with plenty of confidence after winning a $25,000 tournament in Portugal last weekend.
Dave Courteen, the managing director of The Shrewsbury Club, said hosting professional tennis tournaments twice a year is always a real highlight in the club’s calendar.
He added: “We are proud to bring such high quality tennis to Shrewsbury and the support these events continue to receive from local tennis fans is fantastic and really adds to the atmosphere. It’s a great opportunity for local people to enjoy watching world class sport on their doorstep free of charge.
“We receive excellent feedback from the players about just how much they enjoy coming to The Shrewsbury Club.
“This time they will be able to see the results of our £1.4 million refurbishment, which will add much to the facilities we are able to offer. Two of the three phases are now complete and we’re delighted with it.”
You will be able to follow live scores via the LTA website from next Tuesday at https://www.lta.org.uk/agbps
Pictured: Dutch player Lesley Kerkhove, who is currently 149 in the world rankings, heads the entry list for the Aegon GB Pro-Series tournament at The Shrewsbury Club. Picture by Richard Dawson.