What could epitomise a British Summer more than grass court tennis, Pimms and strawberries! The Aegon Ilkley Trophy has returned to the attractive small town of Ilkley, set in the heart of the beautiful Wharfedale countryside yet easily accessible from Leeds by car or train. It’s being held for the second year at the Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club which has superb facilities, both indoor and outdoor courts (grass and all weather) and a modern club house with an attractive cafe bar.
We arrived by car and parking was well organised in a neighbouring field, just a couple of minutes walk from the club. Tickets can either be purchased in advance or on the day, but for the final two days it’s necessary to pre book as they sell out fast. Stands are erected around several of the show courts and apart from the finals, spectators can move around and sit where they wish. From my photos, you may think that there were very few spectators the day we attended but it was actually quite busy – we arrived early and I wandered around taking photos at the start of the day before most people had arrived so that I could devote the rest of the day to watching myself!
Play starts at 11.00 am on the show courts and usually 12.00 noon on the outside courts as those do not have covers so the lawns need to be completely dry to avoid court damage and players slipping on damp grass.
This tournament is the largest in Yorkshire and attracts world class up and coming British and international players giving them an opportunity to perfect their game on grass shortly before the world famous Wimbledon tennis tournament takes place. Last year’s winners of both the men’s and women’s tournaments were given wild cards into Wimbledon and they both performed remarkably well, each reaching the last 16 in their respective singles competitions. I wonder how the players we are watching today will progress? I need to keep a look out for them as they could be the stars of the future. Two competitors appearing this year at Ilkley are already in the top 100 men’s rankings and other players not far behind.
Winners prize money for the men’s ATP Challenger Tour is €42,500 and for the ITF Women’s Pro Tour it is $50,000 (I am not certain why the men’s prize money is given in Euros and the women’s in US Dollars).
110 local school children are trained as ball boys and girls for the tournament and take a great pride in their duties having a rotation of one set on duty and one resting. I hope they get to keep their smart kits as souvenirs – I’m sure they will treasure them in years to come.
Spectators can either bring their own picnic with them or eat in one of the marquees. We looked in the stylish cafe bar in the club house but this was being used for players during the tournament. In the marquee we couldn’t resist a bowl of strawberries topped with whipped cream and a glass of Pimms it’s just synonymous with tennis!
As is typical at outdoor summer events in Britain, dark clouds threatened and it finally started to rain at 4.15 pm when play was halted for the day, but we were ready to make our way home by then as we had seen three full matches and the first set of another. Play was of an extremely high standard and the court side view is much better than from a television screen.
We’ve been to Wimbledon several times, and Queens Club once but in my view the Aegon Ilkley Trophy is just as nice and a fraction of the price. It’s held in mid June each year and details can be found here.
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