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Aegon Classic Birmingham - Anyone for tennis?

After the dusty red clay courts of Paris
it is refreshing to be in the land of strawberries and cream
and impeccably mown lawn tennis courts.

It's two weeks until Wimbledon
and the summer of British tennis is in full swing.
There's Nottingham, Eastbourne, Queen's
and we are at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham.

It's a wonderful time of year,
the sun is thankfully now shining, and life's good watching tennis!

We arrive to be waved into the VIP car park right at the front door of the Edgbaston Priory Club. We couldn't have got any closer! It's got to be the easiest start to any WTA tournament that I've attended across the world. We are delighted to be supporting, thanks to my brother, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and have a lovely day of tennis and corporate hospitality ahead.

As we wander past the practice courts, spotting now familiar Roland Garros faces, it feels like we've been invited to a friend's tennis club, where they just happen to have been hanging out with some of the very best of the world's top female players.

Edgbaston is a far cry from the crowded Aussie and French Open, of my earlier tennis experiences this year, but it's going to be up there on my list of best  2015 tennis days out. What it loses in terms of sheer wow and razzmatazz compared with the Grand Slams, it wins as an easy, fun, relaxed day at the tennis. Fans in Birmingham do not need to queue patiently outside courts for an empty seat, or wait at known player exit points for a glimpse of their favourite stars. Here we wander amongst players, everyone seems focused but more laid back.

The tournament is in it's 34th year and this year the Tournament Director was delighted to have announced ten of the top twenty Women tennis stars  to compete here in the West Midlands. For the past three decades, the WTA's best have used the Edgbaston Priory Club as part of their final preparation for the Championships at Wimbledon.

Once the final ball is won, or more likely lost, in Paris the players turn their backs on clay and head towards Europe's finest lawn courts before arriving at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.

I've always watched players on the hard courts in Australia, I'm now used to seeing players sliding across the red clay, so it was a bit of an ohhh moment seeing players slipping and falling on the grass as they master the change of conditions. 

This year grass court tennis benefits from an extra week of competition, giving players a three week gap before Wimbledon. I am in awe of how quickly players seem to adapt to lawn tennis.

It certainly adds another dimension to watching tennis at Birmingham, there is a feeling that anything can happen, as players make the switch. One thing is certain, players are keen to gain as much grass court competition experience before arriving in SW19. The matches are fast and exciting to watch.

On our arrival we are led to a very smart marquee over looking courts one to four. We are offered a glass of Moet & Chandon, this is the life! Our table is set for lunch with more wine chilling, beautiful flowers in the centre and a scattering of tennis balls. Each seat has a gift bag from the corporate sponsors.

We make our lunch choices and choose a time to return, before we head off to enjoy some tennis on the Centre Court. The staff were wonderful, they reminded me of my own sons and daughters, and looked excited to be working in the Skyview Hospitality Suite. Who comes up with these names?  No-one is here to look at the sky, I can tell you!

All I can say is, (and shush don't tell anyone) comparing it to corporate hospitality at the Men's Finals at the Australian Open, Birmingham wins hands down. Just look at the view we had whilst eating lunch. The food was fabulous, hats off to all concerned.

Whilst enjoying our delicious three course lunch we have a 'Is that Azarenka?' moment hitting up on Court three, and yes of course it's her. After lunch Karolina Pliskova is invited into the hospitality suite for guests to 'meet a player' she chats to the Interviewer who doesn't introduce himself, but all the ladies in the loo are saying afterwards they recognise him from off the telly...

'Don't ask me', I say, 'I haven't lived in this Country for over twenty years!' 

It is a lovely to hear a little more about Karolina's life as we sit there with our very own 'meet a player' guest Irina Falconi, who has finished playing in Birmingham and kindly joins us to meet my family.

With lunch over, we're back to Centre Court passing Ana Ivanovic hitting on the practice courts. She too looks happy and relaxed, looking lovely as always, but flying under the radar in tennis terms, with only a handful of the world's press camera's focused on her today!  

Centre Court is a happy place as we watch two British players win, much to the delight of the crowd, before heading back to the hospitality area for afternoon tea and scones - how delightfully British!

I love these lesser known tennis tournaments and if you are in the Birmingham area and can get to the Aegon Classic, you should pop in for a fantastic day to watch some of the best Women tennis players in action.

Thank you to all concerned for our lovely day at the Edgbaston Priory Club. I hope the Queen Elizabeth hospital had a successful day of fundraising.

If you have enjoyed this post you might enjoy the previous posts and the following:

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With thanks to all the wonderful hosts

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