Former world number one and tennis legend Martina Navratilova will lead the 30th anniversary celebrations at the AEGON Classic at Edgbaston Priory.
Navratilova, who won Wimbledon nine times amongst a haul of 59 Grand Slam titles, featured in the AEGON Classic’s early days. She lifted the coveted Maud Watson Trophy on two occasions in 1989 and 1991.
“I am so excited to be heading back to Birmingham,” commented Navratilova.
“It holds some special memories for me and I am delighted to be helping the Classic celebrate its 30th anniversary.
“I played some great matches on the courts there as I made my final preparations for Wimbledon and I am delighted to have been asked to come back to help commemorate this milestone for the tournament.”
Navratilova will return to the Edgbaston Priory Club, where she is an honorary international member.
She will arrive on Friday afternoon and be present at a cocktail party hosted in the evening at the “Court on Canvas” art exhibition at the Barber Institute of Fine Art, an art collection depicting tennis over the ages.
On Saturday, Navratilova will watch the semi-finals on Centre Court and will make herself available for an autograph session and some photograph opportunities with the crowds.
Roger Draper, Lawn Tennis Association chief executive, added: “To welcome Martina Navratilova to the AEGON Classic this year is a real honour. Martina is an inspiration to all of us for her battles on and off the court and I am so pleased she accepted our invitation.
The Priory may only become the focus of the tennis world for one week – but rackets manager Leyla Ogan believes it can inspire the next generation of tennis players for the rest of their lives.
Ogan runs the clubs extensive coaching and community projects ranging from coaching for the 40 juniors on the national-level high performance programmes to the 800 adult members.
Around another 600 junior players hit regularly at the club all dreaming of progressing onto the adult tour to join the likes of Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova.
Sharapova and Britain's Heather Watson – who reached the second round of the French Open last month – are the star attractions in Birmingham this month and Ogan is convinced their presence can inspire her stars in the making.
“There is a really good atmosphere around the place during the week itself – it’s a really unique place and a unique tournament,” said Ogan.
“To see the likes of Sharapova playing or practising so close up is an opportunity that doesn’t come around too often.”
* The AEGON Classic is at Edgbaston Priory Club, Birmingham, from June 6–12. More information and ticket details at www.aegonclassic.co.uk.