Anne's Birmingham Blog: Thank You Ann
Published June 09, 2013 12:00
Sunday, June 9, 2013
It's good to be back in Birmingham for the Aegon Classic. I've been coming here a long time but this year this tournament has really taken a step up, with new facilities and a new centre court named after British player Ann Jones. It will definitely be well equipped to stage a WTA Premier tournament next year. It's probably one of the nicest clubs in the country now.
The grass court season comes around so quickly and hard to believe we're back here again in June. It's always a special time of year, especially for all of us Brits. Apart from anything else we get to spend a few weeks in the UK, which is quite unusual when you travel so much. Obviously, playing in front of your home crowd is always so much fun and there is a good feeling around British women's tennis these days. Having bigger tournaments like this on British soil are a big part of that.
All around it's a really good time to be involved in sport in the UK. Recently I was lucky enough to attend one of the Queen's garden parties, which she holds three times a year. Anyone who played a part in the Olympics got to take part in this one and it was a privilege to be asked to go to Buckingham Palace. The cakes were unbelievable... so much so that they actually ran out - that might have been me going up to the cake table for the fifth time though! I've now met the Queen three times - once when she opened the National Tennis Centre in London, once when she came to Wimbledon and now this. I absolutely love her. She's in her eighties and she's still doing an amazing job. I don't think that many people get to meet her three times.
As well as hanging out with royalty, I've been practicing on grass at Wimbledon getting ready for here and Eastbourne. I play Alison Riske tomorrow in the first round. It will be lovely to get to play on the newly-named Ann Jones centre court here in Birmingham. Ann won two French Opens and a Wimbledon title and I've known her for years, so I'm really pleased for her that she's been honoured like this. When I was just starting out she took me away on junior trips when she was a coach and she's always been involved in tennis for as long as I can remember.
She was the one who convinced the WTA to hold a tournament in Birmingham in the early eighties and she was one of the pioneers who started the tour 40 years ago - current players like me - particularly the Brits - owe Ann a lot.