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Canoe Lake ready to host Southsea Trophy

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Originally published on 23/06/17 00:00

A multi-million pound investment into the infrastructure has helped revitalise the venue and the new and improved facilities have earned the approval of the locals.

John Cooke from Canoe Lake Leisure had helped turn the once derelict venue into a bustling community hub, however he was not content to stop there.

In an interview with tennishead in 2015, Cooke made it clear that it was his ambition to bring top class tennis to Southsea – and on June 27, his dream will become a reality. Canoe Lake will host an ITF women’s $100,000 tournament for the first time and Andrea Petkovic, a former French Open semi-finalist, will headline the four-day event in the picturesque seaside resort.

Also sampling the delights of the south coast will be Romanian Fed Cup player, Irina-Camelia Begu, and the world No.65 Viktorija Golubic. 

The tournament will be free to spectators and the natives will get a rare chance to sample high-level tennis on their doorstep.

“It’s true that we had to bring in quite a bit of infrastructure to support the event,” said Julie Piper, the tournament director. “We’ve got 10 grass-courts in total, there used to be 12 but because of all the reconfiguration of the courts, the numbers have been reduced. I’m only using two match courts and a third will come into play if we have bad weather.”

The four-day event at Canoe Lake will consist of just 16 players in the singles draw – with no qualifying – and there will only be eight doubles teams involved. “It’s a nice easy week,” admitted the tournament director. "Eight singles matches on Tuesday, four singles matches on Wednesday, semi-finals on Thursday and finals on Friday.”

The reason for the shorter and sharper format, which is unusual for a tennis tournament, is due to Wimbledon qualifying in Roehampton and the Aegon International in Eastbourne also taking place during the last week of June.

It’s a hectic period in the tennis season, but Canoe Lake is eager to become a permanent fixture on the ITF calendar. “We are certainly committed to hosting this year and in 2018,” said Piper. “I think the WTA and ITF are waiting to see what the reaction will be to the event, and also to see what Canoe Lake feel about the event as well. I would like to see the event still going strong in 10 years time.”

On June 30, the event will be over and the players will be darting up the motorway to a famous venue in south-west London. It will be time for Canoe Lake Leisure to stop and reflect, but how will they judge if the tournament has been a success?

“I think the support we get from the spectators will obviously be important,” said Piper. “My primary aim, though, is to make sure the players enjoy Southsea and go to Wimbledon having had a good week of preparation for the Championships.”

Access to the Aegon Southsea Trophy is FREE to spectators. Information available here: Aegon Southsea Trophy

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