Wimbledon is fast approaching and, for many Londoners, this means dusting off the camping tents and lawn chairs in efforts to once again join the sprawling ticketing queue.
But for those not in the 'tennis-know', this week’s Queen's Club Championships — running until Sunday 21 June — is another grass tournament in the southwest of London; this one set amid leafy West Kensington. And according to some, it trumps Wimbledon in its low key vibe and accessibility to athletes.
While it’s solely a men’s tourney, it’s quickly gaining prestige, with this year marking a jump in classification from ATP World Tour 250 to ATP World Tour 500.
Its meatier status denotes more weight in the overall calendar, along with double the ranking points and an extra $1m in prize money. It also means the singles draw has been reduced from 56 players to 32, ensuring the top seeds all play singles.
Who to look out for
Eight out of the 13 top seeds will be on hand — including home favourite Andy Murray who will be angling for a fourth title.
Watch out for Rafael Nadal, hungry to maintain his champion-status following last week’s grass win at Stuttgart’s Mercedes Cup.
Grigor Dimitrov will also be a hot ticket as he attempts to defend his crown against other notables such as Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka, current US Open holder Marin Cilic and 2001 US Open and 2002 Wimbledon titlist Lleyton Hewitt.
Grass is growing greener
In a bid to promote grass-court tennis, Wimbledon has pushed back its start date by a week this year, awarding players with three weeks instead of two in their transition from The French Open’s clay courts to Wimbledon’s esteemed grass.
Events across Europe are helping to fill this gap, including the men's competition at Stuttgart that has stripped back its clay courts in favour of lawn; while other premiere tournaments within the women’s calendar are hoping to do the same.
Not surprising, the club is named after its first patron Queen Victoria.
On 19 May 1887 the first lawn tennis courts were opened and in July 1887 the first sporting event was held when Oxford played Cambridge.
The Aegon Championships, as it is now known in conjunction with insurance brand partner, remains one of the bigger grass competitions on the men's ATP tour, along with the Gerry Weber Open in Halle where Roger Federer is currently in grass-court preparations.
Not just used for the championship, the space houses 37 courts — 12 of those being grass — in addition to an offering of rackets, squash and Real Tennis courts.
The tournament takes place across three courts for main draw matches (Centre, Court 1 and Court 9) along with several smaller courts for practice, which some spectators say is reputedly the best place to watch and (often times) to meet the players.
Unlike most years, the stands will remain erected one week after Wimbledon's Grand Slam Tournament so The Queen's Club can also host The Davis Cup tie, where Great Britain will take on France.
A maximum of four tickets per person can be purchased online, or via a booking line 0844 209 7356. Priority ticket members are eligible to purchase a maximum of six tickets per person.
Prices range from £10-£12 for ground admission and up to £100 for seated tickets.