Edinburgh Academicals’ home ground normally resounds to the grunts of the scrum rather than the thwack of tennis balls.
But visitors to Scotland’s oldest rugby club will encounter sports stars of a different kind when legends such as John McEnroe and Andy Murray’s coach Ivan Lendl gather at Raeburn Place in Stockbridge after it was confirmed as the venue for a tournament in June.
The four-day event will be the Capital’s debut as a stop on the ATP Champions Tour, which brings together the most successful tennis players in history – including the likes of Goran Ivanisevic and Stefan Edberg – for tournaments around the world.
Organisers were today tight-lipped about the entry list, but said “a high percentage” of the tour’s current top ten had been approached and that the event would have a “very strong line-up”, which could include Tim Henman.
A temporary 2500-seater stadium will also be built at Raeburn Place to host players and spectators.
Previous plans to hold the tournament at Inverleith Park were ruled out over flooding issues and uncertainty as to whether drainage problems would be fixed in time for the event.
Tournament director Viki Mendelssohn hailed the selection of Accies’ home ground and said its sporting history meant it was the ideal choice to host the legends.
She said: “Raeburn Place will be a fantastic location and will contribute a great deal to the local economy. I am sure many of the local businesses will prosper and indeed Edinburgh and Scotland as a whole are going to reap the benefits of this global event.
“We are hopeful this will be televised right around the world and we’re also hoping that, the weekend before Wimbledon, the focus of the tennis world will be on our event, with a view to getting a comment on the players which entrants think might win in London.”
Early plans are in place to make the Capital a permanent stop on the world tour, with the Accies suggesting Raeburn Place as a natural home for the event, especially if a proposed 2500-seater stadium is built as part of a controversial blueprint to redevelop the club’s ground.
Executive chairman Frank Spratt said: “I’m delighted we’ve been chosen. I have looked at a couple of options for what would be required for the event in future and I would say they would fit in very nicely with what we have planned.
“Rather than the organisers having to put up a marquee, we could cater for everything they need in the building we’ve proposed.”
Inverleith Park is still expected to host spin-off elements from the tournament, such as coaching for children.
Councillor Steve Cardownie, the Capital’s festivals and events champion, said: “Occasions like this further cement this city’s much-envied reputation as the home of top-notch sporting and cultural events, and I’m sure people will turn out in their thousands to support the event and catch a glimpse of some of tennis’ true greats.”