THE French Open is in full swing in the country’s capital, Paris. The second grand slam of the year will reach its conclusion on June 5.

So far, it has provided a dizzying mix of bruising five-set battles and early upsets.

The rabid gallic atmosphere provided by the nearly 15,000 fans who pack out the centre Court Philippe Chatrier each day is a paradox of another competition gearing up for its first day of action today.

The Surbiton Trophy, a 15-minute walk from Surbiton Station, will be contested on the lawns of Surbiton Racket and Fitness Club this week. The tournament is part of the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) Challenger Tour, the second tier of professional tennis.

Your Local Guardian: Andy Murray on the practice courts during day two of the Surbiton Trophy at Surbiton Racket and Fitness ClubAndy Murray on the practice courts during day two of the Surbiton Trophy at Surbiton Racket and Fitness Club

Roy Staniland, the club’s director, discussed the tournament’s appeal: “It allows you as a spectator to get up and close to the players. It’s a truly unique experience.”

While it may be a step down from the glitz and glamour of the ATP Tour (premier tier) events featuring the best players in the world, the difference in level is not as conspicuous as some might think.

The grass-court event serves not only as preparation for Wimbledon, but it has been a breeding ground for some of the best players to pick up a racket. Roger Federer made his grass-court professional debut at Surbiton in 1999. 

Fast forward four years, he would lift the first of eight Wimbledon singles titles.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won top prize at Surbiton in 2008.

And Andy Murray, who had previously appeared at the event as a dishevelled teenager, returns this year. 

Buoyed by an unflinching love for the sport, the Brit will be looking to generate some momentum before beginning his conquest at The All-England Club In a little over four weeks.

The homely and at times placid atmosphere of Surbiton Racket and Fitness Club will experience a buzz of activity and excitement this week. Eleven of the entrants are ranked in the world’s top 100. 

World-class tennis is on your doorstep, but blink and you’ll miss it. Ready? Play.

The Surbiton Trophy started on May 20 and will run until June 5. Tickets can be purchased here.

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