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LTA's Tennis For Kids Encourages Future Andy Murrays

10/04/2017 11:29 BST | Updated 10/04/2017 11:29 BST

On November 29, 2015, Great Britain's tennis team, led by a pre-knighted Andy Murray, defeated Belgium in the Davis Cup to become world champions for the first time in 79 years.

It was a special moment, but to their great credit the honchos at the Lawn Tennis Association did not simply bask in the epochal success but used the triumph as a springboard to motivate more young Britons to pick up a racket. 

Last summer, in the afterglow of the Davis Cup glory and with Murray mania reaching fever pitch as the Scot ascended to No1 in the rankings, the LTA took the opportunity to launch its biggest-ever grassroots initiative, Tennis for Kids, in a bid to halt and reverse the alarming plummet of participation figures.

As the welcome note of the LTA's 2015 annual review, published last June, stated, the "momentous achievement" of winning the Davis Cup "was an advert for British tennis, raising the profile of a sport that has been in long-term decline.

"Over the last decade, 150,000 fewer players take to the tennis court each month, a trend that is fuelled - in part - by recent pressure on disposable incomes, the deterioration of tennis courts in parks and a troubling acceleration in the number of children choosing games consoles over rackets.

"We must stem this decline. And we must build on the success of today's Davis Cup stars to inspire and nurture the next generation of players, whether they want to be the next Andy Murray or a county champion."

Pleasingly, Tennis for Kids' initial 10,000 spots - all free - offered to children aged between five and eight, filled up so quickly last term that another 5,000 were released to meet the demand. Further, more than half of those that took part in 2016 continued to play after completing the course and encouraged friends to sign up.

From April 4 Tennis for Kids is back for 2017, and bigger and better, with 20,000 free rackets and places on six-week long courses available to children all over the country.

Former British No1 and venerated tennis presenter Annabel Croft, an ambassador of the scheme, helped out at a training session for coaches in early March which took place at the National Tennis Centre at Roehampton in southwest London and was inspired.

"This is the best campaign the LTA has ever put together," said the 50-year-old who rose to No21 in the world rankings in 1985, aged 19. "It's amazing to think that the Davis Cup team came so close to relegation from the top tier in 2010 to being crowned world champions in 2015, and it's been so impressive how the LTA has acted to inspire the stars of tomorrow.

"The level of detail they have gone to in the training programme has been phenomenal - the coaches were blown away by it. The LTA wants to get every single element right, from the base upward. And now more kids are taking up the sport and playing tennis who may never have picked up a racket before."

Croft continued that with Murray, who was knighted in the Queen's New Year's Honours list, top of the world rankings, he is an inspiration for youngsters to take up tennis. "It's impossible to disagree that Andy Murray is Britain's greatest ever sportsperson," she added.

"It is extraordinary what he has achieved, and he is a superb role model. Kids get distracted so quickly these days, and poor attention spans, whereas Andy has proven that the opposite - absolute, 100 per cent application, dedication and focus - achieves an incredible amount. Hopefully, his success, combined with the Tennis for Kids initiative, can spur on the stars of tomorrow, or at least encourage those who might not have otherwise tried the game to do so."

- For more information on Tennis for Kids, and to sign up your child, see https://clubspark.lta.org.uk/tennisforkids