THE BLOG

Wimbledon Spikes Tennis Interest

12/07/2017 14:05

We are just over a week in to the Wimbledon fortnight and already the tennis courts of Britain are crammed with wannabe Andy Murrays and Johanna Kontas. It was heartening to see my local park's tennis club was thriving this weekend just gone, with players - young and old, and of all standards - giving it a go. And who can blame them?

Every year there is a spike in participation numbers around The Championships, the oldest and most prestigious competition in tennis. There is something magical about watching the action on the hallowed grass turf.

It's unique, inspiring, and that the local lads and lassies reasonably fared well in the first week - by Wednesday four Britons had advanced to the third round, marking a best showing in 20 years - has further boosted interest this time around. The clement weather has helped, too; mind to for those flying ants, though.

Without question, Wimbledon encourages us Brits to dust off our rackets and consider buying some new balls - please! So often in the past, however, the impetus to play has faded, like an expert drop shot, because of a lack of knowledge about where the nearest tennis clubs are, and how much it costs to play, and so on. Access to decent courts is essential, after all, if you want to play tennis. If you fancy a game, set, or match, fear not, though; help is at hand.

Thankfully, the folk at The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) are working hard behind the net to make it much easier for would-be Roger Federers and Venus Williamses to swing your strings this time around. Understandably, they hope to sustain interest in their sport for the rest of the summer, and beyond, and so are running various initiatives to assist.

For instance, to locate your nearest court it is much simpler that it once was, thanks to the LTA's www.gohitit.com. By entering your postcode you will be inundated with options. Click on a pin that takes your fancy, and you will be served up with salient information. This includes the name of the venue, its address, how far from the postcode you entered it is, as well as the contact telephone number, so you can book a court.
 
Then, by selecting the venue, which is hotlinked, the user is sent through to Google Maps, and from there you can work the best route to your court. And with over 23,000 tennis courts in the United Kingdom there is plenty to choose from, pleasingly.

And whether you want to follow in the trainer marks of Murray, the 2013 and 2016 champion, or play at your own pace at a club or on a park court, tennis caters for all. Parents have more opportunity to introduced their little ones to the sport, too.

Indeed, two years ago, in the wake of Britain's Davis Cup triumph in 2015, the LTA launched the Tennis for Kids initiative, which has delivered free tennis courses and rackets to 35,000 children over the past two years.

Further, on the eve of The Championships, the LTA announced it is investing £250 million in to grassroots facilities to make the sport even more accessible.

The new Transforming British Tennis Together aims to increase the number of covered and floodlit courts across the country by 50 per cent, refurbish facilities and make courts easier to book online - as touched on above.

The LTA plans to invest £125m to improve existing community facilities, and it has pledged the same amount of funding to grow the game in certain areas across the land, in partnership with community networks.

All this points to the fact that there has never been a better time to take to the tennis court yourself, with your family and friends perhaps, and tease out your inner Andy Murray. It's certainly inspired me; I'm booked in for a match this coming weekend, before the women's Wimbledon final.

Next year - who knows? - I might even be gracing The Championships myself. OK, I won't be. But at least we can dream, and now have more opportunity to make our dreams reality, thanks to better access to courts and improved facilities.

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