WIMBLEDON starts on Monday but don’t let your love affair with tennis be a two week wonder, says Nel Staveley
Wimbledon is its biggest tournament. We boast the (currently ranked) third best player of it in the world, yet Scots are not terribly au fait with tennis.
Yes, for a few blissful weeks after Wimbledon, tennis courts across the land will be jammed with players, but fast-forward a few months and most courts lie empty.
Perhaps it’s the weather, perhaps it’s the slightly stuffy image, or the fact most schools don’t teach tennis.
But it is one of the best sports you can play. And here’s why:
It IS for all seasons
Poor weather is no excuse. According to official figures, there are tens of thousands of tennis courts across the UK, and a good number of these are indoor.
It IS for everyone
Tennis, elitist? Think about some of the greatest players – Jimmy Connors, the Williams sisters, our own Andy Murray; none of them born into privilege, all of them learning to hit a ball on their local courts. This year, the LTA is highlighting this accessibility, with the launch of its nationwide Great British Tennis Weekends, (next dates, 1-2 August, clubspark.lta.org.uk/OpenDays) where 700 free tennis events will encourage families to pick up a racket.
It’s the ultimate exercise
Two years ago, LTA launched Cardio Tennis sessions; a pimped-up version of normal tennis, where “supported by music and qualified instructors” you “get to hit lots of tennis balls... and have a great cardio workout at the same time.” You can also burn up to 600 calories.
This is great, but even ‘normal’ tennis is a fitness fanatic’s dream – an hour of singles will easily cut through 500 calories, with the added bonus of up to 500 bursts of energy per match (think a circuit class gone mad), endless arm and leg toning (think 60 minutes of weights, lunging, squatting and jumping), and constant twisting and stretching for your abs (think a solid hour of mini stomach crunches).
It boosts your brainpower
Scientists at the University of Illinois discovered the tactical thinking required in a game of tennis could generate new connections between nerves in the brain. This is hardly surprising; tennis is all about strategy, plotting your next point, driving your opponent to the wrong side of the court – imagine a game of chess with a lot of running.
And your willpower
Any sport, team or individual, requires a certain level of grit, yet there’s something about tennis that really ups that level. You only have to watch one of those eternal professional matches, where after six hours of playing in stifling heat, both sides of the net still manage to dig into some unfathomable reserve of resilience and slog out another 40-point tie-break.
Or you could just stand on the court yourself. You will quickly realise how much tennis is all about you, how only you can make a difference, only you can try harder or run faster or dodge quicker – no teammates bailing you out (unless you’re playing doubles, obviously), no taking a quick breather, no half-heartedly dribbling the ball to buy yourself time; just you, your racket, and a split second to read your opponent’s shot, react, and do something about it.
And your confidence
“What’s great about tennis is even after one lesson, you can notice a huge difference,” says Tom Crisp, tennis coach at Surbiton Racket and Fitness Club, “especially if you’re a beginner or an intermediate.” He explains how making small tweaks can make a huge difference to someone’s game, “and it’s such a confidence booster, it means people want to keep playing”.
Wimbledon 2015 starts on Monday, www.wimbledon.com