Hot on the heels of the recent run of British success in tennis from Emma Raducanu, Gordon Reid, Alfie Hewitt and Joe Salisbury, the Government & LTA have announced a combined package of £30 million to refurbish public courts nationwide, which is brilliant news! Thousands of existing courts that are either unsafe to play on or have been left to breed moss will get a facelift that will help shine a light on tennis as well as demonstrate how much we value the sport and their achievements.
So often overlooked by football, rugby and cricket, tennis is actually one of our top national sports and yet player uptake is relatively low. When Wimbledon comes along, we all question why we don’t play it more often but if local facilities are not up to scratch then our enthusiasm will inevitably dwindle. Maybe/hopefully that is about to change and not only will the refurbishment introduce more people to the sport and encourage them to stick with it but it might also enable us to nurture talent on home turf.
It is reported that the funding will focus on some of the more socially deprived areas in a bid to break down barriers and make tennis more inclusive, which all makes sense and it will be interesting to see whether there are indoor courts as well as outdoor in the spending plan. We may be biased but surely having a selection of both will help attract a broader age range of players and remove any limitations to play brought on by bad light and bad weather. Indoor courts are perfect for introducing children to the sport in particular as they can use lighter-weight tennis balls, which would otherwise be affected by the wind.
An increase in the number of indoor courts available at local community level combined with the number of tournaments on the professional circuit that are now indoors, will also help tennis to shed the shackles of being considered a summer sport. It’s unlikely we’ll ever see it included in the winter Olympics’ schedule but if clubs are able to offer a tennis programme throughout the year, then they will increase their revenue potential, membership appeal and be in a better position to employ full-time professional coaches. This is great step forward for the sport, the momentum is there and even if we put our professional interest in tennis to one side, as fans and extremely amateur players, we are thrilled with the action being taken.