Growing popularity of tennis in the UK being felt in Weybridge and beyond
The UK’s relationship with the sport of tennis has always been an intriguing one.
Whilst for a month every year between June and July the courts are packed out with tennis fans looking to emulate the scenes at Wimbledon or Queens Club on the television, the reality is that for the other 11 months of the year tennis is often seen as an elitist sport.
Historically played by the affluent and the wealthy, tennis has forged a reputation for itself as a sport that wasn’t for all and with a huge North, South divide in terms of participation and engagement, tennis as a sport has perhaps struggled to enjoy the nationwide impact that sports such as cricket, golf and rugby have.
Whilst Surrey and the south remain strongholds for tennis in the UK, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and other sporting organisations have looked to bridge the gap in terms of tennis participation in the UK and numbers are on the rise.
In the latest Sport England survey, adult tennis participation across the UK nearly passed the 1 million mark in 2021/22, suggesting that those in charge of British tennis are succeeding in making the sport more accessible.
Thinking outside the box
A key part of the growth of tennis in the UK, particularly in terms of participation, has been adapting the traditional sport of tennis, to meet the needs of users in all areas.
The long-established Mini Tennis programme used by the LTA is a world leader and is integral in developing young tennis players and giving them life-long skills that they can use within the game.
Beyond that, the LTA have been successful with initiatives such as Cardio Tennis and Touch Tennis too – innovations that have enabled tennis to appeal to different audiences.
As the name suggests, Cardio Tennis is very much a fitness workout involving tennis, rather than a traditional knockabout over the net. In an hour, participants can burn up to 600 calories, completing a range of fitness based exercises, with a racket in hand.
Touch Tennis meanwhile was acquired by the LTA back in the mid 2010’s and it is an abbreviated version of tennis, played with smaller rackets and softer ball for adults. Such is the growth in the game, that there is national and international Touch Tennis tournaments that take place, with the flagship All England Tournament held in Weybridge annually every June/July.
Big name success
Whilst participation at a grass roots level is evolving and growing, the new ground that is being broken at a professional level is also having an impact on the growing popularity within UK tennis scene.
Andy Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon back in 2013, breaking a 77-year duck, whilst the legendary Scot has also won Olympic Gold twice and the US Open in a stellar career.
Emma Raducanu is another British success story, with the teenager winning the 2021 US Open in New York, creating more history for the UK within the global tennis scene.
With a Davis Cup triumph for the men in 2016, numerous Grand Slam doubles titles for the likes of Joe Salisbury, Neal Skupski and Jamie Murray and total dominance in the wheelchair tennis scene from Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewitt, British tennis finds itself in a position of real strength and the next generation want to be part of it.
Wimbledon still the key event
The ATP and WTA Tour calendars are more comprehensive in 2023 than they ever have been but there is no denying that the Wimbledon Championships remains the most iconic event on a tennis schedule.
Globally, the clamour for sports broadcasters and sports betting sites to have their best betting offers ready for Wimbledon is huge and no other event in the world of tennis enjoys the viewing figures or the betting traction that Wimbledon does.
Hosting an event of such prestige in the UK has huge ramifications for the rest of the nation and with a fabled history of tennis folklore at SW19, the impact of Wimbledon on British tennis can never be understated.