Free tennis festival in Wimbledon Park to encourage greater participation in SW19

Britain’s most influential tennis organisations the LTA and AELTC are putting on a free tennis festival at Wimbledon Park this Sunday.

Famous faces of the tennis world including Fed Cup captain Anne Keothavong, Davis Cup captain Leon Smith and Judy Murray will be in attendance running coaching classes for those there.

The free festival is an evolution of the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s Tennis in the Park event and organisers are aiming for this inaugural festival to increase participation in the sport and particularly among women and girls.

LTA participation director Olly Scadgell said: “The festival is focused on growing the sport in all audiences but particularly girls, in the last few years we have seen a decline in female participation like we have in many of the traditional sports.

“We want to win back the lax players and engage new players at the same time.”

Striking while the iron is hot is the mantra for the organisers, who say that holding the festival during Wimbledon when the sport is most visible in the country will give more people the urge to take tennis up.

The event, which takes place in the middle Sunday of the Wimbledon Championships, gives the community their fix of tennis on the championships’ day off, and those running the festival want the event to be the gateway to the sport not just for that day but forever.

Mr Scadgell said: “The festival is about coming down to have fun play tennis and to have the opportunity to join a club and to provide opportunities for anyone who wants to be involved in the game.”

The free festival is part of the LTA’s Tennis for Kids scheme which was launched in 2016 and has seen 75,000 children enjoy coaching so far, with 25,000 having had some this summer already.

On Sunday Judy Murray will be running fun sessions for girls, Keothavong will be holding a Fed Cup-themed session and Smith will be holding a Davis Cup-themed one in a bid to engage the younger generation.

Merton Cabinet Minister Caroline Cooper-Marbiah said: “The free festival is a brilliant opportunity for everyone to experience a taste of tennis inspired by the atmosphere of the world’s greatest tennis players being in town.”

The event, which runs between 10am and 4pm on Sunday, is hoping to engage a new audience with tennis in a community which is incredibly proud of its eternal connection with one of the world’s most traditional sports.

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