The LTA and The All England Lawn Tennis Club came together during Wimbledon to provide free community tennis events for the local community at Wimbledon Park.
‘Middle Saturday Opened Up’ brought the community together at a time when tennis is being celebrated across Britain, with LTA and AELTC aiming to highlight the vital role park courts play in opening up the sport and the physical and mental health benefits of community tennis.
There were sessions across all ages and abilities, provided by a combination of coaches from the LTA and the AELTC’s Wimbledon Junior Tennis Initiative, which introduces tennis to children in schools across Merton and Wandsworth throughout the year.
And among those taking part were legendary doubles pairing Bob and Mike Bryan, who joined in with a morning LTA Youth session alongside their own families.
LTA Youth sessions are fun, safe, inclusive and competitive, with specially designed progressive coaching and content that helps develop children aged 4-18 as both players and people.
In addition to the LTA Youth activity, cardio tennis, learning disability tennis coaching and a trial of a new parks tennis programme were also delivered on the day.
A number of the courts used have been recently refurbished as part of the LTA’s Park Tennis Project which is seeing investment from the LTA Tennis Foundation and UK Government in 1,000 park courts around Britain.
John Golding, LTA’s Head of Region for London, SE and East, said: “Sessions like these give people a really good opportunity for people of all abilities and disabilities, and to be able to play and develop themselves in terms of understanding the game and learning valuable life lessons as well.
“The availability of community courts in London is fantastic. We’ve got over 200 parks sites that you can book online and that really provides a really good entry point for anybody that wants to play after being inspired by watching tennis on the TV.
“As well as the parks, the LTA Youth programme is spread across the clubs as well. We have probably nearly 400 venues that are running LTA Youth and giving children the opportunity to learn the game in a really fun and enjoyable way.
“London has the highest participation in tennis compared to the rest of the country, and that’s driven a lot by the great volunteers that work across the sport, but also some of the work we’ve been doing in facilities as well. In every London borough, there will be an opportunity to go online and book a park court – we’re really seeing the sport opened up and made accessible.”
Across both London and the nation as a whole, tennis participation is the highest it has been in a decade.
Surveys show that 3.5 million children are playing tennis at least once a year, while 5.3 million adults are playing at least once a year – with around 2.3 million playing at least once a month.
Olly Scadgell, LTA Director of Participation, said: “We want to make sure the sport is open to anyone who wants to get involved, regardless of age, gender, background, mobility or disability. ‘Middle Saturday Opened Up’ hopefully depicts that in the best possible way with tonnes of courts filled with young children, enjoying themselves playing tennis.
“It’s a fundamentally important time of the year, but it’s also important that we provide opportunities for people to engage in tennis all year around. That’s really important to us, and whether it’s encouraging more coaches and venues to take part in LTA Youth, whether that’s getting more tennis into schools – which is a huge focus for us.
“We’ve managed to get LTA Youth Schools into almost half the schools in Britain and trained up some 15,000 teachers. That’s also really important.”
Jamie Baker, Head of Professional Tennis and Tournament Director of The Championships, added: “We are delighted once again to come together with the LTA and stage Middle Saturday Opened Up, the perfect opportunity for our local community to step on-court and give tennis a go.
“Leveraging the excitement of this year’s grass court season and The Championships, it’s great to collaborate with the LTA and encourage participation in tennis, contributing towards the sport’s continuing efforts to make tennis accessible for all.”
For the latest action on the British summer grass court season, check out the LTA website