With Wimbledon cancelled and courts locked up during the coronavirus pandemic, the phrase “Anyone for tennis?” appeared to have been consigned to the history books this year.
Yet despite the cancellation of countless tournaments – and a temporary ban on playing – it seems Britons have been getting back into the swing of a sport revitalised in the UK by Andy Murray’s successes.
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has reported a staggering 372 per cent increase in court bookings from the beginning of May to the end of July compared to the same period last year. With millions having to work from home, it seems many have been taking advantage of the lockdown to have a knock-up with friends.
The LTA saw a 266 per cent increase in court bookings in the first two weeks of June compared to last year after people were given permission to play tennis with others from outside their household on June 1. The highest demand came on June 14, when there were 26,829 bookings.
The surge comes after local authorities were encouraged to create new digital booking platforms to entice people to use public courts and a campaign was launched to “rewrite the rules of tennis” and make it more inclusive. There have also been reports of private clubs having to impose a cap on membership numbers after enquiries rocketed during lockdown.
Olly Scadgell, the LTA’s participation director, said: “It’s great to see the significant numbers of people who have got on court since lockdown first eased back in May.
“Both our ‘Play Your Way’ campaign and our offer to help local authorities improve accessibility to their public park tennis courts are showing encouraging early signs as we look to continue to grow the game across the country.
“Both are long term strategies that were due to be announced this summer irrespective of the pandemic, but both have coincided well with the spike in demand for tennis we have seen.
“Tennis is a game for everyone regardless of their age, background, ability or disability, and we want to encourage players to take up the sport all year round.”
The world number one, Novak Djokovic, was criticised after he, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki tested positive for coronavirus after he held a tournament in Croatia in June – a move described as a “boneheaded decision” by Australian rival Nick Kyrgios.
The US Open will be held in New York, behind closed doors, from August 31.