Time to ditch the Victorian etiquette in tennis

Crispin Andrews has strident views
Crispin Andrews has strident views
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Andy Murray is Wimbledon champion. Time to ditch the Pimms and embrace the proles? Or as Ashes fever replaces Murray mania; will Britain’s most controversial sport fade into the background for another 50 weeks?

It’s easy if you want to play football or cricket, try rugby or have a go at athletics. These are sports that fit, without too many issues, into the 21st century way of doing things.

With tennis, the simple fact of people playing poses more questions.

Are tennis clubs still elitist? Do entrepreneur coaches charge too much for lessons?

Do local authorities still see tennis courts as a source of revenue? Should the All England Lawn Tennis Club, a private members club, determine both the culture of the sport and public attitudes towards it?

Can the Lawn Tennis Association do what the England and Wales Cricket Board did in the 90s, and wrestle control of their game from the amateurs?

Will Murray’s triumph be a springboard for action or a justification that all is well with the present system – even though Murray himself went outside it, to Barcelona, aged 15, to speed his own rise to stardom.

Tennis clubs were promoting themselves in Milton Keynes shopping centre this weekend.

There were even inflatable courts to get the kids interested. The LTA are trying. But in places, those who want to make tennis more accessible are up against both culture and economics.

A few years ago, the Tennis Foundation, the charitable arm of the LTA, started a programme that they hoped would get more parks’ courts open and being used.

The financial crash put the skids under this scheme, but not before the TF had helped set up a few interesting projects.

I visited one a few months ago in Muswell Hill, London. Hundreds of locals, of all ages, use the tennis courts at Albert Road Recreation Park.

Organiser Robby Sukhdeo makes his money from the community café next door and can keep prices low enough for everyone to have a hit.

People can just turn up and play. No white T-shirts, tennis shoes and Victorian etiquettes.

So, call up our local tennis clubs, AVDC sports development, Bucks Sport and the LTA’s Bucks Tennis development manager, David Reeve (numbers available on their respective websites).

If there’s affordable tennis locally, go and have a hit. If there isn’t, write in to the Herald and let us know.

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l Crispin Andrews is an Aylesbury-based writer and journalist.

He writes for the Cricketer, Four Four Two, Inside Cricket, Readers Digest, Flipside and Engineering and Technology Magazine.

He has played cricket locally for 25 years, including stints at Aylesbury Town, Tring Park, Dinton & Buckingham Town.