10 tips for taking up tennis

Tennis balls on a tennis court - How to start playing tennis

Tennis is more accessible than many people think and is a fun way to get some of your 150 minutes of weekly physical activity, finds Rachael Healy.

Wimbledon may be over for another year, but if you're feeling inspired, why not join in the tennis fever yourself? At this time of year you can play outside and enjoy the British summertime, while helping keep your heart healthy. It’s a great aerobic activity, as it gets your arm and leg muscles moving, but also allows rests between sets and games.

Make sure you find a partner with a similar level of fitness to get maximum enjoyment from the sport and avoid over-exerting yourself. Playing a doubles game is also a great way to involve the whole family. Here are our top tips for getting started.

1. Holding court

With more than 10,000 public tennis courts in the UK, there may be a free one near you. The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), the governing body for British tennis, has an online search tool at All play tennis that lets you filter out ones that charge. You can also call 020 8487 7000. The charity Tennis for Free has an online database of tennis courts that don’t charge. It even offers free coaching in England and Scotland.

For information on leisure centre and park court hire, where rates are usually cheaper than at private clubs, contact your local council.

2. Get the gear

Tennis can also be a great way to meet new people

Wear a comfortable outfit that allows you to move your arms freely. You will also need trainers, balls and a racket. Some venues offer racket hire for about £2 per session (usually with a £5–£10 deposit). You can buy a ball for under £1 and a basic racket for under £20.

3. Find a match

Ask friends, family members and colleagues if they want to play. Setting a regular match or practice time can help you motivate one another. Tennis can also be a great way to meet new people. Websites such as Tennis Partner and Let's Play Tennis offer an easy way to search for other solo players seeking someone to play with or against.

4. Join the club

If you plan on playing regularly, you may want to join a tennis club. Becoming a member can provide easy access to partners, leagues and coaches. Other benefits may include changing and showering facilities, and courts with different surfaces to suit all weathers. Prices range from £70 per year, up to £1,200 for a luxury facility.

5. Find an instructor

Looking to improve your game? The LTA is, again, a good place to start. It gives advice on what to look for in a good coach and has an online search tool to find one near you. It also has information on tennis coaching for people with a disability. The average price of private coaching is about £25 per hour. If the cost puts you off, Tennis for Free lists 16 free park-coaching programmes across the UK.

Visit Tennis for Free, or find the LTA at All play tennis or by calling 020 8487 7000.

6. Play by the rules

There are three stages of scoring in tennis: game, set and match. Four points win a game. Six games win a set. Two sets (out of three for women) or three sets (out of five for men) win a match. But first, you need to know how to win those first four points. You get a point if your opponent lets the ball bounce more than once before returning it, returns it outside the court, or fails to return it at all.

The first point is called 15, the next 30, the third 40 and the fourth wins the game. If both players are on 40, the next point earns advantage and requires a consecutive point to then win the game.

7. Challenge yourself

Your nearby tennis club may run its own league, but if not, try Local Tennis Leagues (07503 281 732). The group runs leagues across England and Scotland. If there’s not one nearby, it can help you set up your own.

Whether you’re playing a full-length match or having a friendly rally, tennis gets your whole body moving

Leagues are formed based on the ability of players, so you won’t feel out of your depth. If you’re in Northern Ireland, check out the annual tournament calendar at Ulster Tennis (028 9038 3808). With contact details for each tournament organiser, it’s easy to get involved. If you're in Wales, check out the LTA’s offshoot, Tennis Wales.

8. Cardio classes

This group activity, featuring fun exercises based on tennis skills, doesn’t require a partner; it’s all about cheering on your classmates. The LTA organises classes around the UK, such as the weekly class at Bridgwater Tennis Club in Somerset, run by coach Josh White. He guides attendees through warm-ups, footwork patterns and shot practice.

“It is basically circuit training with tennis included,” says Josh. “Between cardio activities there is a lot of hitting a range of shots. Any standard of player can join in this activity as the coach does the feeding.”

9. Wimbledon fever

Britain’s famous tennis tournament begins on 29 June. The LTA has organised a number of Great British Tennis Weekends in the run up to Wimbledon, when tennis venues offer free space and coaching. They’ll be taking place on 16–17 May, 13–14 June and 1–2 August and are aimed at players of all ages and skill levels.

Enjoy strawberries the healthy way this Wimbledon fortnight.

10. A volley of health benefits

Whether you’re playing a full-length match or having a friendly rally, tennis gets your whole body moving. It’s an aerobic activity, so playing at a moderate intensity can help improve your heart health. Controlling the racket is not just good for your arms – it engages core muscles and those in your shoulders and back.

Running to reach the ball is great for your legs, and changing direction quickly develops balance and core strength. Wielding the racket and focusing on the flying ball is great for your hand-eye coordination and may sharpen your reflexes too.

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