This summer, the UK welcomes Wimbledon back to its screens with open arms as the third of four hotly-anticipated Grand Slams that will bring tennis fans around the world together to celebrate the best players currently dominating the scene. One of the highlights of the sporting season, Wimbledon is not just a competition – it is an event that has an entire subculture of its own, and that gets everyone, professionals and passing fans alike, into the sporting spirit.
With qualifiers now complete, all eyes are on the All-England Club venue for the Championships, which are being held for two exciting weeks from the 3rd to the 16th of July. If you’re one of over 10 million people who watch Wimbledon each year, now is the time to get ready for an amazing summer of sport. So, if you’re feeling inspired by this year’s Wimbledon season – whether to take up tennis yourself, to get fit, or simply to host a Wimbledon party with friends, here are a few ideas on how to celebrate Wimbledon 2017!
When you do something best in life, you don't really want to give that up- and for me it's tennis - Roger Federer
Seeing some of history’s biggest tennis greats take to the court is always incredibly inspiring. The sheer skill, power and finesse of the athletes is undeniable, and there are always several stand-out moments where one player or the other pulls out some unexpected shot to wow us all.
It’s no surprise, then, that every Wimbledon season, thousands of people decide to dig out their racket and head to their local courts. This is one of the best things about Wimbledon – its annual coverage showcases tennis to would-be players all across the globe.
This year, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has even launched a brand new initiative aiming to get new young players into the sport. With £250 million of funding, the Transforming British Tennis Together scheme aims to improve access to tennis, doubling the number of children playing tennis and encouraging adults to play year-round. Through improving facilities, and providing new ones including 750 newly-covered indoor courts, over 4,000 floodlit courts and 3,000 court entry schemes, local tennis clubs, parks and more will see huge increases in interest for lessons and groups. This means that now is the perfect time to try tennis out for the first time!
It’s important to take advantage of the many opportunities currently in place for aspiring tennis players, because this was not always the case. Rolf Jaeger, founder of the tennis-themed jewellery brand, Tennis Boutique, explains how, in previous generations, inspiration was to be found among tight-knit communities:
“When I was 7 years old, my birth city Hannover, Germany, was totally flattened by bombs at the end of World War II. My father and a few dedicated former members of the pre-war tennis club revived the old site. They needed a place for their families to get together and get their children away from all the dangers that existed after the war.”
Thankfully, today, there are over 20,000 tennis courts in the UK where you can go and try playing a game for the first time, plus thousands of clubs who can provide racquets and balls. All you have to do is log on to a website such as the Global Tennis Network or the LTA’s #GoHitIt page, enter your location and preferences, and you will find somewhere to play. As Peter Fryer from Love Tennis Blog notes, many clubs also hold open days around the Wimbledon season to attract new members, so keep an eye out for great deals on joining up and coaching.
The resilience of tennis clubs after the war is a testament to the determined spirit of tennis groups around the world, and it was a huge inspiration to Rolf, who joined as soon as the tennis association started junior tennis team competitions. He explains that the first thing that new tennis players should keep in mind is this need for persistence. No-one is born an amazing tennis player (not even Federer!), so you must be prepared to get beaten, and keep trying. Rolf says:
“Even when I was number one of the junior team, I got beaten in the first game 6:0 and 6:1, because the gentleman I played against hit every ball slow and high bounced. I was almost ready to quit, but from there on I realized that I had to adjust my game towards the different opponents. It was not enough to play my game, but I learned how to slice the backhand, hit the forehand, how play lobs at the right time and drop shots. Tennis has a variation of plays and all come into play to be successful.”
Rolf also advises that, as well as getting stuck in at your local tennis club, aspiring tennis players should research the history of this great sport. This can keep you inspired and motivated after Wimbledon ends, as you learn about the journeys that got your favourite players to one of the world’s most famous contests. He advises would-be tennis lovers to read the books that tennis legends have written, visit tennis museums, and attend any talks. “Don’t just ask for their autograph”, he says, “get interested in how they got to the top.”
Luck has nothing to do with it, because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.
- Serena Williams
Of course, you can’t expect to take up tennis and immediately have the skills to rival Serena and Venus Williams. As Serena herself says, reaching the professional level takes countless hours of practice and work, but improving your skills to any competitive level requires training, too. If you are already a tennis player who has been spurred to hone your skills further by watching Wimbledon, then it’s time to get training.
Peter says that, if you really want to boost your tennis skills, there is no shortcut to playing on-court. He explains, “The more balls you hit the more comfortable you will be on court and the quicker you will improve your skillset.” So get out and play, but if you’re looking to take your abilities up a notch, here are a few fundamentals to consider while you’re on the court.
Getting your groundstrokes nailed is one of the first steps to improving your tennis technique. First, remember the basics such as keeping your palms forward when executing a forehand, and ‘knuckles forward’ for backhands. Then, there is also the matter of body positioning. Ensure your head always remains above your centre of gravity to maximise your balance and your ability to track the ball.
If you find your serves are being easily returned by your opponent, it may be time to try a slightly more competitive tactic. Tennis Tips explains that “competitive tennis players achieve and maintain the most effective results by tossing the ball straight up high above the head while rotating the tennis racket with a full motion swing aiming to strike the ball to the diagonal service area on the opposite end of the tennis court.”
One of the most important elements of a tennis game is speedy footwork. You’ll need to be able to move across the court quickly to get that lightning-fast return, and that requires a mixture of fast responses and agility. To improve your footwork pace, practice sprinting short distances in various directions like you might run on the tennis court. Sprint for 15 seconds; rest for 15 seconds, and repeat. You can then also incorporate hops and jumps that will increase your speed in burst movements.
Simon Bentley, Director of On2Court, a professional tennis coaching company based in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire, says:
“If you’ve been inspired by Wimbledon to pick up a racket for the first time or are looking to hone your skills, high quality, professional instructor should definitely be your first port of call. Whether you are just looking to hit a few balls for fun or are a budding Andy Murray, everyone can gain from the right instruction. Good tennis coaching combines the technical and tactical skills required by the game but also fitness, mental and social skills which can help us generally in life.”
When looking for a training instructor or club, it’s important to research several different services to find a coaching approach that suits you. You may find that you require a more intimate one-to-one coaching style, or that you thrive from group practice. As Peter says, “Although a player will improve much quicker with a one on one lesson, beginner group sessions are fun and you will make new friends which you could practice with.” There are many different ways to teach tennis and to train, so enquire at several local clubs to find the right match.
For example, SETennis coaching in Kent offer a personal coaching service which Julian Squiers of the company says is unique in several ways. He explains, “We are not a cliquey members-only club but run coaching programs in a public park and smaller clubs. We have recently started doing family lessons where parents are given tips on how to practice with their children. Our junior teams have done very well and we have a player who may we'll be chosen for the Kent 9 and under Team. We believe our unique coaching system really gets results.”
At On2Court, Simon says that the approach to training follows a specific set of principles for success:
“As a professional tennis coach for nearly 20 years, I have experience of teaching complete beginners right up to players competing at National Level and a lot of the same principles apply to everyone I instruct. It has to be:
CHALLENGING - Both physically, technically and mentally
MOTIVATIONAL – It’s the only way to get the best out of whoever you are teaching
ENGAGING - This is all about using your personality and knowledge to get the player to 'buy in’ to what you are teaching them.”
Wherever you are looking to train, and whichever kind of service you are looking for, you will be able to find plenty of tennis coaching services to help you improve your fitness, technique and confidence – be it for competitive play or simply for your own personal development.
If you’re serious about improving your tennis skills – or have simply discovered a love for the game – a recreational activities retreat is fantastic for nurturing your passion. At many of the best spa hotels in the UK, you can spend a day, or even a weekend, enjoying some of the finest all-weather tennis facilities available while benefitting from top players’ expertise in tennis. For example, at Champneys, we offer an all-female tennis break led by top professional player, Kate Peel. Along with one-to-one coaching and development sessions, you can enjoy relaxing spa treatments such as massages to get your body in the best condition for your game, and delicious healthy meals to give you the fuel you need to train and reach your tennis goals.
I’m proof that you should never give up on your dreams. You can do anything if you put your mind to it.
- Jordanne Whiley
Of course, you might be inspired by Wimbledon to get active – but not necessarily to play the sport itself. Professional tennis players are in incredible physical condition, and it’s hard not to think about hitting the gym after watching a couple of hours of impressive sport. Tennis is a great sport for those who want to get some good-quality cardio whilst enjoying themselves – and it doesn’t have to be competitive!
Tennis has some amazing fitness benefits making it well worth building into your work-out plan. With lots of running around the court, it boosts your cardiovascular fitness, but it also helps to build bone strength, tone the arm muscles and improve co-ordination. The fun of tennis also releases endorphins, boosting your mood.
As the BBC explain, Cardio Tennis is the perfect choice for those looking to get fit and have fun. They say, “It’s all about the camaraderie to be found in exercising while having a good time, and bringing a big smile to your face. The main aim of these light-hearted, sociable group fitness classes is to get your heart pumping and your wellbeing soaring.” Open to people of all ages and abilities, this is a brilliant way to get fit by playing tennis with friends, as well as participating in exercises such as technique practice, warm ups and more.
If you’re thinking about getting into tennis, one of the first things you’ll be considering is which kit to purchase. As Paul Watts from tennis racket specialists, PWP Tennis, comments, “It’s that time of year again where everybody gets the urge to play tennis. It can’t be that difficult! Playing tennis at club level is definitely attainable, like Roger Federer may take a little longer!”
So, what do you need to get going as a developing tennis player? Paul shares with us his top picks…
“Firstly, and most essentially, a racket and some balls. When choosing a racket try and pick one with some graphite content. The most expensive rackets are all graphite whilst the intermediate frames are a mix of graphite and aluminium. The cheapest rackets are just aluminium which whilst perfectly playable do not give as much power or touch as graphite.”
“Balls come in cans of three or four balls and are pressurised. This means they are factory fresh
when opened. Tennis balls do lose pressure with time so newer balls are livelier than previously used balls. You can buy top of the range tennis balls like Slazenger Wimbledon, as used at the championships which have a woven cloth or choose cheaper balls that use a cheaper covering, these balls are less durable.”
“If you are playing in the park a simple pair of trainers is all you need on your feet. Again if you are keen to play more specifically designed tennis shoes are a must. If you are lucky enough to play on grass then a specifically designed sole unit with pimples is required. Slazenger do a grass court shoe for £39.99. Otherwise all the major brands do specialist shoes for hard court surfaces.”
“For men a polo and shorts is sufficient but of course new technology mean that some shirts are better than others if you are an active player. Most modern tennis shirts are made from synthetic materials to wick away sweat. The same is true of tennis shorts. These can vary in length depending on fashion. Shorter shorts are coming back.
“For ladies things are becoming more complicated, more and more women are wearing athleisure wear for tennis, again synthetic materials but not the traditional tennis top and skirt. Obviously some women still like the top and skirt or full length dress but this is not essential except for at the most traditional of clubs.”
If you’re looking for a little bit more flexibility in when and where you play tennis, there are ways of bringing the game into your own garden or outdoor space. Twisternet – the world’s first pop up tennis net – brainchild of Elliott Mould, world number one Touch-tennis champion - enables you to play tennis anywhere, anytime. This innovative design is a tennis net that simply pops up and folds down in mere seconds. All you have to do is unfold the net, put the legs put into position and you’re ready to play.
Marcus Willis, Wimbledon tennis player, who has just become a first time father with the birth of his daughter Martha, says “I've been trying out the new Twisternet. It's a fantastic idea because it's lightweight, portable and simple to put up - so you can play tennis anywhere. This is great because it will encourage more people to take up tennis. I wish I'd had one when I was growing up."
Whether you enjoy playing tennis in the garden, the park or on the beach, with the Twisternet, you can channel Nadal wherever you go.
I love the winning, I can take the losing, but most of all I love to play.
- Boris Becker
As Peter points out, there is no better way to celebrate Wimbledon than visiting the matches yourself. He says, “If you don’t mind queuing then you can enjoy some top quality tennis for £25 on the outside courts at Wimbledon.”
The whole town of Wimbledon gets into the spirit during grass court season, with an additional 17,000 visitors per day in the area for the Championships. Helen Clark Bell, CEO Love Wimbledon, a website dedicated to celebrating the best of local culture in Wimbledon town, comments:
“Tennis fever strikes the town about a week before the tournament commences, when the hanging baskets start to flourish, the lamppost banners are installed, the shops reveal their creative tennis themed window displays and the first visitors start to arrive. However, it is not until our Astroturf is laid, our BIG Screen installed and the tennis bunting is hung that we really start to feel the excitement building. Spectators who are unable to gain access to the grounds are free to join us on The Piazza, to lounge in our Love Wimbledon deckchairs and soak up the tennis atmosphere in possibly one of the most famous towns in the world. Every Thursday and Friday during these 2 weeks we also host a music and street food pop up call Nosh @The Place in St Mark’s Place, with musicians and food from the local community.”
You can enjoy plenty of tennis-themed events such as the Wimbledon Park Food Festival (26th to 28th August), which will be showcasing local produce with celebrity chefs such as Steve Kielty, MasterChef finalist 2017, demonstrating a whole host of recipes based on the heritage of Wimbledon.
There are also plenty of things to see and do in Wimbledon after a day on the green. Food writer Sisley White serves up the best food reviews and recommendations for the Wimbledon-centric lifestyle at her website Lady Wimbledon, and admits, “As much as I love the tennis in Wimbledon, I love food and drink a little more!” She says:
“The tennis is a fantastic part of Wimbledon but there is also a delicious side to the area which is perfect to explore while visiting the Championships this year. From the town to the village there is a range of exquisite places to eat and drink from cafes and restaurants; to bars and nightclubs. My must visit places for a special fine dining experience have to include The Ivy Cafe, Fire Stables, The White Onion, San Lorenzo, Hotel du Vin plus the newly opened Patara Thai restaurant.”
“For grabbing a fun chilled out, fun and tasty meal; Brew, Pho, Gails Bakery and CAU serve up a treat from sandwiches to burgers and very healthy meals too! Wimbledon is spoiled for places to go for a treat including Paul’s Bakery and their French patisserie, Ice cream parlour Flavous and Crepe Affair to indulge your sweet tooth.”
“Plus Wimbledon has a super range of pubs including the Alex with The Loft rooftop bar, The Crooked Billet and Hand in Hand on Wimbledon Common and The Dog and Fox in the Village. For atmospheric bars and a cheeky cocktail make sure you visit Hemingways, The Terrace and The Pod Bar.”
If you can’t make it to the real thing, there are plenty of ways you can celebrate the tennis season, and throwing a Wimbledon party at home is one of the best ways to do so. Laura Maclean from Party Delights says, “Wimbledon is the perfect excuse for a summer celebration with family and friends.” She offers a few Wimbledon party ideas for the occasion:
“Keep your décor cute and quaint with Union Jack flags and bunting, and if the sun is shining, take your celebration outside. As for your menu, opt for classic afternoon tea style food with plenty of strawberries and cream and keep the Pimm’s flowing!”
William Prosser from Fantastic British Food Festivals, organisers of the Wimbledon Park Food Festival, agrees saying, “We suggest preparing an assortment of salads, sandwiches and cold dishes and don’t forget the iconic strawberries and cream for dessert. A glass of prosecco or Pimm’s to cheer your favourite tennis player is a must and for those who prefer something non-alcoholic, how about an elderflower spritzer?”
If the weather is on your side, Sabina from Mummy Matters suggests hosting a garden barbeque. She says, “We love a themed BBQ party so it's great fun to host a Wimbledon-themed BBQ for family and friends. Everyone must obviously dress for the occasion ready to watch the day's events on the big screen in the garden. Pimm’s will be served on arrival and Strawberries and Cream for desserts"
However, if you don’t want to go for a full-blown party, you can still celebrate watching Wimbledon at home. As Peter recommends, “Buy yourself some strawberries and cream and Pimm’s and invite a few friends over to watch the action from Centre Court.”
Wimbledon is famous for many things, and one of these is the dishes that the audience enjoys while watching a game from Henman Hill: strawberries and cream. Popular blogger The Food Busker speaks for us all when he says, “Nothing gets me in the mood for Wimbledon like Pimm’s with strawberries and cream.” This winning combination is perfect for the summer season, and immediately makes us feel like we’re relaxing courtside.
However, if you consider yourself a culinary whizz, there are plenty more recipes that you could try out to get in the Wimbledon mood. For a healthier alternative, try these sugar free strawberry and cream ice lollies from Bo’s Kitchen. This blogger keeps things as natural as possible with her plant based recipes, great if you are trying to stay in perfect Wimbledon shape.
These are also a great alternative to shop bought lollies on hot sunny days, and will keep both adults and children wanting more, without all the additives.
When it comes to evening meals, a great way to keep up the summer vibes is with a light fish dish. Local chef and former MasterChef finalist, Steve Kielty, recommends making his ‘Pan Fried Sea Bass with Pea Broad Bean and Brown Shrimp’ dish. Check out his recipe below:
4 sea bass fillets
1 bag baby spinach
Salt and pepper
400g broad beans (Shelled)
2 onions (finely chopped)
4 clove garlic (finely chopped)
300g pancetta (in one piece, not sliced)
400g Brown shrimp
Chopped flat leaf parsley
300ml white wine
1 unwaxed lemon
20 g table salt
There are various online retailers who provide top-quality tennis equipment and apparel from across various brands. On these sites, you can easily search for what you need and choose from your favourites in any given price bracket.
Tenniszon is one example, and Pierre-Alain DuBois from the site tells us, “Wimbledon inspires a lot of tennis players. Pros of course, but also seasonal tennis players. In fact, here in Canada, the summer tennis season really starts with Wimbledon.” He recommends a few favourite picks from the site for new players inspired by the Grand Slam, including the Babolat Pure Drive Wimbledon edition racket, the Wilson Federer Super DNA bag with solar panel and Slazenger Wimbledon balls. These items are sure to get you in the tennis-playing spirit!
Each year, there are also a growing number of independent tennis apparel brands, creating unique designs for on and off the courts. Redvanly are one independent designer making original tennis apparel to get you ready for a game. Here you can find simple, elegant designs for men and women, from polos to skorts. Andrew from the company explains why their sportswear is so great for aspiring tennis players:
“One of our biggest assets is our fabric. It is the softest, high performing fabric that feels better than anything you have ever tried. All our active-wear is made from our exclusive drirelease® fabric - a unique blend of polyester, tencel and spandex - which is not only super soft against your skin, but also the highest performing scientifically proven fabric. This is way more than just “moisture-wicking” - the tencel attracts water so it draws moisture away from you, and it’s proven to keep you up to seven degrees cooler. You can say goodbye to embarrassing sweat stains. And with 9% spandex- which is much more than the typical athletic garment - our fabric allows you to move with ease and reach further and higher in all your athletic pursuits.”
Looking for classic Wimbledon whites with a tailored twist? Tonic Active is the perfect choice. Tonic Active uses the highest quality Italian fabrics engineered to keep you cool during rigorous workouts. The quick dry fabric is expertly knitted to hold you securely in place. This Canadian made collection is co-designed by tennis legend Martina Hingis, ensuring each piece is as functional on the court as it is fashionable off. The Estrella Dress, as worn by Martina Hingis, is directly inspired by Wimbledon, and is the perfect outfit for any summer’s day on the courts.
Another fantastic place to find great tennis wear is from PureLime, an award-winning company specialising in stylish, high-performance athleisure clothing for women. Whether you’re looking for a sports bra, leggings or trainers, PureLime has you covered with a range of brightly-coloured, eye-catching designs in quality fabrics. Martin Hudson from the brand explains:
“Danish label PureLime's tennis range is inspired by the healthy active outdoor lifestyle of Scandinavia. Their aim is to provide feminine, functional and fashionable tennis clothing with a perfect fit for all types of women around the world to help them reach their true potential.”
EleVen by Venus Williams
For chic tennis wear directly influenced by the Wimbledon greats, why not kit yourself out in gear designed by iconic professional tennis player Venus Williams? The timeless yet modern styles include graphic tees, leggings, shorts, skirts, capris, tops, accessories and more. Michelle Bower, representative for the EleVen by Venus Williams brand, tells us:
“Launched in 2012, EleVen by Venus Williams is an active wear line that ‘Fashions Healthier Lives’ with a mission to motivate and empower women to feel confident and strong while expressing their individuality. Bringing style to fitness, the high-quality pieces offer flattering feminine fits in beautiful fabrications. The collections of fitness and tennis looks are designed to allow women to strive each day without limits. In a world where ‘10’ is a just a number, EleVen is a lifestyle!”
Lucky in Love
Those who love a more experimental style will love the colourful, playful designs Lucky in Love. The unusual shapes and vibrant colours of these designs make for a truly statement court-side style. Andrea Cherniak, brand spokesperson, explains what makes this quirky brand stand out:
“Lucky in Love delivers fresh, fashion apparel ready to be put into play on or off the court. Our goal is to create easy silhouettes that inspire people to have fun on the court, while still looking on point.”
If you’ve been inspired by tennis and want to show off your new-found hobby in day-to-day life, why not pick yourself up a tennis-themed accessory? Rolf’s range of jewellery at Tennis Boutique is the perfect place to find unique items to go with any outfit, which could also be given to budding tennis fans as a gift. He tells us, “With this great jewellery tennis players young and old can proudly identify themselves, on and off the court, as tennis enthusiasts.”
However you decide to celebrate Wimbledon 2017, whether it’s getting fully involved or just watching, there is a lot of excitement building up to the Championships. As Peter predicts:
“As always Andy Murray carries the realistic hopes of the British public on his broad Scottish shoulders. Having won the title in 2013 and 2016 he will be bidding for a THREEpeat in 2017. There will be massive pressure on him but Sir Andy has done it before surely he can do it again. The ladies draw is wide open and in the absence of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova many players will fancy their chances of lifting the trophy.”
But, what Peter, and millions of others around the world are sure of, is that Wimbledon 2017 will be unmissable.
Image credits: SETennis coaching / George Rex (Flickr) / Twisternet / Steve Kielty / Tonic Active