By Charlie Parry
It’s the ultimate backhanded compliment – public tennis court bookings have surged fourfold as lockdown has eased, at places like Ladywell Fields park in Lewisham.
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) hosted a day at the court in collaboration with Lewisham council, inviting members of the community to pick up their racket and share their stories.
John Monson, 70, from North Greenwich said: “Tennis has been a personal lifeline for me.
“My wife is terminally ill, she’s chronically ill with a neurological condition and getting slowly worse, and coming to the tennis courts has been absolutely superb for me.
“I’d be very disappointed if I didn’t have access to these park courts.
“There is a very special sense of community here and the physical and mental health benefits of playing tennis here are huge. I always leave feeling energised.”
An attempt by the LTA to diversify the sport seems to be working, as almost half of those booking a court in the past year were from lower socio-economic groups.
Maya Dodds, 16, from Lewisham, said: “When I first started coming to tennis sessions I wasn’t very confident at all, but tennis has given me a lot more belief in myself and I am now leading sessions here.
“The perceptions of tennis just being for rich people, coming here you can see it’s for anyone.”
The LTA will continue to collaborate with the council to make courts across the borough more accessible, with plans to introduce a new digital platform, LTA Rally, making court, coach and match booking much easier.
They will also introduce interest free facility improvement loans for councils such as Lewisham to upgrade facilities.
Lewisham councillor Andre Bourne said: “We’re delighted to be working with the LTA to drive participation in park tennis across the borough, and Ladywell Fields park courts are a perfect example of the positive effect of this collaboration.
“Park courts are vital to making tennis accessible to all and seeing the diverse range of players who are using these courts is proof of that.”
Pictured top: Tennis at Ladywell Fields Park
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