Is London the World Capital of Tennis?

Tennis is one of my great loves, and I feel lucky to be living in London in an era when tennis in London enjoys such a high profile globally. With four amazing tournaments in London – Wimbledon, Queens, 02 World Tour Finals, and Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall – we have a feast of tennis right on our doorstep all year round.

Wimbledon Championships

Most of the world’s top tennis players say Wimbledon is their favourite venue of all the grand slams, except maybe Rafa who has a special relationship with Roland Garros, the French Open. I’ve been to Wimbledon a few times, once on number 1 court, which was rained off after the first hour of play. I’ve yet to attend a big match on centre court. Wimbledon is truly the jewel in the crown of London tennis.

Queens Club Championships

There is a very different atmosphere at Queens Club compared to Wimbledon, more up market, more low-key. Hidden among the streets of Barons Court, West Kensington, London W14, Queens Club is a haven of upper-crust tennis. I was lucky enough to be given tickets two years running by one of my personal training clients in London, and I soaked up  the atmosphere on what were gorgeously warm summer days on both occasions.

This used to be known as the Stella Artois Championships after its sponsor, but it’s now the AEGON Championships which has a less sexy ring to it, and a much less attractive colour scheme around the court. It still remains a great event, and a key mens’ warm-up for Wimbledon.

Statoil Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall

This is the end of year highlight for the world’s former tennis champions on the seniors’ tour, known as the ATP Champions Tour. The Royal Albert Hall is a spectacular venue for this tennis event, and I’m lucky to have been given tickets by another personal training client in London (one of the perks of being a personal trainer!). The undisputed star attraction of this event is the tennis genius John McEnroe, and I saw him in the flesh ranting and raving his way to victory.

Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena

This is the only event I’ve not attended, and one I really look forward to experiencing. One of my personal training clients in Wanstead went recently with his tennis coach (not with his personal trainer grrrrr!) and said it was spectacular. With a capacity of 17,500 seats, this is the world’s largest indoor tennis tournament.

The O2 Arena hosts a theatrical extravaganza for this tennis event, with hi-tech lighting, giant video screens, film-projection onto the court itself, and music between play, it’s a cross between a rock concert and a world championship boxing match. Only the world’s top 8 men qualify for this end of year ATP event. The good news is that this tournament will stay at the O2 in London until 2015. Would be even better if it remained here permanently.

So what about tennis development in London, for Britain’s top hopefuls? To find out, we need to go to Roehampton, London SW15.

LTA National Tennis Centre, Roehampton

Opened in 2007, this state of the art tennis centre has it all. With 22 courts in total, all three main playing surfaces are catered for. The indoor acrylic courts boast a sprung timber sub-frame. There are outdoor hard courts too. The 4 outdoor grass courts are designed to mimic the grass of the Wimbledon Championships. And there are two different types of outdoor clay courts, perfect preparation for the French Open.

The facilities go way beyond the tennis courts themselves. There’s overnight accommodation for 54 people, an extensive gym, physio studio, nutrition section, psychology, video performance analysis, and a range of medical and fitness testing equipment. All we need now is a few British players among the world’s top 10, to keep Andy Murray company.

Apart from Andy Murray, currently ranked world number 3, we have no other British men inside the ATP world top 200. The women are doing better, with Laura Robson just breaking into the WTA world top 50, together with Heather Watson ( British number one). Two other British women, Anne Keothavong (born in Hackney), and Elena Baltacha, are both inside the world’s top 200. Why are the men lagging behind the women, Roger Draper? That hefty £250m of LTA investment will surely reap more rewards soon.

tennis in London

Tennis Courts and Tennis Clubs in London

As well as four world class tournaments and a world class tennis training centre, London also enjoys some great tennis facilities for us ordinary Londoners. But this is a subject for my next blog post.

As usual, please leave a comment below. Maybe you’ve attended one of London’s big tennis events. Share your experience in the comments section! And maybe you’ve got some views as to why we don’t have more world class male tennis players ranked in the ATP top 200. Have your say!



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