Ever since Andy Murray burst on to the scene as a bedraggled but hugely promising teenager the question has been asked: could his success herald a new generation of tennis stars?
He and his brother Jamie soared to the top of the singles and doubles rankings respectively and produced a wave of interest in the game.
There have been some encouraging signs of improvement, with new players breaking through in top tournaments and culminating in the historic Davis Cup win two years ago.
Johanna Konta, the current British female No1 and World female No 7, has no doubt that getting the support of outside agencies where she grew up in Sydney and Barcelona was a big plus in driving her to success. The LTA is hoping to replicate similar successes in Britain.
“My first memory is being involved in an after school programme when I was growing up. We’d spend a couple of hours just learning how to bounce the ball on the racket, little things like that but it was a lot of fun!” she said.
Spurred on by the new enthusiasm young ‘wanna-be’ champions, the Lawn Tennis Association has revealed that it has hit its target of getting 20,000 children signed up to take part in its biggest ever grass roots initiative, Tennis for Kids in partnership with Highland Spring this summer.
The initiative, backed by former top stars such as Annabel Croft and Greg Rusedski, was launched to establish a genuine tennis participation legacy by developing a new generation of tennis-loving children.
The Tennis for Kids initiative aims to inspire children aged 5-8 to pick up a racket and play tennis for the first time. It is a six week course led by specially trained coaches, with free rackets given away to children who complete their course.
Last year, the LTA coached nearly 14,000 children through the initiative. This year, it set itself the stretch target of coaching 20,000 children and has already smashed it.
Additional courses are now being made available due to such popular demand and the LTA is giving 4,000 more kids the opportunity to try tennis for the first time.
The extra courses will be running across the country and will continue to be delivered by the same 1,000 coaches recruited to lead the sessions. Parents can sign their kids up for the course at their closest venue at: www.lta.org.uk/tennisforkids
Alastair Marks, LTA Director of Participation, said: “Demand for places has been sky high so it’s great we can make more available for parents still hoping to book their kids onto courses.”
Highland Spring has been an active supporter of British tennis from grassroots to the professional ranks for 10 years.
The LTA runs and supports a network of 11,500 approved tournaments for players of all ages, the corner-stones of which are five grass court pro events leading up to Wimbledon, held in Nottingham (ATP & WTA), Birmingham (WTA), Queen’s Club-London (ATP) and Eastbourne (WTA), all of which are title sponsored by Edinburgh-based pensions provider Aegon.