Tennis court bookings are up as much as 75 per cent in some London boroughs, data suggests, thanks to people picking up a racquet during lockdown.
According to data from the Lawn Tennis Association, courts in Waltham Forest, Newham and Lewisham have seen an average of 75 per cent increase across monthly bookings from 2020 to 2021.
In Lewisham alone court bookings have increased from 8,500 to 28,500 since 2019.
John Golding, the LTA’s London and South East representative, said people inspired to take up tennis during lockdown was partly behind the trend.
Tennis courts were one of the first sporting activities to open after all three lockdowns. After the first, tennis courts opened May 11 - months before indoor sport was allowed. For the third, courts opened on March 29 - two weeks before indoor gyms and almost two months before exercise classes.
“A lot of people will have tried tennis for the first time in the past 12 months,” Mr Golding said. “Many tennis venues opened up in what was not the easiest environment for booking or enjoying sports during the pandemic. There is a lot of choice in modern life and you have a lot of options in normal circumstances. I think people who wouldn’t have necessarily played tennis did give it a go.”
Mr Golding said some boroughs were “struggling to keep up with demand for court bookings during lockdown” - adding 27 boroughs now have online booking capabilities compared to just 13 before the pandemic.
Spin, a London-based free tennis app that connects players, saw a 147 per cent increase in activity from 2020 to 2021.
After Lockdown one, between May 20 and June 2020, the app saw a 35 per cent increase in activity and after Lockdown three, between May and June 2021 there was a 94 per cent increase.
When asked if he thought more people had turned to tennis during the pandemic, former British number one Tim Henman, 46, an ambassador for HSBC which is the bank sponsor of Wimbledon, said: "I think that is a fact. I think that is a really good thing. When you look at participation in all sports across the board it has been declining and I think that is very worrying and very sad. So I think with what has happened with tennis during the pandemic, I think there is a great opportunity to capitalize on its increasing.”
According to Spin, in 2019 when the last Wimbledon took place there was a 29 per cent increase in activity after the Championships.
Mr Golding said capitalising on tennis during Wimbledon was always a priority for the LTA - adding British success at the Championships was good for increasing interest in tennis.
“The more people playing tennis at a high level, the more it opens the sport up in the public eye,” he said.
There are about 600 venues with tennis courts in London - 241 of them in clubs and 328 parks. Nationally, about 4 million people play tennis - 20 per cent of which are Londoners.
Nationally the LTA is investing £8.4million to help local authorities maintain their courts - about 20 per cent of which, Mr Golding said, would be given to London venues.