Wimbledon may be cancelled, but you can still play with these tennis essentials

Louise Whitbread
The Independent
Game, set, match with these must-haves for playing tennis at home: iStock
Game, set, match with these must-haves for playing tennis at home: iStock

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on major sporting events worldwide, from the 2020 Olympics being postponed to Wimbledon, which should have started on 28 June, being cancelled.

The world-famous tennis tournament usually draws in tens of thousands of spectators and millions of TV viewers every day throughout the annual two-week event.

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However, this year will be different. Instead, organisers are encouraging fans to recreate Wimbledon by posting their own homemade tennis tournaments using the hashtag #WimbledonRecreated, while the most memorable matches in the championship's history will be showcased across its social media platforms.

Whether you typically watch it from home or at the Wimbledon grounds, get inspired and involved in the sport by learning to play at home, whether that’s in your garden or on local outside courts, per government guidelines.

Jo Ward, former British professional tennis player and coach education and curriculum manager at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), told The Independent of the many benefits of playing tennis: “Firstly, it’s great for improving physical fitness. Tennis improves your speed, stamina, coordination, speed, agility and balance. Playing sport and doing physical activity are also linked to positive mental health too, and tennis, in particular, provides mental stimulus as it requires problem-solving and focus.”

It’s one of the easiest ways to stay active while social distancing, as close contact can be easily avoided, but is still an opportunity for social interaction. If you’re looking to start playing or to pick it up after a hiatus, these are the essentials you need in your tennis bag.

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What are the rules on playing tennis outside during lockdown?

If you don’t have room in your garden, or a garden at all, the government's lockdown rules state you can use outdoor courts to play.

Groups of up to six people, from two households only, are also now allowed to meet outside while social distancing, but indoor courts and bubble courts remain closed.

Clubhouses and pavilions are permitted to open but only for essential needs such as switching on floodlights or for access to toilets, and indoor social spaces including bars, restaurants and gyms should remain closed.

According to the LTA guidelines: “Where attendance of a parent/guardian (non-participant) is required, or a carer for a disabled player, it is permitted and is not counted as part of the maximum group size of six, but should be off-court and limited to one per player where possible.”

The LTA has also recently launched a strategy called "play your way" to encourage people to play at their community courts and in parks.

It has been working with local authorities to organise free initiatives to make park tennis venues easier to play in, which include creating a new booking system via its website here, to find a court near you and people to play with. You can filter it by courts that are free to play on too, which is ideal if you’re budget conscious, but still want to stay fit.

How to get started

Ward advises beginners to start in a small space: “If you’re on a tennis court, start closer to the net and work your way back when you start to achieve a few successful hits and rallies,” she says.

“Don’t go full-on Serena as soon as you step on the court and try to whack the ball a million miles an hour. If you want to master the basics quickly, find a local coach and get to know the basics. You’ll meet lots of people, get fitter, and get to grips with the game in no time.”

Harriet Dart, a professional British tennis player, also shared her tips for beginners to help you master the basics. To prepare for a shot, she recommends standing with your feet at least shoulder-width apart, hands out front and jump into this position as the other person hits the ball so you’re ready to move to your next shot.

"Make sure you get your racquet back early, in preparation for your shot – that’s really important to ensure you’re ready to hit the ball in front of you, not behind, which will off-set you on your feet," she advises.

Dart recommends perfecting your "follow-through" by continuing your racquet swing through the ball as you make contact between racquet and ball, as this will steer your shot in the right direction from low to high.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Tennis rackets

To get started, you'll need to invest in a decent racket, as it's one of the few pieces of equipment that are essential to the game.

In our guide to the best tennis rackets, the Babolat pure aero tennis racket (Pro-Direct Tennis, £110), took the top spot, with our reviewer describing it as being “so easy to swing so it can really power up any one’s game – beginner or intermediate.”

The foundation for any tennis-playing is a racket that will help you master serves, aces and match points (The Independent)
The foundation for any tennis-playing is a racket that will help you master serves, aces and match points (The Independent)

When striking the balls, we also found it didn’t take a toll on your forearm thanks to the construction of the racket which had a dampening effect, so you can whack it over the net as hard as you like without straining your muscles.

Tennis balls

No game of tennis is complete without the balls to hit across the net, so make sure you have a tube ready for your first practice session.

These Slazenger Wimbledon tennis balls (Sports Direct, £6 for four) are a great starting point and will give you plenty of spares to play with, unless you accidentally end up hitting one into a nearby field and it gets lost forever.

This tube of tennis balls may the closest you'll get to Wimbledon this year, but are durable enough to last you plenty of summers (Sports Direct)
This tube of tennis balls may the closest you'll get to Wimbledon this year, but are durable enough to last you plenty of summers (Sports Direct)

They are also the tennis balls used at the All England Club during Wimbledon, so you can really get into the competitive spirit.

They’re durable, brightly coloured in a classic yellow so you can distinguish between points that are in and out, and repel water so if it lands in a puddle or gets drenched in summer showers, you’ll still be able to play with them perfectly well.

Tennis shoes

For running about on the court, a good quality pair of shoes will keep feet cushioned from the high impact exercise you’ll be doing when you rally and play matches.

In our round-up of the best, we recommended the New Balance fresh foam 1080v10 London (New Balance, from £135), for both men and women, which were loved by our reviewer for being lightweight. They keep legs feeling fresh even after a long workout.

A good pair of trainers will keep your feet cushioned and comfortable throughout your rallies and matches (New Balance)
A good pair of trainers will keep your feet cushioned and comfortable throughout your rallies and matches (New Balance)

The midsole was praised for keeping the foot in place and anchoring the heel. It's a great all-rounder shoe that excelled in comfort and performance.

Once you've bought a pair, wear them at home around the house to get an idea for how they feel on your feet before heading to your nearest court.

Tennis outfit

While wearing all white is only imposed as a strict rule for Wimbledon players, you can join in on the fun at home by kitting yourself out in a head-to-toe outfit.

We love this Björn Borg tess dress (Tennis Point, £37.90) for an all-white ensemble that’s both sporty and stylish.

Get into the spirit of Wimbledon with an all-white tennis outfit (Tennis Point)
Get into the spirit of Wimbledon with an all-white tennis outfit (Tennis Point)

It has a pleated skirt, racer-back, crew neckline and neon detailing on the back waistline. The fitted dress is in a straight cut that will keep you comfortable and make it easy to run around the court.

You can also wear your regular gym gear too – whatever you’re most comfortable in will make playing a much more enjoyable experience.

A pair of gym leggings will see you through whatever workout you choose when keeping active (Nike)
A pair of gym leggings will see you through whatever workout you choose when keeping active (Nike)

We were impressed with the Nike victory women's training capris leggings, £26.95, which are sweat-wicking, well fitted and wash well without losing shape.

Look for lightweight fabrics that will keep you cool when playing in summer (Columbia)
Look for lightweight fabrics that will keep you cool when playing in summer (Columbia)

We’d also recommend the Columbia men’s titan ultra li short (Slam Jam, £29), which are waterproof and feature a handy zip pocket for your keys. The comfortable material is lightweight enough for the summer months.

Tennis bag

When shopping for a tennis bag to keep your kit protected from the elements and as a storage space for a spare jacket, balls and water bottle, the photograph of Serena Williams carrying an enormous bag that can fit up to six rackets may come to mind.

For beginners, however, that's more room than you'll require. Instead, opt for a backpack such as this Wilson tennis sports storage advantage Ii backpack (Amazon, £29.95), that can hold up to two rackets. It has zipped compartments on the side and in the main section and is easy to carry back and forth to the courts with everything you need.

Keep all your tennis gear safe and dry with a kit bag (Amazon)
Keep all your tennis gear safe and dry with a kit bag (Amazon)

It's also a versatile enough shape to use for gym visits too, when they open of course, and can double up as a regular rucksack for your commute.

A water bottle

It's vital to stay hydrated when you’re playing sports, especially in the hotter summer months.

If you're looking to cut down on your single-use plastic, why not switch to a reusable bottle which will prevent marine pollution and, of course, save you money in the long term.

In our review of the best reusable water bottles, the Thermos super-light direct drink flask (Lakeland, £21.99) came out on top.

Cut down on your plastic pollution and stay hydrated with a reusable water bottle (The Independent)
Cut down on your plastic pollution and stay hydrated with a reusable water bottle (The Independent)

It holds an impressive 350ml of liquid despite its size and is super lightweight too, making it easy to carry to and from your practice sessions.

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