As The Championships comes to a close and the tennis world gets back to normal there are a lot of positives from Wimbledon 2017 and lots of memories. It is clear that Wimbledon is one of the best things in British Tennis but it could also be argued it is also one of the worst.
Roger Federer lifting his eighth Men’s Singles trophy was a piece of history in itself, as was Garbiñe Muguruza’s first Ladies Singles crown. Johanna Konta announced herself not just to the tennis world but to the British public and experienced her first true Wimbledon moments. Jamie Murray once again triumphed on the Grand Slam stage in the Mixed Doubles, whilst Britain’s Wheelchair Tennis players continued their success with wins for Gordon Reid, Alfie Hewett and Jordanne Whiley.
The profile that Wimbledon enjoys and the television audiences it reaches make it one of the biggest sporting events in the world. The general public, who do not ordinarily watch tennis, are hooked for two weeks and tennis’ exposure reaches its highest peaks with people both watching and wanting to play. Tennis has captured the imagination of so many people and public courts across the country are packed with both adults and children for two weeks.
However, for as many people who are inspired, there are probably as many people who think the opposite. Whilst to the tennis enthusiasts grass courts and all-white kit are a tradition, to many people tennis doesn’t seem cool or appealing because of this. Tennis participation in Great Britain is growing with community facilities and coaches working very hard to make tennis accessible and affordable. However, if you watch Wimbledon on the television, tennis appears to remain middle-class and elitist. We are very lucky in Great Britain that the profits from Wimbledon are invested into growing the game each year via the Lawn Tennis Association. However, for those tasked with increasing participation and promoting the sport, the next 50 weeks will be spent undoing the negative perceptions of tennis that are created by Wimbledon. If you really wanted to inspire young people, you would show them the US Open or the Australian Open, with noisy crowds and players wearing different coloured kits, not Wimbledon.
Using major events to promote sport seems an obvious way of growing participation but it is not easy to turn spectators into players. As high profile as Wimbledon is, it is soon forgotten by the general public and with the football season looming and The Open golf taking place this weekend, attention soon turns to other sports. What is most important when growing tennis is giving adults and children a positive first experience and then the opportunity to continuing playing at a low cost. Whether it is a coach visiting a school or an open day at a club, there needs to be pathways in place to get new players started in our sport and participating regularly all year round.
There is no denying the significance of Wimbledon to the sport of tennis, particularly in Great Britain. But what is in question is whether it inspires people or does it put them off? What are your views on Wimbledon’s impact on growing tennis? What do you think needs to be done to get more people playing?