Tennis is a true racket and ball sport played either by two opposing players (known as singles) or two teams of two players (or doubles). Tennis is a skillful game, involving good timing, hand to eye co-ordination, body positioning, foot work and court awareness.
There is also a further combination called "American doubles", which involves three players, with one player playing against the other two for one game at a time. After each game of tennis, the players rotate round and a new player plays by him or herself. If a player on his own wins, he or she is awarded 2 points, if the doubles players win, they are both awarded 1 point each. The winner is the first person to reach 10 points. Whilst the single player may need to cover the whole court and need to run around a little more, they have the advantage of being able to hit the ball into the whole court (making use of the tramlines). The other two players can only use the single area of the court.
Tennis is a great all round sport, which is predominantly played outdoors, though in the winter months can be played indoors.
It requires a reasonable level of fitness, covering a large court area, which is over 10m wide and over 23m long; good control (sometimes playing the ball on the run and off-balance) and requires great mental stamina on the big points.
The attraction of tennis is that it is played on a wide variety of different surfaces, including hard courts, artificial grass, clay (or shale), indoor carpet and on grass; the ball bounce and speed varies dramatically between each surface. Grass courts and carpet are the fastest surfaces, which big servers can use to their advantage. Rallies on clay courts on the other hand tend to be longer as the ball picks up grit which makes it heavier and slower, which result in longer rallies.
To find a recreational tennis partner in London, you can use the Find Sport Partner section on Totally Sporty. Simply put in your postcode to find tennis players in your area to practice with.
There have been very few tennis greats who have mastered the art of winning all grand slams (Wimbledon - grass, US and Australian Open - hard courts and French Open - clay), as different skills are required for each type of surface. The talented Ivan Lendl never quite managed to win the elusive Wimbledon title. Pete Sampras, a regular in the Wimbledon final, never won at the French Open. Only six tennis players have won all four titles. More recently only Federer, who won the 2009 French Open ) breaking Nadal's winning run of the previous six titles, Andrea Agassi and going back a few years... Rod Laver and Fred Perry.
Very few players have the full game of strong ground strokes, good volleying, a powerful serve, mental endurance and the touch shots.
The best way to start playing the game, is go down to your local tennis club and sign up for some group beginner lessons; courses are usually run over the weekend.
You will be taught the basics on how to hold the racket, in particular the grip (which is different for the forehand and the backhand), learning where to stand when hitting the ball, good body positioning (knowing which foot to put in front of the other and the importance of bending your knees), timing and the racket swing, and keeping your balance when running onto the ball.
Once you have mastered the ground strokes, you will be able to progress to standing at the net and learn how to volley. Lastly, the all important serve requires lots of practice and a good ball toss.
There are many tennis venues all over London, including parks for recreational tennis and some quality tennis clubs.
Use the Find a Sport Club/Venue directory on Totally Sporty to find your nearest tennis club or tennis courts in London. Here you will find useful information on when club nights and training take place.
Tennis racket technology has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years, with strong and extremely light-weight materials. The main manufacturers are Head, Wilson, Dunlop, Slazenger and Babolat. As a general rule the tighter the strings (upwards from 25kilos/55 lbs), the more control you will have; the looser the strings, the more power you will have.
Good tennis shoes with good grips and ankle support are essential for comfort and to avoid injury.