Serving up tennis lessons at park

Back row, Coun Lily Henderson, Oliver Walker, eight, and John Cain, tennis coach, Front row Leah Rae, seven, and Lydia Walker, six,  enjoying free tennis sessions at Highfield Park. BELOW: Andy Murray at Wimbledon.
Back row, Coun Lily Henderson, Oliver Walker, eight, and John Cain, tennis coach, Front row Leah Rae, seven, and Lydia Walker, six, enjoying free tennis sessions at Highfield Park. BELOW: Andy Murray at Wimbledon.
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Public courts with metal nets might be a far cry from the manicured lawns of SW19.

But as the likes of Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Serena Williams warm up for Wimbledon which starts today, a free scheme is ensuring children in Blackpool get chance to pick up a racket too.

Andy Murray at Wimbledon.

Andy Murray at Wimbledon.

Councillors Lily Henderson and Chris Maughan ploughed £11,540 from their ward budget into refurbishing the courts at Highfield Park in South Shore and also to pay for tennis lessons.

The sessions, for six to 12-year-olds are being run by professional coach John Cain, from South Shore Tennis Club, for the next three weeks.

Oliver Walker, eight, and his sister Lydia, six, from South Shore, were among the first youngsters to take up the lessons.

Their mum Marilena said: “It’s fantastic the children are getting to learn a new sport for free.

“The way the session is structured, they are also learning to work as a team and the coach includes counting skills and that kind of thing.

“They love tennis because of the Olympics and they are big fans of Andy Murray so it’s great they are getting to try it out.”

Coun Henderson said she was determined to give youngsters chance to try the game.

She said: “Myself and Coun Maughan have paid for these lessons to be held on Highfield Road Park to help Blackpool children take up tennis.

“We want to put Blackpool on the map for tennis and hope this will be the start of something bigger.”

Coun Maughan added: “The country’s interest is swaying towards tennis this summer, with Wimbledon starting today.

“It’s great we are able to tap into the interest it creates and make tennis lessons available for young people in Highfield who want to learn the sport.

“Hopefully, we’ll help to create Britain’s next winner of a major tennis title.”

Anybody is welcome to turn up and play on Thursdays between 4pm and 6pm, although places are limited.

The first hour of the lessons will be for six to nine-year-olds, with the second hour for ages 10 to 12.

There are two tarmac tennis courts in the park, which each have fixed metal netting, and have been recently resurfaced with anti-slip tennis court paint, new court markings and fencing.

Andy Murray is looking to be the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.

He became the first British man to win a tennis Grand Slam in 76 years when he beat Novak Djokovic in the final of the US Open last September.

He also won a gold medal at the London Olympics last year, beating Roger Federer in the final on Wimbledon Centre Court.

Call (01253) 477477 to find out more about the free tennis lessons.

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