Tennis anyone? Get your racquets out!

Grass tennis courts at Stanley Park
Grass tennis courts at Stanley Park
Have your say

Blackpool’s Stanley Park might not appear to have much in common with SW19 - the home of the Wimbledon lawn tennis championships.

But it does boast its own set of grass tennis courts - eight in total.

Kenzo acts as 'ball boy'

Kenzo acts as 'ball boy'

As our picture (top left) from The Gazette archives shows, in their heyday the Stanley Park courts were a magnet for determined amateurs, who picked up their rackets in their droves.

Even in more recent years, during Wimbledon fortnight folk would be queuing up to test out their serve and volley skills and emulate their heroes. But despite the fact Britain now boasts a Wimbledon champion in Andy Murray who won the title in 2013, this year the courts are startlingly empty of players.

Hagop Tchobanian, who runs the courts on behalf of Blackpool Council, says he cannot understand why residents seem to have turned their back on tennis.

He said: “Seven or eight years ago people would be queuing to use the courts, especially during Wimbledon.

Shelagh Parkinson trying out the grass tennis courts at Stanley Park

Shelagh Parkinson trying out the grass tennis courts at Stanley Park

“It seems a shame they are not being used because along with the council we are working hard to get them in good shape.

“They are mowed every other week and we just want to get people using them.”

As a tennis player myself, I remember honing my shots on the Stanley Park courts before joining a club in order to play more regularly, while my husband Clive – a Lancashire veterans tennis champion – played tournaments there.

He said: “I remember when the courts at Stanley Park were full of players, especially during Wimbledon.

Shelagh Parkinson and Clive Parkinson try out the grass tennis courts at Stanley Park

Shelagh Parkinson and Clive Parkinson try out the grass tennis courts at Stanley Park

“There was a club here and organised tournaments and it would be great to see more people playing again.

“It is sad to see the courts not being used to their full potential especially when we have a Wimbledon champion again from our own country.

“Grass is the surface tennis was first designed for so it is nice to see some grass courts still surviving.

“And the environment at Stanley Park is one of the nicest places you can play tennis at.”

We had just returned from a trip to Wimbledon watching stars including Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Andy Murray, so were feeling inspired when we stepped out to hit a few balls on the Stanley Park turf.

Like any grass court, the bounce is unpredictable and success largely depends on being a decent serve and volleyer. But a fast court makes even a mediocre serve feel like something Serena Williams might deliver!

The softer surface is easier on the joints, and the odd dog walker applauds a particularly good shot.

Now in a bid to encourage more players, the £5 an hour fee will include an extra half hour’s play for free. Meanwhile some improvements are being made to the hard courts as well which are getting new nets fitted.

Mike Slattery, head of operations at Stanley Park, said: “The gates to the courts are open and I am up and down every half hour so people can start playing as soon as they want.

“They can also hire our racquets and balls from us, and we have staff here until 8pm at night. There are people down at the weekend, but not too many.

“We are really working hard, along with the council, to maintain the grass courts and in the long term we would like to refurbish all the hard courts as well.

“We just need the players to start coming back!”