Tennis serves up increased interest

ORANGE Indoor Tennis Centre coach Chris Besgrove is tipping the hot summer of Australian Open tennis ahead to bring about a massive increase in participation numbers for the sport.

Just after Christmas, with the Hopman Cup in Perth and the Brisbane International in full swing across the country, numbers are up by 100 per cent.

Next week the Apia International Sydney Tennis tournament will begin with the likes of Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and number one ranked Australian woman Sam Stosur in the draw for the Homebush Bay-based event.

It, too, will give the sport in Orange a little kick along.

But it’s the television coverage Besgrove believes helps unleash every budding tennis player’s inner Roger Federer.

He says with the sport front and centre in everyone’s living room courtesy of both the Apia International and then the Australian Open in Melbourne, the sport goes through a participation boom.

“It’s on (television) basically from midday to when the news starts,” Besgrove said looking at the Apia International.

“It really kicks things off come the middle of the month.

“Already our court hire has gone up probably by 100 per cent.

“It’s mainly people that haven’t played since last Christmas, the grand kids annoying the grandparents to come down and have a hit or it’s those older people who are still interested in coming down to have a hit.

“People do it because they can see it (on television).”

It’s a welcome boost too.

Despite big open tournaments in the form of Wimbledon and the US Open run throughout the year, central west interest in international tournaments is low.

Whether it’s the three to four year olds Besgrove has come into the centre or the 70 to 80 year olds reliving former glories, the experienced tennis mentor says the best thing about the sport is the fact just about anyone can pick up a racket.

“The whole family can play it,” he said.

“It’s one of the few sports that’s a lifetime sport, a bit like golf. 

“Everyone can play it from the grand kids to the grandparents, sisters, brothers, mums and dads... tennis is a family-orientated sport.”

nick.mcgrath@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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