How to improve your game

Inspired by a fantastic Wimbledon? Check out our top tennis tips

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BOOK A COURT

There are estimated to be around 20,000 public tennis courts in the UK ( see our pick of London's best) , most of which, Wimbledon fortnight aside, are grievously underused. The quality varies wildly, but it shouldn’t be hard to locate decent park courts somewhere near you for hire at between £5 and £10 per hour. Try to find someone slightly better than yourself to play against and, when that option’s not available, anyone else – because any practice is better than no practice. Failing that, practice serving on your own. Serving tends to be the weak spot for most players, but it’s amazing what can be done with a bit of lone effort.

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FIND A COACH

As with the courts, the quality of coaches runs the gamut from lousy to inspirational. To some extent it’s a hit and miss process, because different players respond differently to different personalities. You can find a properly accredited coach in your area through the LTA (lta.org.uk). Prices tend to vary from around £25 to £45 an hour for one-to-one sessions with a licensed coach. But it’s money well spent if it’s someone who can take your haphazard collection of bad habits and turn them into a portfolio of smooth confident strokes. A cheaper alternative is to join a group session at your local courts. Often subsidised, these can work out to be less than the cost of hiring a court yourself.

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JOIN A CLUB

Most clubs are private, although there are a few publicly funded exceptions, with nominal membership fees. For private clubs the annual fees go from £100 to £12,000, depending on facilities and snob value. But you can certainly join a reasonable club for less than most gym memberships, and the chances are that you’ll use it more often than you use a gym. Clubs are the ideal place to meet tennis partners of appropriate ability for your advancement. The good thing is that better players won’t mind playing you because they’re compensated for dropping down in standard by the inexhaustible pleasure of winning. The LTA website is the ideal starting point.

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TRY A TENNIS HOLIDAY

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as combining sunny relaxation with draining sessions of tennis, if only to sweat out the previous evening’s indulgences. Villas with tennis courts don’t come cheaply, but they needn’t be as crippling as you might imagine. For example, a week in high season at the Casa da Encruzilhada, which sleeps 12, (vintagetravel.co.uk) in northern Portugal costs £1450. But if money is not a pressing issue, then try the Forte Village in Sardinia, whose tennis academy is run by Rocky Loccisano, Pat Cash’s former coach. It features some excellent clay courts in a delightful family-centred resort. A 7-night stay with half-board and participation in the tennis academy costs £3,175 per adult (westernoriental.com)

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SIGN UP FOR A TENNIS CAMP

This is the ultimate way of making a rapid improvement in your game. It’s intensive but, if you pick the right place, it can be enormously rewarding. In the States, there are places that are more like boot camps than tennis resorts. But in Europe, the coaching regimes tend to be a little more sympathetic. Perhaps the best of them all is the Roy Emerson Tennis Week at the Gstaad Palace in that tennis nirvana, Roger Federer’s homeland of Switzerland. Located in the middle of the Alps, the Gstaad Palace enjoys a majestic setting that is also sublimely tranquil. It’s the perfect environment in which to focus and learn as Roy, a tennis legend who won 28 grand slam titles, issues his wit-filled advice. Prices start at about £2625 for six night tennis package (royemersontennisweeks.com)

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