Portsmouth ready to net more tennis aces

Heather Watson
Heather Watson
Blu Baker in action this season

Baker on the rise in Florida

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With the possibility of British success at Wimbledon it could be boom time for tennis.

The impressive indoor facility at Portsmouth Tennis Academy, on Burnaby Road, already boasts a healthy contingent of budding young players.

Now they are ready and waiting for a Wimbledon spike.

With Laura Robson making a run to the last 16 and Andy Murray aiming for his first title at SW19 the sport is in good health.

Kevin Baker – who is head coach and managing director at Portsmouth – is hoping that a whole new crop of youngsters will be tempted to wield a racket for the first time.

He said: ‘If Andy Murray wins Wimbledon, it would be very interesting to see what the effect is on the game.

‘I certainly think we would have a few more kids knocking on the door.

‘Wimbledon is such a massive thing in this country.

‘I don’t think him winning the US Open or the Olympics captured the imagination of everyone.

‘The classic example is what happened in Sweden after Bjorn Borg.

‘Within five or six years, a little country like Sweden had 18 guys in the top 100.

‘They didn’t really have the facilities but they did it through one guy generating that interest.

‘For this two weeks of the year, everyone talks about Wimbledon.

‘If he does win it, it will be very interesting.

‘But we are totally geared up for it.

‘We are ready, willing and able to accommodate any kids who want to come down and try it out.’

A free taster session is available for those aged between four and 10 every Saturday morning (9am).

They can learn some of the basics with all equipment available to borrow.

Baker is particularly keen to see more young girls give tennis a go, perhaps inspired by Robson’s efforts, with new coach Taro Keens joining Claire Overton.

Baker said: ‘We’ve got Laura Robson and Heather Watson as good role models in the sport now for young girls.

‘It could have an effect and get more girls interested in the sport.

‘So it’s got to be seen as a positive for British tennis.

‘For some reason, tennis lost a bit of its coolness a few years ago and I don’t really know why.

‘We have a few girls who play but we want a lot more.

‘It’s about having the right role models.

‘The biggest thing is the amount of kids we have on the programme and trying to grow that even more.

‘We’ve got more than 200 – getting up towards 250.

‘But we are looking at the real youngsters – those aged between four and 10 – to get them involved early.

‘We are really trying to get more girls playing.

‘Once they do start, a lot seem to absolutely love it.’

For more details on coaching, open sessions or court hire, contact (023) 9273 0082 or visit ptatennis.co.uk