Ipswich ranked third in the country for number of tennis courts as town attempts to find next star for Wimbledon

Ipswich has been ranked third in the country for number of tennis courts behind London and Sheffield

Ipswich has been ranked third in the country for number of tennis courts behind London and Sheffield. L-R Nicole King,Alfie Bayliss,Andrew Yorke, Laura Bugg,Sophie Singer,Oser Okpiabhele. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

With the start of Wimbledon just days away and the nation’s homegrown heroes gearing up for the big event, tomorrow’s next tennis talent could come from right on our doorstep.

New data detailing the nation’s top tennis-playing neighbourhoods has revealed that Ipswich is ranked third behind Sheffield and London for the number of courts, beating highly-populated cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.

The data, from Property Detective, has counted 324 tennis courts in Ipswich – the equivalent of one court for every 447 people.

Now, key figures have praised the efforts of the coaches, players and facilities that have helped Ipswich residents take the sport to their hearts.

Jamie Friend, academy manager at the Elena Baltacha Academy in Ipswich, who was a hitting partner and travelling companion for the former British number one, said: “If we have got a lot of people playing tennis locally, then we need to pay tribute to the coaches as well. They are doing a good job and at junior level we have got a few nationally-ranked players.


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“It is a good place to be. It is an exciting place to be. Suffolk’s tennis is getting bigger, stronger and better and certainly for any youngsters that are looking to take up the sport, there are exciting times ahead locally.

“The opportunities available to a player starting out now are absolutely amazing. The difference is massive – 20 years ago, mini-tennis wasn’t really around. It was just being brought in.”

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Bally, who died last year aged 30 after a battle with liver cancer, started the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis in 2010 with the aim of helping children from all backgrounds learn to play the sport.

Mr Friend added: “It comes back to making it affordable and (removing) that middle class, elitist attitude, but Elena was always about breaking down those boundaries and making tennis affordable and accessible – because it is an expensive sport – and trying to get kids playing tennis or sport.

“It doesn’t matter if you are going to be the next Elena Baltacha or if you just want to play with your mates. It is a great sport and hopefully with her vision and what she was trying to achieve, we can continue that and get children interested in tennis and sport.”

Industry insiders have also paid tribute to the quality of facilities available across the town, which have allowed more people than ever before to take up the sport.

Ben Jackson, sports development officer at Suffolk Sport, said: “Having more opportunities to open more facilities in the public where people can just pay and play and casually enjoy tennis is the way forward, as opposed to more traditional, membership-based clubs. You need a mixed economy.

“We need to continue to encourage children at schools to play and to continue investment in schools and upscale the teachers to provide a positive experience at primary school level for young people. It needs to be positive and high-quality so they carry it on to secondary school and out in the community.”

There are currently 14 tennis courts operated by Ipswich Borough Council, with nine at various sports centres and five free courts in Christchurch Park.

Andrew Yorke, general manager of Ipswich Sports Club, added: “I think Wimbledon and Andy Murray helps and is instrumental in getting new players into the game.”

And with the number of people getting involved, the club is now aiming to expand it’s indoor courts to keep the interest alive all year round.

Wimbledon, the third Grand Slam tournament of the year, is set to get underway on Monday.

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