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Tennis players across Norfolk making most of facilities post-lockdown

PUBLISHED: 07:57 10 June 2020 | UPDATED: 07:57 10 June 2020

People enjoy using the tennis facilities at Eaton Park, Norwich. Picture: Ian Burt

People enjoy using the tennis facilities at Eaton Park, Norwich. Picture: Ian Burt

Ian Burt Photography

Usually at this time of year, with the weather getting better and the Wimbledon Championships on the horizon, tennis fever would be taking over the UK.

The tennis courts at Eaton Park were full on Tuesday afternoon. Picture: Ian BurtThe tennis courts at Eaton Park were full on Tuesday afternoon. Picture: Ian Burt

While the weather has generally been very pleasant of late, the coronavirus outbreak and resulting measures to curb its spread saw the famous Grand Slam’s organisers cancel this year’s event, with the 134th Championships now set to take place in summer 2021.

But with lockdown easing over the last month, demand for activities to do outside the home while being able to maintain social distancing has soared.

One such activity which has seen many people turn to in Norfolk is tennis, with seasoned regulars and new players choosing to pick up a racket over the last four weeks.

Since Wednesday, May 13, people have been allowed to enjoy unlimited exercise and partake in sports such as tennis and golf, where the two-metre rule can easily be maintained.

The tennis courts at Eaton Park were full on Tuesday afternoon. Picture: Ian BurtThe tennis courts at Eaton Park were full on Tuesday afternoon. Picture: Ian Burt

Tennis clubs across the county were soon inundated with people chomping at the bit for some on-court action after being unable to do so for almost two months beforehand.

Cringleford Tennis Club took the time off to prepare for when members could play again, and introduced a new online booking system last month for ease of access while also ensuring that players had as little contact with others as possible.

The club was able to get up and running on May 13, the first day they were allowed to, and their new booking system was fully operational around a week later.

Committee member Nicki Mitchell said: “We’ve been going again for almost a month now and we’re seeing a lot of people using the facilities again. We’re seeing maybe 17, 18 or 20 bookings per day at the moment.

The tennis courts at Eaton Park were full on Tuesday afternoon. Picture: Ian BurtThe tennis courts at Eaton Park were full on Tuesday afternoon. Picture: Ian Burt

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“The LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) send through all their guidelines and we have to make sure we get it absolutely right. It’s all about maintaining social distancing.

“We’ve been leaving 15-minute gaps between bookings to allow members time to leave and arrive on a court, while we’ve also considered all the contact points and how we can ensure they’re as safe as possible.”

Regular racket users have also been making the most of pay-to-play facilities, with the courts at nearby Eaton Park – managed by Norwich Parks Tennis on behalf of Norwich City Council – being used regularly by members of the public.

The tennis courts at Eaton Park were full on Tuesday afternoon. Picture: Ian BurtThe tennis courts at Eaton Park were full on Tuesday afternoon. Picture: Ian Burt

People can book 30-minutes slots up to two weeks in advance, with every day almost fully booked as players look to get their tennis fix.

Meanwhile those who prefer a smaller playing service have been taking advantage of the free-to-play table tennis facilities next to the courts.

City council cabinet member for health and wellbeing Matthew Packer said: “Since the tennis facilities were opened back up on May 14, we have seen a considerable number of bookings across Eaton, Waterloo and Harford parks. The positive impact that playing sport and keeping active has on both the physical and mental health and wellbeing cannot be emphasised enough. This is why we made it such a priority to work alongside Norwich Parks Tennis to put in place measures so these facilities could be opened up as soon as possible – in a way that was safe for all – and why we are committed to such a quality provision that offers membership at low cost to help make sure it’s as accessible as possible to all.”

Dan, 23 and from Norwich, managed to secure a much sought-after slot on Monday. He said: “I haven’t played tennis in ages and I really miss it. Without a car or bike or public transport it’s hard to get exercise in a way that’s fun since lockdown began.

The tennis courts at Eaton Park were full on Tuesday afternoon. Picture: Ian BurtThe tennis courts at Eaton Park were full on Tuesday afternoon. Picture: Ian Burt

“But I went to Eaton Park for the first time this week when some tennis slots came up. I was a bit out of practice but will be going more regularly from now on. Hopefully I’ll improve.

“I’m being careful not to play with anyone outside my household so I’m having to coach my girlfriend. “

Latest guidelines from the LTA, in line with those from the government, allow players from different households to play singles or doubles tennis with each other, while small group coaching for up to six people, including coaches, can continue, provided social distancing is maintained at all times.

The LTA’s guidance for players encourages them to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after play, avoid the sharing of equipment where possible and to use hand sanitiser regularly.


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