What a serve! As Wimbledon kicks off, sarah halliwell and aislinn coffey talk sociable, civilised, stylish tennis…
Sometimes tennis is thought of as an elitist sport. It’s not. There aren’t many sports you can take up at seven and continue playing until you’re 97. It costs nothing to head to your local park court and whack a ball. In one Danish study a few years ago, adults frequently taking part in tennis (or other racket and team sports) lived longer than those who were sedentary; in fact tennis showed the highest gain in life expectancy, by 9.7 years. In Play On: How To Get Better With Age (Penguin Life), author Jeff Bercovici suggests that you’d be better replacing those relentless (and, let’s face it, boring) hours in the gym with a sport that demands a mix of endurance and power, such as tennis. Tennis is brilliant cardio exercise, and good for shaping your arms and strengthening your glutes into the bargain.
Most notably, for sociability it’s hard to beat – it’s a great way to meet people, whatever level or age you are. It’s a game with so many benefits. Just as Roger Federer is a role model for the idea of grace under pressure, tennis is entirely mindful, if you’re doing it right – you’re never thinking of exercising, but only of winning the next point. A competitive match demands mental fortitude and determination as well as physical fitness. “It’s all about mental strength,” says Norah Glynn, an inspirational figure in Irish tennis: having only started playing in her 30s she went on to play for Ireland, and continues to win in her seventies.
Holder: Tory Sport; www.toryburch.com
Tennis can be the most stylish of sports. Vogue’s Anna Wintour famously plays every morning at 5.45am at New York’s Midtown Tennis Club; designer Julie de Libran describes tennis as “an obsession”, and star young player Emma Raducanu is a face for several luxury brands, from Tiffany to Dior. Tory Burch, a huge tennis fan, always has white sporty outfits in her Tory Sport collection, via www.net-a-porter.com, (though few players actually wear a tennis dress); the L’Etoile Sport x Veronica Beard pieces are pretty, too, for the court and beyond; also check out Varley, Lacoste and The Upside for stylish skirts and tops.
The fact is you only need minimal kit in order to play. There are always going to be players who have all of the kit and none of the skills. But the finest designer Lycra won’t win you a single point in this game. Beyond a good sports bra and some leggings (try M&S GoodMove range) and trainers (get fitted for these at Amphibian King in Bray), it’s a fairly low-maintenance operation. We like Lululemon vests (at Brown Thomas Dundrum), and head to Kildare Village to track down a sun visor or baseball cap. Grandstand in Dun Laoghaire is a reliable spot for racket stringing, balls and equipment. Don’t forget your sunscreen: a quick spray-on one is best, such as Shiseido Sports Invisible Protective Mist SPF50+ (€45 at www.boots.ie).
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If you haven’t played for a long time, make sure you warm up extra-well before stepping back on court – all too often people rush back in enthusiasm, and spend the rest of the summer in physio. Should you succumb to injury, though, we highly recommend Marie-Elaine Grant, an incredible sports physiotherapist based near Booterstown, Co Dublin; she has been Ireland’s chief physiotherapist for the Olympic Team since 1992, and is incredibly experienced and skilled, and lovely too. If anyone can get you back on your feet, she can (www.grantphysiotherapy.ie).
Find your local club and list of licensed coaches via www.tennisireland.ie. Book a court in the local park and get started. Get your kids started with Parks Tennis, in local parks around Dublin and nationwide (www.parkstennis.com).
A sweaty gym, shouty workouts and mindfulness apps? You cannot be serious. Head out and hit a ball under a blue sky instead – for body, health and mind.
Tennis Warm-up Jacket, Tory Sport, €395, at Tory Burch.
Tennis Match Tights, €70, at Adidas.
Tennis Pleated Skirts with Built-in Shorts, €60, at Lacoste.
The Upside, White Isabel polo tee, £105, at Net-A-Porter