BRIGHTON and Hove provides the best opportunities in the country for children to play tennis, it has been revealed.

We beat areas like Oxfordshire, Somerset, London and Suffolk to top the charts for access to the popular racket sport.

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) said the next Andy Murray could come from the city.

Local tennis clubs have seen numbers swell during the Covid crisis and are hopeful that some of their young members could go on to have a career in tennis.

Dan Travis is the director of Tennis Tigers, a children's programme at Preston Park Tennis Club.

He said: “They came over from other sports during the pandemic and just stayed.

"This year we have been very big, we have doubled in size.

“It is great to have the youngsters taking part in tennis, our coaches are very good at what they do, so hopefully we will see a good crop of players develop.”

This comes as a study by the Schools Active Movement found that 84 per cent of schools noticed a decline in children’s physical fitness.

The Argus: Tennis at St Ann's in Brighton.Tennis at St Ann's in Brighton.

Two thirds of schools also thought that pupils had gained excessive weight due to the impact of lockdown.

Conrad Brunner, from Queens Park Tennis Club, said: "It's not uncommon to have over 100 kids come through our gates at the weekend.

"In terms of producing future champions, our philosophy is simple, 'participation, participation, participation'.

"It will click with some kids, who may then pursue careers in professional tennis.

"But the main aim is for children to take exercise and have fun whacking a tennis ball."

A new initiative called LTA Youth has now been launched, it is aimed at youngsters aged four to 18 and hopes to counteract a recent drop in physical activity among children.

The initiative will help develop children’s physical and neurological abilities such as a balance, coordination, fine motor skills, decision-making and strengthening hand-eye coordination.

They are hopeful that the skills the children will be taught, will not only help them play tennis, but also help them in other aspects of their lives.

Sam Richardson, LTA head of tennis products and programmes said: “Playing tennis, no matter your age, ability, of how often you get on court, is one of the best ways to improve your balance, mind power and lightning moves – but we don’t often think about how those skills can level up other areas of your life.

“With the pandemic having a real impact on how active children have been, we are proud to offer an insight-led, world-class programme that get kids active, develops fundamental motor skills and supports athletic development to ensure children progress, compete and enjoy the game.

“LTA Youth has all of this; it’s all about instilling confidence on and off the court.”

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