Nearly 300 people packed onto the four tennis courts and thousands saw the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas at a special event in Beacon Park yesterday (Sunday 21st February). National tennis charity Tennis For Free launched a new initiative in Lichfield to inspire more to play the sport and to launch this special event, the Davis Cup was brought to the city. It had pride of place next to the courts in Beacon Park and queues developed as an estimated 1000 got up, close and personal with the famous trophy which stands 3 feet high and weights 200kg. Behind the Davis Cup nearly 300 people packed onto four tennis courts for a fun-filled two hours of tennis games, drills and coaching beating the existing Tennis For Free launch attendance record. The previous record for an official launch was 197 at Bellfield Park in Inverness when Judy Murray, mother of Davis Cup stars Andy and Jamie, ran a masterclass. Lichfield smashed the record with 296 children and adults, many playing tennis for the first time, plus many courts side spectators.
Tennis For Free has created a partnership with Lichfield District Council, Lichfield Friary Tennis Club and the LTA to help provide free coach led tennis sessions for all the family between 2-4pm every Sunday in Beacon Park. Anyone from four years and over can join the free group sessions and the public is being encouraged register at www.beaconparktennis.co.uk
Tennis For Free CEO, Paul Jessop said: "Wow. 296 people plus family and friends were crammed into the courts, a record attendance in over 10 years of Tennis For Free. The atmosphere was amazing and even though we had gusts of over 40 miles per hour, the wind didn’t stop the crowds from enjoying themselves. Together with the Davis Cup on show in Beacon Park it was an amazing day which I hope will inspire people from the area to come along again and enjoy free tennis every Sunday afternoon.”
Councillor Andy Smith, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Parks at Lichfield District Council, said: "It was such an honour to welcome the Davis Cup to Lichfield and I am sure Team GB’s success is helping to inspire a whole new breed of tennis players. However, becoming a world class tennis player has to start somewhere and the aim of the free weekly sessions at Beacon Park is to introduce more people to the game. I’m delighted so many people took part in the first session and had the chance to see the Davis Cup. Now is a great time to be getting into tennis as, working with Tennis for Free, we have also made three of Beacon Park’s tennis courts free to play on any time after 1pm every day of the week. You don’t need to book, just come along and play.”
Started in 2004 and celebrating over a decade of getting over 150,000 people to hit tennis balls for free, Tennis For Free is a registered charity founded by comedian Tony Hawks. It aims to provide healthy, vibrant tennis communities on FREE public park tennis courts creating new tennis players of all ages and backgrounds, and showing that tennis can be enjoyed by all. Tennis For Free supporters include Judy Murray (Team GB’s Federation Cup Captain (the female equivalent of the David Cup) and the mother of two of Team GB’s successful Davis Cup team – Andy and Jamie), BBC tennis commentator Andrew Castle and multiple Grand Slam winner Pat Cash.
Lichfield Friary Tennis Club professional coach Paul Bayliss said: "Lichfield and the surrounding area certainly loved tennis judging by the number of people who turned up on a windy February afternoon. If you want to play more tennis for free register now at www.beaconparktennis.co.uk and come down every Sunday between 2-4pm in Beacon Park.”