I've just got back into tennis - and I can't tell you how much it's improved my fitness, strength and mood

Ready, set, play.

Anna learning how to play tennis as a beginner
(Image credit: Anna Barrter)

It’s June, the sun is (almost) shining, strawberries are finally back in season, and we're riding the unrivalled high of a summer of sport ahead. We all know that summer plus strawberries can mean only one thing: tennis. With only a couple of weeks to go until Wimbledon kicks off, it’s the time of year when many of us think about dusting off those long-abandoned racquets and heading to a local court for a knockabout.

Interested in learning how to play tennis for beginners, you’re in the right place. Last year, after a (long) hiatus, I decided to get back into tennis – and it’s been a real game-changer (pun totally intended) for both my fitness and my mindset. And did I mention tenniscore is so hot right now?

And it’s not just me who feels this way – tennis is enjoying something of a resurgence, with this survey (conducted by Sport England, England’s sports governing body) showing that almost 100,000 of us played tennis at least twice a month last year, making it the third most popular sport in the UK.

The popularity of the sport transcends a couple of glorious mid-summer weeks for good reason - keep scrolling to find out all the benefits of tennis, plus what I noticed when I started playing again.

Best tennis outfits, at the ready. Keen to channel your inner Katie Boulter and try your hand at a racket sport? Check out our guides to padel, while you're at it. We've got a feeling skorts might just turn out to be substance and style this summer...

How to play tennis for beginners - and why it's worth it

If you've never so much as picked up a tennis racquet, you might be wondering why you should bother. And we get it - learning a new sport can be tricky, but there are so many reasons to give tennis a try.

What is tennis?

The exact genesis of the game as we know it now isn't known, but historians believe that tennis was invented by French monks in the 11th or 12th century (we had no idea it was so ancient, either). A racquet sport played either as an individual or in pairs (as doubles), the aim of the game is to hit the ball over the net into the opponent's box, without them being able to return it. (Side note: please don't ask us to explain the scoring.)

Popular among aristocrats and royalty, tennis evokes a sense of monied English country life - but rest assured that it's totally accessible to get started. Many clubs offer free sessions and you can hire racquets and balls rather than investing if you're a beginner.


♬ Good Vibes (Instrumental) - Ellen Once Again

Why is tennis having a moment, right now?

There's no doubt that tennis is trending right now. Not only are we all sartorially obsessed with tennis core, for the first time in a long time we have some decent homegrown talent winning tournaments left, right and centre, helping to bring the sport into mainstream cultural consciousness. So much so, there's even been a tennis-themed Hollywood blockbuster this year, starring Zendaya, no less (Challengers).

"In my experience tennis has always been popular, but it's true that it has become more relevant and exciting again recently," agrees former ATP world-ranked player, coach and director of tennis at Merchiston Castle School, Simon Pender. "It helps that we have such an exciting group of young players emerging on the circuit. Players like Carlos Alcaraz, Jannek Sinner, Holger Rune, Coco Gauff, Emma Raducanu and Iga Swiatek (not to mention Boulter) are engaging a whole new generation of fans."

It's also great fun, whether you're chasing a world ranking or simply enjoying a knock around at your local park. "One of the great things about tennis is how inclusive it is," agrees Pender. "It's a game that can be played from a very young age to when we're very old. I have seen grandparents playing tennis with their grandchildren and when you have sports that easily bridge the generation gap it builds for a very inclusive, family feel."

What are the benefits of playing tennis?

While we love (really love) kicking back and watching Wimbledon, preferably with a glass of bubbly and some strawberries and cream in hand, tennis offers so many more benefits than a brief midsummer flirtation would have you believe.

"Tennis is a physically demanding sport that requires strength, agility, and endurance," says award-winning personal trainer and founder of Scupltrition, Amanda Place. "It not only helps you build strength and endurance but also improves your overall athletic performance."

In addition to building lower and upper body strength, tennis requires a strong and stable core - something that many of us confuse with having visible ab muscles. Rather, your core is your body's central powerhouse, needed for pretty much every movement we make.

"A strong core provides stability and helps transfer power from your lower body to your upper body during shots," agrees Place.

Alongside a stable core, tennis also helps us to develop agility and quick reaction times - something that reaseach (such as this study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research) shows benefits not only athletic performance (think the ability to change direction quickly, stop and start - super important for reaching all those volley shots!) but also, interestingly, cognitive function too.

"Tennis requires quick movements and explosive bursts of speed, which help to enhance cardiovascular endurance, as well as developing agility," says Place. "Additionally, it's a game of strategy, where you need to anticipate your opponent's moves. This develops critical thinking and focus."

Your boss can thank us later.


♬ original sound - Chanelle | Pro Tennis Player🎾

I started playing tennis again - here's my honest thoughts

Month one

Full disclosure: I got back into tennis very much by accident, as my kids were playing while on holiday a couple of years ago. Seeing them hitting back and forth reminded me how much I'd loved the sport when I was growing up - and it wasn't long before I wrangled the racquet from one of them and took over (in flip flops and a bikini, no less - not the most suitable attire, it must be said.)

But, wardrobe malfunctions aside, I was really surprised at how quickly I got back into the swing of playing. After a solid 20-year break, I thought my body would have forgotten, but I guess it's true what they say - the body keeps the score. I thoroughly enjoyed our hitting practice, and returned home with renewed resolve (and a new tennis racquet added to basket).

I'm not going to lie, in the cold light of (UK) day, booking a tennis court felt like a big step, but I was determined to continue playing. Luckily, we have lots of local courts and I had a (relatively) willing opponent in my son, so I was able to play around once a week for the rest of the summer. PSA: it helps if you join the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) as then you're able to search and book local courts online.

Tennis can be pretty brutal, physically speaking (and let's not talk about how often I lost). The DOMS were real, and after my first few sessions, it's an understatement to say my right forearm was sore. But the gains were worth it: I felt energised and my mood was lifted each time I played, whatever the weather.

Anna learning how to play tennis as a beginner

Anna pre a tennis match with her family

(Image credit: Anna Barrter)

Month two

Well and truly back in the swing of things, I enjoyed a weekly Friday morning session until well into autumn, even finding a local coach by default, as we got chatting one morning net-side.

It's such a sociable sport - not only do I mostly play with friends, but given that we spend much of our time rescuing errant balls from stranger's courts, it also prompts new social connections and conversations. And the benefits of this can't be overstated: research (such as this study, published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine) consistenty shows social connection to be vital for overall health and wellbeing.

Did my tennis improve? I'd like to think so, but more than this, I felt stronger (I especially felt the muscles in my trunk aching, which I'm taking as a win) and I always enjoy feeling puffed out and sweaty - something tennis always serves.

My main takeaway, though, has to be how playing tennis makes me feel mentally. I absolutely love it, despite being less-than skilled, and that's ok. It's incrediby freeing to be doing something for the pure love of it, rather than monitoring metrics or trying to beat personal bests. I'll never be a great player, and that's fine by me - and what a valuable takeaway that is.

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How can I start playing tennis as a beginner?

Totally new to tennis? You're in the right place. We asked coach Simon Pender for his top tips.

"Firstly, just play!" he says. "Sometimes we are worried about signing up to new things - but you need to let go of this, face your fears and play to discover the game.

"Find a little tennis club where there may be some activity and get involved, and once you've played a little, find out if there is an LTA qualified/licenced coach to help you get started.

"There are so many ways of starting in tennis now, such as mini tennis on smaller courts. Don't limit your options and be too proud as playing modified tennis means more hitting of the tennis ball and you'll make progress quicker."

Above all, enjoy it!  

Anna Bartter
Health Writer

Anna Bartter is a freelance journalist who writes about health, fitness and women's lifestyle for publications including Stylist, Metro and Psychologies, among others. 

She's always on a quest to find a variety of fun and functional workouts that give you the most bang for your workout buck and she's passionate about championing movement for everyone's mental and physical wellbeing.