Tennis should not be a sport for the elite or ‘well-off’, as it has been seen in the past. Despite the luxurious surroundings of many of the world’s top tournaments, Wimbledon and Roland Garros are hosted in some of the most exclusive suburbs of London and Paris, the game has changed and in many countries is not only the pursuit of the wealthy. It seems though that despite great efforts from many cities in Chile, there is still a fundamental problem.
The vast majority of Tennis courts in Santiago, for example, belong to members only sporting clubs. And for those in Puerto Toro screaming at the page ‘I don’t care about the metropolitan elite’s tennis courts of Providencia, we play tennis with rowing oars and a fish, for a ball’, I’ve done literally no research into public tennis court ownership in the South of Chile.
Those municipal courts that can be found, in Santiago, often charge between $4 to $15 Lukas per hour for use. However, many do offer free tennis coaching on certain week nights and weekends for residents, which I can confirm are fantastic because I regularly attend the session in Recoleta on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
No access to free courts
Despite these sessions and efforts, it is difficult to see how, without access to free courts, talented young Chileans can sufficiently practise to move to the next level, or simply how less affluent Chileans can cement their enjoyment for the game. Where will Chile’s next Serena Williams or Mansour Bahrami come from?
Bahrami, for example, grew up playing tennis in Tehran using pieces of wood as makeshift rackets but yet somehow managed to forge a career which saw him compete in multiple grand slam and major tournaments. The William’s family, however, spent a substantial amount of time, developing their skills, on public courts in Los Angeles.
In the UK, the Murray family have supported grass roots tennis as the key to producing Britain’s next top player, this is confirmed by their support of the charity ‘Tennis for Free’ which has lobbied many of the UK’s councils in to making public tennis courts free to use at any time.
Only future in member only clubs?
One of the charities arguments being that as children’s play equipment and basic gym equipment, which are found in many municipal parks are free, then why shouldn’t also the tennis courts be free.
The problem of Chile trying to recreate such a model is that there simply isn’t the availability of public tennis courts within or around parks in the big cities. So where will the next Marcelo Rios come from? Presumably, the same place he did, one of the many members only tennis clubs.
Relive some of the Marcelo Magic:
John is a volcanologist, sports fan, radio broadcaster, and accomplished musician. Born and raised in Britain, he has travelled extensively for his research on volcanoes. Whilst living in London, UK, John performed in the punk bands ‘And Now We’re Even’ and ‘Filthy Militia’ recording six studio albums and two EP’S over this time. He currently lives in Santiago, Chile where he works as a university professor in rock mechanics.