Tennis fever hits Poland as clubs across the country report surge in interest
As Polish tennis players enjoy growing global success, Poland is seeing the beginnings of a new tennis boom as Poles of all ages hit the courts to practice their forehands and backhands.
In Iga Swiątek and Hubert Hurkacz, Poland has for the first time two top 20 players in both the men’s and women’s game simultaneously, with more success in the top 50 and top 100 through Magda Linette, Magdalena Fręch and Kamil Majchrzak.
Now tennis clubs across the country are reporting a surge in interest with children and adults either taking it up for the first time or returning to the sport.
In Szczecin alone, the Szczecin Tennis Club saw a whopping 100 new players sign up for training sessions following Iga Swiątek’s most recent Roland Garros win.
Elsewhere around the country, the beginnings of the boom are also being seen.
Marek Oratowski, owner, coach and manager of Lublin Tennis Club told TFN: “The recreational tennis part of our club is definitely seeing growth with more and more people playing in leagues and tournaments, with 120 people turning up for our last one.
“We are starting to see a shortage of courts for the number of people keen to play. We are actually in the process of buying two more courts at a nearby location.
“We are also seeing an increase in interest from parents in signing up their kids for our summer tennis camps.
“In terms of a boom, I think it is too early to see those trends, but we anticipate an substantial increase in interest is only going to continue.
“Overall there has been a gradual and continuing rise in interest in tennis since Agnieszka Radwańska’s success, and it is now rising again.”
Aneta Budzałek, coordinator of the amateur tennis programme Open Tenis Polska at the Polish Tennis Association told TFN: “What we are seeing is that across Poland, there is starting to be a shortage of tennis courts.
“We have just received funding for eight project applications from the Ministry of Culture and Sport, but I can also clearly see the growing interest in tennis through the number of tournaments being organised in Poland.
“We are seeing more and more amateur tournaments to satisfy the number of people keen to play. From June to November, we now have 300 tournaments across the country.
“Last year we introduced two new categories of tournaments, 90+ and 30+ (before there was only 35+) and we held the first ITF Seniors 90+ Tournament in Poland in Świnoujscie at the start of June.”
“And, I can also see it through the growing number of new logins of people signing up to the Open Tenis Polska programme. At the Polish Tennis Association, we have our hands full with work to meet the demand for tennis related activities.”
Smaller towns are responding to the growing interest through investments in new courts and ambitions of expansion by local clubs.
Among them, the town of Radłόw has just invested 1.5 million PLN in a new all-year-round covered clay court; Leszno has begun building a major new court complex, and a new free public court has opened in Gdańsk following a popular vote by citizens for the project, with all of them connecting the inspiration for the investments to Swiątek’s success and greater interest in tennis.
Elsewhere, in Rumia, where Szymon Wiśniewski is the founder of a small tennis club set up five years ago with the primary aim of teaching children to play tennis, the club is planning to expand into a Tennis Academy and will soon see the opening of new covered courts.
Speaking to Tenis Magazyn, Wiśniewski said the club had been training 50-60 young tennis players during the pandemic and that there was no shortage of children interested.
He said: “The lack of covered courts was until now our greatest problem…soon building work will start on two new covered courts on the school grounds. They are meant to be made available for use still in 2022…I want to create something similar to a Tennis Academy…we want to train and develop young players so, with time, they can start competing on a national and even international arena.”
Encouraging Polish children to play tennis is something Iga Swiątek has made no secret of her desire to help with.
At her first press conference in Lublin this week, her first since returning to Poland from her Roland Garros win, she said: “I want to be a person who motivates children to physical activity.
“It doesn’t have to be sport at a professional level straight away. At that age it is important for movement to, above all, be fun for the youngest, for the sporting passion to draw them in…It is very important to me that I can help to make tennis more popular.”
Swiątek’s Roland Garros match win broke all previous viewing records in Poland for Grand Slams, attracting 2.6 million people or one third of television viewers in Poland.