Haven’t played an organised sport since school? Tennis could be just the ticket to get you back in the game.
An Aussie summer isn't complete without the long nights spent cheering on the stars in the Australian Open, and if you are inspired to play a game or two yourself, there's never been a better time to give tennis a go. And did we mention the cute dresses and Rafael Nadal's arms?
Fit to hit
Whether you're a complete beginner or the next Serena Williams, tennis offers a total body workout. "The only prerequisite for tennis is a bit of hand-eye coordination," says Aussie Nicole Bradtke, whose professional tennis career highlights include three WTA singles championships and a bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
"It's a great way to build strength and stamina, and improve muscle tone. It's also good for weight loss because you're constantly running." In fact, according to Tennis Australia, by playing tennis you can burn up to 1760kJ per hour, making it as effective as lifting weights or spin class - and much more fun.
Luckily, nearly every suburb in metropolitan Australia has at least one community tennis court just begging to be played on. Apart from that there are also hundreds of tennis clubs Australia-wide, with professional coaches on staff and equipment for hire.
So if you're new to the sport, or feel your skills are a little rusty, lessons are a great way to brush up on the basics and improve your technique.Once you've mastered the fundamentals, you can choose to play in club tournaments, in a mix double (hello boys…) or just socially with friends.
Look the part
A qualified coach can also help you find the perfect racquet. "I'd always encourage people to go to their club's pro shop, because it pays to be 'fitted' for a racquet," Bradtke explains.
"You don't want to get one that's too heavy because you'll get
sore arms." A quality pair of shoes is also a must-have.
Specially-designed tennis shoes are great - and are mandatory for
most clay courts - but they can be expensive. For grass or
synthetic courts, a good pair of crosstrainers will do the
There is nothing more frustrating than trying to play tennis by yourself, so if you can't convince any friends to join in, there are several ways of meeting a tennis buddy.
Every club has some form of player's message board where you can leave your email address (and playing level) in order to find a partner. Tennis Australia also offers a popular online 'Find a Tennis Partner' tool on its website tennis.com.au, and you can even mix playing sport with dating, with Be2 (be2.com.au).
If rallies and volleys aren't your thing, but you still fancy working up a sweat in an ever-so-flattering tennis dress, the new group-fitness program Cardio Tennis (cardiotennis.com.au) may have your name written all over it.
More focused on giving a high-energy workout than perfecting tennis technique, Cardio Tennis is fun, fast and social. Expect a coach to put you through an intensive tennis-based circuit, with no more than eight people on the court at any one time.
It's a bit like interval training; you'll elevating your heart rate in short, sharp bursts. And the fact that a 60-minute class burns up to 2100kJ makes it an ideal option for time-poor and generally unco-ordinated gals.