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Train a new Murray or Sharapova with mini tennis

Rather than starting kids out on a daunting full-sized court, it's better to introduce the appeal of tennis in stages. Mini tennis is the perfect solution, offering kids as young as 4 an enjoyable game that gives them a grounding in the basics of the sport.

Mini tennis is an initiative by the Lawn Tennis Association (ltaminitennis.co.uk), with structured development and coaching available around the country.

It's designed for players between 4 and 10 to get a feel for the game. The former British number one Tim Henman learned mini tennis as a child, and recommends it as a way of discovering the next generation of British tennis stars.

Progress is marked in colour codes. Starting with red, kids play on miniature courts with mini racquets and sponge balls. They gradually progress through orange and green stages, increasing the playing area and size of the racquets until they are ready to move on to playing tennis on full-sized courts, and perhaps joining a coaching scheme at a local club.

To encourage kids to stick with the game there is a rewards system, offering prizes like sticker books and stickers, key rings and achievement certificates to mark a player's progress.

The LTA will provide clubs wanting to start a mini tennis programme with a promotional starter pack worth over £100. Specialist equipment is available from many online retailers, notably totalracquetsports.co.uk.

Parents or coaches wanting to get involved can visit the LTA website to register their details and find courts nearest their homes that participate in the mini tennis programme.

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