A tennis fanatic from Howdon is urging others to rally together and get involved with their local tennis league in a bid to keep fit and save money.

Keith Wood, 51, signed up to play in the North Tyneside Tennis League two years ago after he spotted an advert publicising Local Tennis Leagues while having a knock about with friends on the court.

Local Tennis Leagues is a nationwide initiative aimed at adults over the age of 18 who use public parks and facilities and want to play friendly, competitive tennis.

Designed to create a unique playing experience of mixed-sex singles and doubles matches, as well as women’s only leagues, the Local Tennis Leagues operate in all areas of the UK and represent a revolution in public and park tennis.

After signing up, players create their own online account where they receive the contact details of their opponents, which allow them to schedule matches as well as receive regular updates, reminders and incentives to play.

Wood, who played to a high level while serving in the Army during his younger days, didn’t step onto the court for 15 years after moving from his original club at Beverley Park.

And the IT support worker, who has chalked up more than 20 matches since joining the scheme, believes playing in a Local Tennis League has been nothing short of a salvation.

“It’s a lot cheaper than being a member of the club. It costs £18 to play in my Local Tennis League, while being a member of a club can sometimes cost up to £160 – and you often only play for six months of the year anyway because of the weather,” said Wood.

“When you’re playing in a league against opponents you’ve not played before – and it’s not even costing 20 quid – I’d rather go for that option.

“I’ve been round other clubs and have attended competitions before and people would be playing with rackets worth £200, whereas I’d just get mine from Tesco.”

Aimed at everyday players who use parks and public courts, Local Tennis Leagues is among a number of initiatives supported by the LTA, the governing body of tennis in the UK.

All told, the LTA is investing more than £125 million in public access tennis, much of which will be spent on renewing public courts and ventures like Local Tennis Leagues have helped changed perceptions of tennis.

Through grassroots organisation like this, the LTA is keen to demonstrate that tennis is anything but an elitist sport.

While the leagues embody a friendly ethos, all players are entitled to become British Tennis Members and have their results reported to the LTA for ratings.

Based on playing standard rather than age or background, the oldest Local Tennis League player is an 86-year-old woman who plays, and wins, singles matches in High Wycombe, while there are any number of 30-something men who are trading the mud of football for the thrills of tennis.

And while he might have a good few years to wait before he becomes the initiative’s oldest player, Wood admits that despite being one of the elder members of his Local Tennis League, playing on regular basis – especially against younger blood – is an opportunity he relishes.

“I used to go to the gym every night of the week, but I’m getting old now,” said Wood.

“Now it’s tennis either once or twice a week and that just keeps me genuinely fit.

“I think I’m the oldest player in our league to be honest, but never mind. A lot of the time we don’t know how old our opponent is, but I try and get it out of them.

“You look at people in their 20s, 30s, 40s – and then there’s me!

“I faced a 29-year-old lad the other week who I defeated. It does feel good, but obviously, there’s better players than me.”

Are you looking to play more friendly, competitive singles matches? The next round of the North Tyneside Tennis League begins on 23 November 2017. To join, visit localtennisleagues.com/northtyneside and sign up before 20 November 2017. The rounds lasts eight weeks and costs £18 to join.