Tennis - don't just watch it, play it!
For the British TV tennis fan probably the best day of the year is the second Monday in June, around noon the BBC TV screen fills with an array of grass courts and a load of tall skinny guys banging down serves in preparation for the preliminary rounds at the Queen's Club, London. After months of courts laid with dusty crushed brick culminating in the men's French Open final the day before, the grass courts glisten like emeralds.
But what if you're the other sort of tennis fan - the sort who likes to play yourself, rather than watch other people? The internet can help you more than you might think.
For both watching and playing tennis you will need to know the rules of the game, which are maintained and updated by the International Tennis Federation, the organisation that oversees the sport at all levels.
Many sites offer tennis instruction text and videos aimed at players of all abilities and covering all aspects of the game, from basic fitness instruction and how to hit specific shots to how to choose equipment. A search using the keywords "tennis instruction" will find many such sites.
There are particularly good selections of online lessons at the US's Tennis Magazine; the US Tennis Association, whose library of instructional video clips is aimed at players of all levels; and Tennis One. A search of the larger video sites using the keywords "tennis instruction" will reveal many more.
However, if you want to actually play tennis you will have to leave your computer and find your closest tennis courts. The Lawn Tennis Association, which operates the professional tournaments at Queen's, Eastbourne, and Birmingham, as well as many smaller events, is really first and foremost an organisation to encourage grass roots tennis. The site offers information aimed at participants in all levels of the game, from players (and, in the case of juniors, their parents) to organisers and coaches. Putting your postcode into the search boxes to find courts near you is easy and quick. The results you get will include public tennis courts as well as links to the websites of LTA-affiliated tennis clubs.
The LTA site includes a search facility to help find an accredited coach in your area. There are several types of LTA qualification, and some that are independent of the LTA. However, two coaches with the same qualifications may differ greatly in temperament, skills, and teaching ability, so it is wise to ask around among local tennis players for recommendations.
Keen to find out more about tennis? Visit BBC Scotland and learn about the physics of the game.
Wendy M. Grossman is a freelance technology writer and author living in London and is founder of The Skeptic magazine.