Wimbledon 2014: Fancy yourself as the next Andy Murray? You better start practising, as the next generation will have hit over 2.4m tennis balls before they turn 24

Andy Murray got his 2014 Wimbledon defence off to a successful start but stats show that he spent over three years of his life on the court before he turned 24

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The Independent Online

Andy Murray got his Wimbledon title defence off to a winning start on Monday as he comfortably dispatched Belgian David Goffin in the opening match at Wimbledon. The defending champion became the first Briton to win the men's singles tournament at SW19 since Fred Perry did back in 1936, and Murray will hope to take a step further this year to emulating the tennis great by winning back-to-back championships.

If he is to do so, the 27-year-old will have to battle through seven gruelling matches at the All-England Tennis Club, where he could now play up to 33 sets of tennis if each tie were to go the distance.

While that is highly unlikely, stats released by Virgin Active as part of their Active Aces programme, show just how much players of the next generation will have to put in to a career on the court, which there is no question Murray has done so to reach his standing as a two-time grand slam champion.

By the time top-level professionals turn 24, they will have hit a tennis ball an incredible 2.4 million times. That works out to an average of 100,000 strokes each year. As well as having the muscular endurance to hit the ball into the hundreds of thousands, a player must also be capable of covering around 2,496 miles in a single year - the equivalent of 96 full-distance marathons - which would burn off a staggering 936,000 calories.

Murray won his first grand slam crown, the 2012 US Open, at the age of 25, meaning that by that point of his career he had consumed well over the equivalent of 8,914 bananas or 3,505 bowls of strawberries and cream.

Great Britain's Davis Cup captain and the LTA's Head of Men's Tennis Leon Smith has praised the level of commitment that elite tennis players must put in if they are to succeed, as the same stats show that on average a 24-year-old pro will have spent three whole years of their life on court.

"That a professional player has spent three years of their life on court by the time they are 24 shows how much dedication is needed to become a world-class player," said Smith. "It also shows that it’s important for children to start playing the sport young, which is why tennis programmes like Active Aces, that make tennis fun and interesting to youngsters, are fundamental to finding our next British Grand Slam champion.”

Gary Stewart, UK Head of Racquets at Virgin Active added: “On the face of it, the numbers certainly do sound staggering, it’s unbelievable to think that 24 year old pros have hit almost 2.5million tennis balls! But it’s certainly not impossible and with the correct development, top level coaching and support that is offered in the Active Aces tennis programme, youngsters will be racking up those quality rallies in no time!”

Active Aces is aiming to enable youngsters to benefit from expert coaching through action-packed training sessions that caters for all levels of ability. The programme starts with "tots" to take beginners right through to becoming a "junior active ace".

For further information on Active Aces and to find your nearest club, visit www.virginactive.co.uk. Virgin Active members should apply in club and non-members can apply via virginactive.co.uk/tennisace

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