Tennis, anyone? If you’re inspired by first-name-only tennis stars like Serena, Novak, or up-and-comer Coco to take up tennis again, you’re not alone. And if recreational cardio seems decidedly off-brand for your group of friends, fear not. Getting together for a boozy round-robin tennis tournament or watch a grand slam is fun for jocks and non-jocks alike. Plus, the outfits are fun. Read on for ace tennis party ideas, and all the supplies, drinks, and invitations to bring them to life.
Host a round-robin
Leave the stress of elimination rounds to the tennis greats; stick with a casual tournament round-robin style tennis party where contestants have the opportunity to play all other contestants. For shorter events (or larger parties) have each team play all other teams once. Keep things going with a double round-robin for smaller groups. We love this informal style as players get to meet everyone at the tennis party. If you’re hosting families, create the teams with a mix of ages and abilities to keep things interesting.
Use the global tennis network to find a court near you if you don’t already have a go-to tennis spot.
Alternately, keep the athletic bar low by channeling tennis camp vibes with beginner games. They’re quick, fun, and just your speed if you’ve had a drink or two.
Hit and run: Split the group into two teams and line up on each baseline of the court. The first player starts a rally, and once a player hits the ball, they run to the back of the line on the opposite side. Players continue rallying until one misses—and then they’re out—the last person standing wins.
Space invaders: Again, divide into two teams, but line up and spread out along the service line. One, non-playing partygoer feeds the ball to a player who volleys it to the other side. The teams rally until one player doesn’t return the ball and they are out of the game—the last team to have any players standing wins.
Catch a grand slam
If playing sports aren’t your thing, consider hosting friends to watch a match instead. Our cheat sheet to the biggest grand slams around the world: The Australian Open starts the year, the French Opens is in late May, Wimbledon takes place in early July, and the US Open is in late August. Use a viewing party invitation to let guests know what to expect at your tennis party (and who you’ll be rooting for during gameplay).
Regardless of whether you’re watching or getting sporty, a Pimm’s Cup couldn’t hurt. Make a batch ahead of time (essentially Pimms No. 1 and carbonated lemonade) and garnish glasses with a combination of lemon, cucumber, mint, and strawberry for guests in between matches. Keep guests hydrated with fresh cucumber water or booze-free lemonade options.
Tennis party food ideas
Like pimento cheese at the Masters, a stiff Mint Julep at Churchill Downs, or a hot dog as a baseball game, strawberries and cream have become synonymous with Wimbledon. The tradition started with the first Wimbledon in 1877. Victorian Londoners that were crazy about strawberries as they signaled the start of summer—and happen to be in season during the early July tournament. Consider going with a berry crumble or strawberry shortcake as a nod to the classic dessert, without melting dairy.
Skip decorations and favors. Unless you are going to ball out (pun intended) for custom tennis balls, this isn’t the sort of event that benefits from a tennis ball cookie or any signage. It’s less work for the host and just as much fun for everyone else. If you must—stick with shades of green.
Serve up style
A dress code, on the other hand, is something that will definitely add to your tennis party. We’re all for encouraging guests to adhere to a strict tennis dress code, whatever that means to them. It’s your call to lean towards the style of Serena Williams, Björn Borg, Yannick Noah, Richie Tenenbaum, or anything in between. Tulle tennis skirts, headbands—you get the idea.
Now that you’ve reached match point, discover tennis-themed invitations that set the tone or host a viewing party. For more summer party ideas try our guide to pool parties or Happy Menocal’s tips for hosting last-minute summer dinner parties.