Is a game. It’s a sport, and it’s something I don’t do anymore – mainly because of 2 of my other loves, my kidlets. Hopefully I’ll come back to playing it one day, but for now I must content myself with watching it. And right now (well for the next two weeks) is the best time of the year.
This is the time of the year I find it hard to be in Australia, the best tournament in the world is being played for the next two weeks in London – as it has been for about the last 130 years. It’s a tournament steeped in tradition, the venue it takes place at is beautifully maintained, with stunning flowers, manicured lawns, and many a picnic spot. It’s a place where all the players wear white, and we stuff ourselves with strawberries and cream, drink Pimms from a can and pray for sunshine. Oh Wimbledon how I miss you!!
Tennis is an interesting sport-Andre Agassi famously described how incredibly lonely the singles game is, comparing it to being a boxer, but even a boxer has his coach in his corner. In tennis you’re all alone, it’s just you facing your enemy, who you can’t touch or talk to. He described it thus; ‘of all the games men and women play, it’s the closest to solitary confinement’.
Well that doesn’t sound much fun does it?! It’s not all like that. Doubles was my game, I’m far too sociable to stand all by myself at one end of the court. I like having someone to talk to, and the word ‘YOURS’ is rather handy in this format. Plus I never played that seriously. We played in a local league back in the UK, with several divisions catering for all talents (or lack thereof).
Part of the amusement was coming across opponent/s who took the game extremely seriously on a Saturday afternoon in a leafy suburb, on some dodgy courts – whilst enduring some light drizzle. Facing our stony-faced retro-styled John McEnroe-alike (in the short shorts and headband stakes) we would conjure up some pretend tactics, talking into tennis balls, tying our shoelaces a lot and flipping the finger at our partners behind our backs. I giggled a lot – and that was as much to do with my love of my teammates, as it was my love of the game. I think I played my best match the day after a very heavy night out – the combination of large sunglasses, complete gay abandon and not giving a shit really opened my shoulders. Just shows how much the game can be in your head – remove any pressure (usually self-inflicted) and we all play better.
We played in all weathers. I became famous for wearing 18 layers of clothing, giant bobble hats and gloves. We would ignore a light dusting of snow. The odd bods in their budgie smugglers would peer out of the swimming pool windows to see the ‘weirdos’ out playing tennis in the cold and rain. Now I’m not sure any Wimbledon player has had an audience like that before. It was very off-putting if you were facing the pool, receiving serve.
My fondest memory is of a good male friend who took up tennis and joined our club. He played many matches, never won, but amused himself and us for many hours berating himself in his gorgeous Trinidadian accent. I had the privilege of playing as his doubles partner when he won his first match. He literally leapt into my arms when we won-it’s a moment I will remember forever! It was as if we’d won a grand slam.
And that’s the beauty of it. Tennis is a lot of fun, and the great thing is, it’s very adaptable depending on your level. Anyone can play. When I moved here and sadly left my club and team, I got into ‘cardio tennis’ – an exercise class on the court if you will – and that IS fun. No need for accuracy or skill, just enthusiasm and energy. Music, lots of balls, and a fair bit of sweat. And no competition – well maybe a tiny bit depending on your coach.
So there you have it, it’s a game for everyone. Competitive or not, skilled or not, sociable or not (!). Long live Wimbledon and your traditions, I will be back one day. But for now, I’ll be tuning in for the next two weeks to watch those incredible players make it all look so easy, and then I’ll kid myself I’m better at playing than I am and I’ll want desperately to pick up my racquet again.