Five years ago my father passed away at what is by today’s standards the relatively young age of 64. I wanted then to focus a little on his own love of tennis and how unlikely that seemed from his years growing up.
It is thanks to my mum’s family that dad wasn’t so much converted but bullied into the sport. In an age of one television per household and a handful of channels to choose from then he would have little choice come those summer months.
Soon, the ‘this is boring’ comments would turn to full blown fandom, which along with his other great loves of F1 and rugby (never football) would continue for the rest of his life.
He preferred the quieter, less showy players through the years; Tanner, Edberg, Borg, Graf (although I’m not sure that was wholly for her tennis) and Federer of course.
Certainly his conversion to tennis nut was complete by the time me and my sister were born, most of the slam fortnights but especially Wimbledon, he was ensconced, shouting at the TV. Probably the only time he would tolerate staying indoors on a hot summer day.
As a player? Well I’m reliably told that – in their youth- many a doubles match was contested with him and mum playing against good family friends down at Great Baddow. Many a racquet dropped in abject disbelief at a partners sorry smash attempt.
When I played with him, he was a bit of an on court joker, a trickster and swashbuckler, antics that hid a natural talent that would’ve been more prominent if not for a not so optimal fitness level
What would he have made of the sport today? Certainly he would’ve appreciated Roger’s return to the summit, and Nadal’s success too. I fancy Wawrinka, Muguruza and Dimitrov would have ranked highly in his book.
And another trip to SW19 would’ve been on the cards I’m sure!