I love tennis. I always have. Probably because my Mother and Grandmother played a lot, so I spent a lot of time sitting at the side of grass tennis courts or watching Wimbledon on the telly.
I’ve never particularly liked team sport. Not because I’m not a team player, I just could never get excited enough about winning. For a while I was goalkeeper in my school’s netball team; I think they chose me because I was really tall rather than any talent. I could never understand why the other girls would get so het up over a silly game that involved chucking a ball at each other. Nor could I stand the scratching and general aggro. Don’t particularly like people in my face/space either.
Qualifying criteria for husband material for me included whether he liked watching sport on TV or not. Apart from tennis (and Formula 1 at the time when I was a Ferrari nut) of course. Do you like football, rugby, cricket or anything else that involves more than two people and a ball? No? Excellent, let’s get married.
Tennis was the only game I liked at school
Tennis was always my preferred sport and I loved it when summer arrived and we were allowed to play it at school. There’s a whole court (and a net) between you and your opponent, so there’s no danger of being scratched, shoved or getting someone else’s sweat splattering on you. There’s something viscerally human about it, pitting yourself against another individual in a battle to see who’s the best. It brings out the extreme competitor in me and I develop a laser like focus on destroying my opponent. My husband really loves playing me…
My 8-year-old son now plays tennis too and he’s really very good. He’s also left-handed which gives him a huge advantage. He has inherited my hatred of team sports (which goes down well at school). In his words: “Mummy, I hate rugby and football because they’re just an opportunity for people to be violent”. It’s a great sport for kids; it teaches them great hand to eye coordination, fitness, strength, self-discipline, anger management, how to lose graciously and how to win graciously (I’m really good at that *in your face husband!*).
Tennis is phenomenal for fitness
It’s also phenomenal for fitness. It’s a natural interval style training method – you stop and start, accelerate and exert intensive effort and then cool down for a bit. You stretch, you hit, you lunge, you squat, you jump… and it doesn’t feel like exercise because you’re concentrating on getting the ball back and it’s enormous fun.
It’s also really affordable. Rackets and balls these days are really cheap and most tennis courts in parks are generally empty. You don’t have to join a fancy tennis club. You do need to invest in coaching or lessons however; it’s not something you can teach yourself.
It’s also a hugely civilised game. Just compare football fans to fedora wearing, strawberry nibbling, red cheeked Wimbledon goers. The tennis players themselves are also so delightfully clean cut, gentlemanly and lady like, well behaved and sporting.
I’ve never been to Wimbledon (if anyone wants to invite me in exchange for copious amounts of free fish oil please do get in touch) but I’ve pretty much watched every single final (at the very least) for as long as I can remember.
Do you remember Stefan Edberg’s brown legs in those white shorts?
I have early memories of McEnroe versus Borg. The gobby Yank against the serene Swede.
I’ll never forget when Boris Becker won, aged 17. I can still feel the elation and admiration I felt that day. He’s also really rather cute.
Then there’s Stefan Edberg of course – those legs. That serve – the way he would bend right backwards almost about to touch the ground behind him.
The incredible Andre Agassi and his wife Steffi Graff, what a woman.
The almighty Pete Sampras – with his lightning serve and his incredible composure.
And of course Tim. Bless him.
Then, my all time personal favourite, the Cary Grant of the tennis court. The most elegant, majestic and sublimely brilliant of them all – Roger Federer.
Come on Murray!!!!!!!! I cried, a LOT, when he won Wimbledon. His mother is the most incredible woman.
Nadal and Djokovic. What can you say? Both brilliant. Djokovic has super powers; he bends like a piece of elastic, he reaches balls that nobody else could reach, he is focused beyond belief. I like him, but I find him a teeny bit boring. Don’t know why, perhaps he’s almost too perfect. Maybe he’s so good because he’s 100% gluten free? He’s certainly a good advert for it.
Go out and play tennis today, it will make you smile a lot
If I haven’t convinced you to go and play a game of tennis, here’s my final thought:
There is no feeling quite like the one of hitting a winning shot, you know - one of those fluky ones that lands right in the corner against all odds and leaves your opponent open mouthed and stunned. It will put a smile on your face and a giggle in your heart which can’t be rivalled by any other sport. Like England scoring a winning goal…. Oh yeah, sorry, that’s impossible to imagine!
Melanie Lawson, Founder Bare Biology.