My love for tennis, goes back to more than 25 years ago. I remember playing the game with my eldest brother Allwyn at the Catholic Gymkhana. We enjoyed a good set and developed reasonable skills to play in the member’s tournaments and even represent the Gymkhana at a local tournament.
However as the years went by, and our tennis too ended. Among many reasons was the closure of the courts at the Gymkhana
I remember purchasing a book on learning the nuances of tennis and had passed on some of these tips in coaching my son Ralph when he was 8years old. Many things were discarded during my house repairs some time ago. This book however remained with me purely out of a dream of playing tennis again.
The year 2019 was very eventful when I was diagnosed with cancer. I recovered with treatment and in August departed on a 3 month holiday with Anjean. This holiday was a gift from our 4 children and covered Dubai, London, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
My dream of playing tennis again began in Dubai, with the Saldanha brothers . Ian my son in law was very considerate in arranging tennis sessions with his brother Colin and his father in law Alex.
Our first session was at Alex’s courts and the next at Colin’s courts. Ian and I played some good tennis , but with Colin on the other side and his fast serves ….we lost closely.
The second session was even better . I was quite adept at placements ; we still lost…with a tough fight. Ian and I shared a ‘never give up attitude’ .We ended with some cold beers and relaxed time with Colin’s piano accompaniment to our spontaneous songs
My next visit to a tennis court was at Glasgow. This just happened when I casually mentioned to a friend John Jackson over coffee, about my interest in tennis. He later spoke to John Coyle a lover of tennis himself, who arranged for us to play some good tennis ‘doubles’ with regular members. I played fairly well, losing the first set , and then winning the next two sets, rotating our partners.
The second session was the following week and happened to be a tournament. This proved a challenge for me. The tournament was played on a round robin basis of doubles . About 20 members many regular and established tennis players teamed randomly and points were awarded according to the games a person won. Thankfully I was given a handicap with whoever teamed with me. My game improved a bit and I was surprised that I could get some good volleys, cross court shots, and deft placements. To top it all, I got some good serves down the T . There was a winner and runnersup, but for me , the best souvenir was the group picture at the end of the mini tournament.
My final encounter with tennis courts was at tḥe Bombay Gymkhana. Courtesy Kirk D’Cruz a good friend , with whom I reconnected. He was gracious to host me for a couple of sessions at the Gym. We got into the rythm quite fast and were soon stroking the ball well. I was surprised that we could actually play singles and enjoy it, The second time we went for a session, I struck the ball so hard that the strings of my aging racket snapped . This was adequately compensated when Ian , my son-in-law gifted me an excellent Wilson racket on his visit to Mumbai.
Ralph joined us at the most recent session of tennis at the Bombay Gym on his visit from UK. He too had not played the game since the age of 8 years . When he got on court , I was stunned to see him hit the ball so well with tḥe correct style . He enjoyed the session a lot . From the sidelines I just admired his game, as he practised with Kirk and both had some power packed ground strokes.
We never got a repeat of these sessions , as Ralph soon returned to UK.
My fascination with tennis began in school, when I had not yet learnt to hold a racket. But I read every tennis article in the sports page from start to finish. One of my brothers even enquired , how and why I did that. Famous names of those days were Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Margaret Smith, and later,Bjorn Borg, Stefan Edberg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, Boris Becker.. and some more like Cliff Drysdale, Mats Wilander , Steffi Graff. We cannot forget Nadal and Djokovic !
As I end this note on tennis, I must also mention some books I’ve read on tennis players. Rod Laver’s ‘An Autobiography’…I always admired him the way he carried himself, with a quiet dignity and confidence, but a rocket on court, Andre Agassi’s , ’OPEN: An Autography ‘ he was very candid about his love and hate for tennis, Roger Federer’s ‘Biography’ by Chris Bowers, ( wonder when he will write his autobiography) , and finally Arthur Ashe’s ‘Days of Grace’ . the last was the most inspiring for the way he handled his unfortunate Aids infection through blood transfusion at the time of his heart surgery .
I liked his famous quote …..If I were to say,” God, why me? About the bad things,” then I should have said ,”God, why me?” about the good things that happened in my life. …
This helps me to reflect on the numerous blessings God has blessed me with, since all these years, despite my recent challenges.
Thank you Lord , for all these , even, for the dreams of tennis, being fulfilled.