Can anyone honestly say they had a great year ? A great month is something we all strive for , a great six months is bordering on just plain silly but a whole year ? This is the stuff dreams are made of . It was in Brisbane, Queensland of 1987 that all of a sudden 'life' had fallen into place as my move to that State was starting to make sense.
When you first take off in a Qantas Jet to move away from your home town and State it is rather intimidating as you quite simply do not know what to expect. So what you do is rather simple, you carry on as though nothing had changed , you get up , you have brekky, you get on the bus , you go to 'work'. My 'work' was a little different than most, it was hitting tennis balls for long periods of time, maybe six hours a day. This is the time my old school mates from Albany Western Australia were gaining a 'real' education as mine was what I simply refer to as a 'pipe dream'.
Now this may seem rather blunt but wasn't my plan something that deserved some merit? No, it was plain stupidity at it's greatest. My school education had gone down to a level that my parents had seen as 'non acceptable' , so what was the answer ? 'Tennis School'. Yep full time tennis. Initially I thought "you little bloody rippa" but when you are 16 , a big fish in a small pond and have a 'steady' girlfriend, well it's rather daunting.
My first impressions of walking into the Coops Tennis facility in Brisbane was one of awe. Only some months before i left WA I had played the State Championships in Perth and received a belting from one of the State's best player's Mark Heather. He had just so happened to have taken the same path as myself , just a little earlier and was a permanent fixture of Coops, in the top squad.
I walk in , get a tour from the main man Richard Howes "This is a challenge match here, Mark Heather is playing....." "Yeah I know Mark , he belted me just a few months ago in Perth, I didn't even know he was here". "Mark is one of the top 10 here, let's watch him".
The first shot I witness is a short rally then a net approach by Mark and a lob on his backhand side which mark replies with a backhand smash that almost clears the fence. I didn't even know how to hit that shot. Mark wins the point, the match, 7-6, 6-7, 6-2, I know this as I keep a diary.
I talk to Mark at the end of his challenge match, I remind him of the 'education' he gave me back in our home State a few months earlier, he remembers but is humble. " You played well, I was just in the zone, we should hit some balls in practice". That's what Coops was like, you may have been in a different squad but you could hook up with another player from any squad and hit for as long as you liked any time after training.
Mark and I hit regularly and initially he took it easy on me, just simply grooving his ground strokes, but within a few months he actually had a practice partner who could take it up to him. I couldn't beat him but I could push him and this is where the game became clear. The 'Hunter' or the 'hunted' ? A mind game. I learned the mind game of tennis from those days at Coops hitting with Mark.
As I say regularly, you don't just step up in tennis and say "Here i am tennis, give me your best" . Tennis isn't like that. It's a game that you step up and say "Ok tennis here i am, I am a slave and you are the Master, please be kind" .
If you go in with this attitude you may just be ok..........
Part 2 to follow.....