Hitting with guys like Mark Heather and Justin Stead at Coops in Brisbane was a tennis education that I cannot describe in enough words that will fit in a chapter. These guys were the best, no risk, the guys that the younger players if fortunate enough could hit with maybe once a week after training if you either knew them or asked nicely enough. Most top squad players were always looking for some more hitting after training, you just had to be in the right place at the right time. I suppose i was just lucky to have known Mark from that State Championships in Perth, any little thing can help in a sport like tennis.
When you finish tennis for the day though what do you do ? I rode my bike the 5 or so kilometers to Coops each day but had a great stop off point on the way home, a place called 'The Hypermarket'. This was a store like an American store , it had everything including 75 checkouts in a row, plus other stores, including a music store.
I had heard of a band called Def Leppard, now these guys had a sound all of their own , like no sound I had ever heard before as I sampled their new album, Hysteria. This was of course 'vinyl' , you know the big round disc maybe a foot in width that you placed on a turn table.
Lucky though it was also available on tape, yes tape, a thing you placed in a tape recorder, long story but 'cutting edge' technology back then.Hysteria was an album that sold from memory 20 million copies, it was a hit to say the least.
So in the space of a week I had a new favorite band , a band who rather strangely had a one armed drummer but you wouldn't know it , Rick Allen sounded just as good as a two armed drummer. So with a 'walk man' strapped to my tennis shorts with Def Leppard Hysteria playing loud I hit the road to Coops each day on my push bike, a great warm up.
By the time I reached the Tennis Centre I was ready for anything the place could throw at me, the hitting, the sprinting, the stair climbing, the aerobics, the challenge matches. By the way a 'walk man' is a modern day ipod, boy the times have changed since i was a lad.
Now 1988 wasn't just a great year for music , it was my favorite year of all time, on court for both myself and my inspiration to play. My hero Mats Wilander had one of those years that has now only been matched by Nadal, Federer and Djokovic, a year that three of the four majors went their way. It was also a year that I fought with many 'guru's' off court (most unlike me) as we were loyal to our idols. Most arguments stemmed from who had the most Grand Slam titles and the 1988 US Open title match was the one match that gave me what I really wanted.
Without making it a long story and most of you will know what transpired that day in New York but Mats beat Lendl in a 4 hour 54 min marathon that took him to World number 1, finally. That victory by Mats gave me all the ammunition I needed to walk into Coops the next day and say " Hey you guys I see we have a new World number 1, just try to upset me today".
A great day, a great year, 1988..........