Thursday, 20 November 2014


Whenever I walk through the gate onto the tennis court that was built next door to my parent's house when I was 13 it takes my mind back. I still believe that the reason the court was built was so Mum, Dad and my sister could get some peace.
The constant sound of the ball hitting the wall in the garage was probably something that was slowly driving them insane. That's where I practiced, some days for hours.
The spare block at the side of our house had enough room to kick a football, bowl a cricket ball and even saw some two on two hockey games with the neighbors. The block saw some 'classic matches' of many sports but eventually the decision was made to build a tennis court.

I didn't pick up a tennis racket until I was 12 and this came possibly from my Grandpa giving my sister the Bjorn Borg book for Xmas. From memory Amanda read it once, I possibly read it 48 times, it gave me inspiration to play the game. There were no Ipods, Ipads, X Boxes or otherwise to take our minds off becoming 'superstars' in our chosen sports.
In saying that however I once played 'Space Invaders' against former Australian Davis Cup player Richard Fromberg in Tasmania ! Whilst over there for holidays in 1980 we were staying at a resort and a curly haired kid asked me to play against him.
Not sure who won, just glad I didn't get asked to play him at tennis as I watched in awe as he hit on the resort court the next day. At the time i didn't know who he was but I remember seeing his picture in a tennis magazine not long after our holiday. Anything to do with tennis as a kid I can still remember, it's as fresh as yesterday's hit on 'the court'.
The hours I spent hitting against the garage wall was time in 'the Zone', a place that no one could bother me. I even did a 'Borgie' and gave myself a goal against the wall, after all I was never going to beat a brick wall. Borg used to tell himself that if he hit a certain amount of shots back then it was one point to him, now this takes concentration !
20 shots in, a point to me, 10 shots then an error, 15-15, 50 shots in a row I took two points, 40-15, and so on. I wouldn't stop hitting just because I got to 20 and 'won' a point, I kept hitting until I missed.
So what about the net on a garage wall ? Easy done, that's what chalk is for and don't forget a hammer while you are at it.
My house as a kid had a rather unique style of brick work and I spent hours chipping away at the wall from just above the chalked net line until it was completely smooth. The garage wall was perfectly manicured to hit tennis balls against after I had finished as I was the 'groundsman' also.

I recall the 'devastation' of 'Borgie' retiring when my tennis was in full flight as a kid who looked to his hero for guidance. I would ask many questions of Bjorn as I hit the ball into submission against a wall that if it could talk would have begged for mercy. I don't know if I ever received the answers that I was looking for but I kept asking them anyhow. After all I was on 'court' with 'Borgie' and that time to me was priceless.
No amount of Space Invaders with 'Frommy' in Tassie could ever have beaten my time with the long haired 'Rock Star' from Sweden. In fact that was something else that I wanted to do but my parents wouldn't allow me to grow the locks down to my shoulders.
There was only one thing to do, I had to, I mean I just HAD to become a Professional Tennis Player so I could grow my hair long . It all made so much sense, 'Borgie' understood but now I would have to do it all without the great man. He had simply hit too many tennis balls in his time against his garage wall, Connors, Mac and Vitas and made too much money.
It was ok, I understood, it was time though to find another hero, one who would answer my many questions against the wall in the garage. I needed one who looked and played just like 'Borgie' and they weren't easy to find.
Lucky for me a 17 year old kid by the name of Mats from Sweden had just made the Semi's of the Italian Open. Maybe he could fill the void that my retired hero had left.....
PART 2 to follow......

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