When the decision is made to build a tennis court on the spare block next to your house there is always going to be some teething problems. The biggest issue as far as I was concerned was the room behind the baseline, there needed to be a 'paddock'.
Bjorn Borg quite often played from ten feet behind the baseline as he waited for the ball to drop into his comfort zone. I felt the same way and I played the same way at the tender age of 13, I needed room.
The conversations with my Dad were at times frustrating ones as I pleaded my case that there was no point in building a tennis court unless there was enough room to play on it. Unfortunately with the amount of space that was available there was never going to be that paddock that I yearned for behind the baseline. I would simply have to learn to step up into the court and take it earlier, I hated the idea.
I don't remember how long the court took to be completed but I finally had a 'field of dreams' next to my house as well as a hit up wall, no excuses for not improving. The issue in my house however was the lack of practice partners available other than the wall. Dad could play golf almost to perfection and he was the local Albany Golf Club Champion and he could regularly play under par. This talent of his unfortunately was never going to help my tennis.
My Mum could play tennis though and I believe I have her to thank for there being a tennis racket in our house when I found the desire to play. Mum was a member of a local Tennis Club and I remember playing on the swings some days as she would hit against other Mums in the mid week competition.
We used to play until I got too strong for her. My sister Amanda was a good runner and hockey player but had no tennis talent whatsoever. In fact we only hit once, at the Hospital court and I still remember her first shot going over the fence ! Amanda was never going to be part of my practice schedule.
Between hitting with Mum on the court and Dad throwing me balls some days to warm me up before Junior Club plus many hours on the wall I received plenty of tennis. My house was a place that I can honestly say was a 'field of dreams' as it had almost everything I needed as far as tennis was concerned.
If I could have wished for one thing back then when I was learning the game it would have been to have had a neighbor who could play well who could train me on a daily basis. It's one thing having a court next to your house, it's another to have handy practice partners in the same street. I was a typical kid who simply wanted everything to be perfect for my new past time.
As a famous quote from Vince Lombardi once suggested "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence". That was me , I wanted the whole package deal to be within touching distance, typical kid with high aspirations.
The garage wall wasn't actually my first location of hitting at my house, that place was a wall at the rear of the house that now overlooks the court. I still remember trying to hit the wall perfectly hoping it would bounce up on the grass for me to play another shot. It rarely ever worked as the grass was too soft and the brickwork didn't allow for a perfect strike, it was frustrating.
The reason I moved to the garage was because one day my sister had words with me over my continual loud cursing as the ball would refuse to come back to where I required it. I was a kid in need of a place to play a game that for some unknown reason I felt I had to, it just seemed right. That's the thing about tennis, you don't know why you like it because some sports are a whole lot easier to play.
I still believe that tennis is a game that challenges your mind more than your body and perhaps a tennis player at any level is a person who aspires to solve a problem. Tennis is a game full of problems and it is up to each player to work through them until they find the right answers.
That's why I 'employed' both Borg and Wilander at different stages in my mind to help me with the many questions I was asking of the game......
Part 5 to follow