Albany, Western Australia, when I was a kid growing up learning the game of tennis was home to so many outstanding players it was ridiculous. I believe it all stemmed from one man's driving force, Holmsey. I was invited as a 14 year old to hit with both Pete and his mates on a weekly basis, either match play or drills.
Some days Pete would make it up as he went along, I liked this idea, no real set routines, that's me now days, it's always something that I have been most comfortable with.
I remember one day Pete taking me to the indoor center and pausing for a moment before saying " Let's play two sets". I still remember the score, he killed me 3 and 1 but he told me my first set was great and his second set was one of his best sets. I wasn't disappointed because it gave me that sense of where I was at with my tennis.
It's like the runner who wins his 100 meter sprint by 15 meters in the local competition then goes to the City and runs third to the best in the State. A real indication to current form.
There was amazing talent from my age through to guys aged around 40 and plenty of tournaments plus pennant competition. If you wanted to get 'high' on tennis there was no excuse not to, it was a sport that was big in Albany, probably just as big with adults back then as it was the juniors.
I was also extremely fortunate to have one of the State's best junior players living here in Albany, Mark Leuba. Now Mark was the number one ranked player in Western Australia for the 14's age group, his standard was far superior to mine. Even though he lived in Albany, four hours from the State's best players he was the bench mark, an outstanding talent coached by his father.
I got to know Mark through the tennis club scene and we hit regularly in my fourteenth year. We didn't drill, we just played sets, it was a fantastic way to experiment with the art of point construction.
Between my tuition from Pete plus set play with Mark my standard went from fairly average to very competitive in a short time frame. I used to play Junior Club set play on Saturday mornings at the Country and Suburban Tennis Club (C and S) on Albany Highway then Senior Club in the afternoon.
Doing the sums on how many hours I spent on court each Saturday I suppose at a rough count it may have been seven hours, enough time to get grooved. The reason why I eventually left C and S was because a Senior player accused me of hitting the ball too hard to older players! I found this rather comical as I only ever hit with a heap of topspin, never with pace, I simply played a 'safe' style.
I suppose the generation gap in sport can sometimes be an issue particularly with the 'more experienced' players. If these players are getting a run around from 13 and 14 year old kids then that can be degrading to some. Others will take up the challenge.
Last January I lost in the final of my local Doubles Championship to a couple of young guys who I used to teach but I was so proud of them. I was also proud of myself for still being able to give them a decent match.
That's the thing about tennis. If you still feel that you can give something to the game as you get a little older and slower then that's a good thing. While we are still breathing and can swing a racket it's important to still test the mind and body. Tennis is a game that does both in many ways and it actually becomes clearer to understand as you gain experience.
However as the great Jimmy Connors once stated "The problem with experience is that by the time you get it , you are too damn old to enjoy it"........
Stay fit, that's my view........
Chapter 9 on it's way