You will have to excuse my way of writing, it stems from owning a mind that goes around at 100 miles per hour when it comes to tennis, a sport that has been good to me but a sport that has also consumed me. Axel Rose put things into perspective in one of the all time classics '.....reminds me of childhood memories where everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky'.....
That song, 'Sweet child of Mine' was not only a classic hit for the 'Gunners' but a song that made you reflect on past days and past feelings about life, it was a song for the ages. My time in tennis has been around 35 years, time to know right from wrong but not enough time to work out a formula for success, no one will ever own that status.
The C and S tennis Club towards the end of it's existence in fact held a tennis tournament on those 8 courts that for some unknown reason has never been replicated at another club in the region which I find to this day both disappointing and bemusing. Around a month or so before I was married I received an entry form in the mail from the C and S Tennis Club Secretary for a tournament that went by the title of 'The Great Southern Men's Singles Championship'. The tournament was of course put together by Peter Holmes who gained sponsorship through local businesses to the tune of roughly $1000, not a bad effort.
I looked at the entry form for about 30 seconds and said to my better half 'Let's go to Albany and visit the folks next month, my old club has a competition on, haven't played there in years'.
I was 28 years old at the time and it had been probably 15 years since Peter had first coached me and quite remarkably it was maybe the only Singles Championship for the town apart from club championships since the Albany Open Junior Tournament had ceased to exist.
Sentiment drew me to enter this competition because I wanted to take a trip down memory lane where my old coach was not only the person who put the tournament together but the number one seed also. When you look at that realistically, well, that was Peter for you. I had been to Europe, taken up coaching in Perth, given up playing, fallen in love, taken up playing again, got engaged, got a real job outside of tennis, and all this time there was one bloke who kept that old tennis club of mine running in my home town, Holmsey.
So this was the plan, we go to Albany and work on the theory that I can make the final providing I am on the other half of the draw from Peter. I finish runner up to a bloke who I had the most ridiculous amount of respect for and I pick up $100 as runner up for the privilege of playing him at the club where it all started for me as a kid. Plan was 'idiot proof'.
So we get to Albany and book in to possibly the most famous beachside resort on the South Coast of WA, The Esplanade, overlooking Middleton Beach, a place I had spent many hours of my miss spent youth at drinking like a fish and chatting up young blondes. I paid $200 for two nights accommodation which when you think about it was rather cheap for a room over looking the beach that also had a spa and was about twenty five steps from the main bar. It was the type of situation that had 'rock star' written all over it. Problem was I was no rock star and I was in desperate need of at least making the semis to at least pay for one night at the 'Nard'.
Now to try and finish this chapter in a reasonable time frame I will do my best to shorten the events of that weekend in Albany Feb, 1997; Saturday, GT wins both Mens Singles matches as the number 2 seed ( not sure why I was seeded 2 but I took it as a compliment ). That night my better half and I walk into the bar to have a 'quiet ale' and a counter meal. We bump into a couple who we knew well from Perth, we get stuck into the ale and neglect the counter meal. I looked at the whole scene realistically, I was never going to beat Peter, even though I had 12 years on him in youth, he was just too tough, let's just live a little. Idiot.....
Six beers later and a burger to soak it up we get back to the room, I do the sums, my semi has to be quick against Tarkin Lockyer, a talented young fellow who would eventually become the Captain of the Collingwood Football Team, nice kid. I belt him 1 and 2, an energy saving match. Peter wins comfortably in his semi, as expected.
One hour break, then the final where Peter picks the court ! This is what he said to me, 'Let's play on court 4 and let me take you into the wall with my serve' ! You see, court 4 at C and S had a brick wall to the left of it and Peter knew that if he put enough slice on his serve it would get to the wall before his opponent. I told you he was clever....
Pete leads 4-1, 40-30, just killing me, one point away from demoralising his former student when something clicked inside my head. 'You know where this is going GT, as soon as he throws the ball up start moving to your left, nothing else has worked so far but you know what's coming, think buddy, think.
Peter throws it out wide and I was there before it got to the wall. I hit a two hander to his feet and clean up his half volley easily with a forehand. I break, 2-4, break again, 4-4, hold, 5-5, 6-6, tiebreak. I lose the first point and win the next seven straight. I take the second 6-3 by doing exactly what Peter told me to do as a kid. There are ways to beat a serve and volleyer even if he is your former coach. If you take things in as a kid, one day it may just pay dividends.
Peter won me that match and title plus the $200 that paid for the accommodation for the weekend at my favourite beachside haunt. I mean that in all due respect.
The only way I got out of that hole I was in was from Pete's tuition, the days of coaching where we simulated match play and the days we worked on moments in matches that would prove critical to the end result. You can hit as many balls as you like in practice but if they don't have structure it is a wasted exercise.
I never told anyone I got half cut the night before that tournament out of respect for Peter but there was a reason why I drank that night and it was out of respect for my old mentor. I never gave myself a chance, I was only going for second place and a hundred bucks to help pay the expenses for the weekend. I was 28 years of age, I was over trying to make a living out of the game !
I cramped in that last game when I broke Pete's serve to win it. If it went to three, I was gone. From memory I hit a two hander down the line off Pete's serve to take it, Pete taught me how to hit that.
Nothing more memorable than beating someone who taught you how to play but one thing sticks in my mind about that match and it's called perspective.
Pete was 40, I was 28. Pete still was prepared to put it on the line against the 'young' fellas, that typifies the sort of person Pete was. He could walk it, not just talk it..........
Chapter 5 to follow