Tag Archives: Emma Raducanu

Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player: 2nd set, how to win at Wimbledon (13th game)

Preparation is for wimps (8-5)

Well, whether I like it or not, I now know my opponent for the final match of this year’s Wimbledon men’s tennis finals. I have tried in my silly, superstitious way to avoid looking at the draw, but now there can be no avoiding the truth of who is left in the championship.

So, it’ll be him and me again. We’ve had some epic ventures in our time, and this looks like being yet another one.

So, how to prepare?

Emma (R) suggests saunas, gluten free pasta and a spot of practice on the Virtua Tennis 4 Xbox console. I’m more inclined to hit a few balls at the BBGs who line up at the back of the practice courts at this time of year, puffing on a few illicit ciggies before they’re called to bow and curtsey to the great and the good.  Avoiding my power packed service will definitely keep them on their toes.

On the other hand, it’s now too late to prepare for anything other than what the final result will be. There’s a lot spoken in elite sporting circles (the ones I frequent) about failing to prepare and preparing to fail: but my view is that preparation is a much over-rated pastime and that we would all be a lot better off if we lived in the heat of the moment, in the hustle and bustle of the here and now, rather than worry in advance about this particular shot, or that particular action.

Tennis is a sport – take it from me – which requires its players to get in the zone, stay there and don’t leave it until the last BBG has picked up your drenched towel off the grass and you have shaken hands with HRH and banked the cheque. 

And that means hoofing it down to the pub for a couple of last-minute pints of our landlord’s best foaming Hawkeye Bitter before casually sauntering down to Centre Court some time on Sunday, ready to take my place in history.

Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player: 2nd set, how to win at Wimbledon (6th game).

Success is an instrument for the torture of others (4-2)

This ‘Black Wednesday’ of Wimbledon is delivering more than its fair share of thrills, spills and unfortunate injuries today.

From the unenviable position of being two sets down, 0-5 down in the third, and facing almost guaranteed elimination within two minutes of returning to court after rain stopped play, I am amazed – sobered even – to report that the ‘Black Wednesday’ curse of unexpected injury has affected my match too.

My opponent – the Croatian, Milos Milosovich – returned to the locker room in the break during our game. He cooled down; he rested; he kept warm; he had a light lunch – and as they were announcing our return to court he immediately came down with a terrible bout of gastroenteritis (so the guys in the locker room are saying).

He was doubled up with pain and had to retire from the match with immediate effect. I felt quite sorry for him as things were going so well, from his point of view at least.

Not that sorry, mind you. His departure means that I am through to the third round.

I am of course over the moon despite Milos being as sick as a parrot. I accept that this is possibly one of the unlikeliest outcomes ever in the circumstances but tennis, as my newfound coach, Hac, reminded me, is a funny old game. You never know when a knee injury or gastroenteritis are going to strike these days, especially on grass.

So, I am now preparing for my next opponent – the Bosnian, Djelko Djelkovich, a player I’ve never heard of before.

But that doesn’t matter.

I’m into the third round at Wimbledon and anything is possible. Back to the beer and coaching with Emma Raducanu!

Confesssions of an Ageing Tennis Player: 2nd set, how to win at Wimbledon (5th game)

Success is an instrument of torture (3-2)

I’m fuming.  Absolutely fuming.

I’ve just come off court after what must have been one of the most ridiculous days in recent Wimbledon history. And it’s all down to the prancing and preening of several so-called tennis VIPs , so-called pros and their fluffed up youthful wild card ilk.

When the chalk dust settles, I shall have strong words with the blazers, leather arm patches, twinsets and pearls that make up the LTA establishment, make no mistake.

The morning had started so well. I started my match against Milos Milosovich (Croatian, court 28, 2nd round if you’ve not kept up) in reasonable form. Not great, I grant you, but certainly reasonable. I was 0-5 down after eight minutes and he was playing like a possessed Balkan demon, but I was holding my nerve, if nothing else.

But then lo and bloody behold who appears court side as I serve to save the first set? None other than the sneering Gerd Fistingburger and his mate Alois, both wearing ridiculously expensive wrap around shades and their baseball caps shoved firmly the wrong way around on their short-cropped heads.

I catch them out of the corner of my eye as I bounce the ball eight times prior to my specialist underarm serve and one of them yells ‘fault’ at the top of his tinny little continental voice and I promptly belt the ball right up and out over the court towards Henman Hill.

I duly protest straight after this outlandish behaviour but am cautioned by the so-called umpire. Five seconds later he’s given me another caution for racket abuse.

Now, I will admit my racket is no great technological marvel – but it’s well versed in being kicked around tennis courts and is used to a volley of expletives if it gives up on me at crucial times. It’s used to a bit of abuse – it’s why we get on so well and it’s the main reason I’ve got this far in my tennis career (such as it is).

So, giving me a caution for treating my racket with the contempt it occasionally deserves is like the proverbial suspect line call to a McEnroe. Needless to say, I lose the first set 0-6 and a red mist descends all around me as I struggle to compete in the second.

It goes from bad-to-worse. Not only do Gerd and Alois put their feet up on the railings and snigger and giggle at my hapless progress, but they’re joined by the other wildcard of Wimbledon, Emma Raducanu, who for some inexplicable reason is generating huge waves of enthusiasm from the fickle Wimbledon crowds everywhere she floats.

Emma adds to my general misery by outrageously flirting with one of the line judges at crucial times. Eight times my serve goes in, eight times he calls it out after she has distracted him with her fluttering eyelashes. Before I know it, I am 0-3 down in the second and the world is imploding.

Slowly though. It implodes very, very slowly. The ball slows right down. I run at the pace of a slug. The crowd applauds as if it’s in a trance. The seagulls over-head seem to hover for ever, and you can see their droppings leaving their backsides and falling slowly, inevitably and inexorably towards the umpire’s head. I think about warning him but it’s pointless. The way this tennis universe is operating, my warning would take over a week to reach his ears.

Before I know it, I’ve lost the second set 0-6 and I’m in the process of repeating the experience in the third set.

I get to 0-5 down and have to serve to save the match when all of sudden the heavens open.

The rain comes down unlike any other day in Wimbledon history and the umpire has no choice but to postpone proceedings and get the BBG onto the court, dragging the covers behind them.

I look at Milos and shrug my shoulders. There’s not a lot I can do about the English weather. I apologise but he ignores me, packs his bags and scarpers off to the locker room.

Meanwhile, Emma Raducanu cheerfully skips onto the court (what is she on? I ask myself)  swops my racket for a black and gold supercharged version and tells me to go practice hitting balls against the BBGs until it stops raining.

“From a young age, my parents always drilled into me that my attitude was the most important thing, and it’s either going to make or break my career,” she cheerfully confides in me. “So sort out your head, pull your socks up and try and stay here as long as you can. It’s what I intend to do. I feel like I’m on a holiday!” she trills and swans off to sign autographs for the wildebeest feeding frenzy that is the Wimbledon mob.

At two sets down and 0-5 down in the third, I really can’t see the point of it now. My so-called success at Wimbledon has become an instrument of torture.

But I do as she suggests, penning letters of complaint in my mind to keep the boredom of hitting balls against a motley collection of BBGs at bay. We’re back on court later this afternoon to no doubt finish off what has been an excruciating morning.

The sooner I can get the hell out of Kansas the better.

Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player: 2nd Set, how to win at Wimbledon.

I’ve got into the first round at Wimbledon! (1-0)

I never thought I’d see the day but my wild-card entry at Wimbledon finally came through yesterday. Apparently, there’d been a mix up between the LTA and the local clubs in the North West Division section 5(d) that caused several players who had been awarded wild cards to not be informed of their fortune and so they didn’t turn up.

Their fortune-turned-misfortune turned into my fortune when I got the call from the guys in the blazers at Wimbledon – probably the best tennis club in the world (notwithstanding the Carling claim of supreme ownership). I had to get onto court 32 at 7.30 in order to complete my first, first-round match against the Serbian thirteen-year-old, Slobodan Slobovitch.

Imagine!

Me at Wimbledon!

After so many years spent enviously watching all those bright young things slugging it out on the green and pleasant lawns of Jerusalem!

The best was yet to come. I turned up on time to find the 13-year-old loitering on court, clearly nervous at the prospect of playing a more seasoned campaigner. And he had every right to be nervous.  Before long I was in the zone. The ball was as big as a football in my eyes and flying at the pace of a snail. I picked off every shot with ease. I played my best high risk, low percentage tennis ever. I was living in the moment. I was in the here and the now. I felt immortal.

It was all over before I realised it and I had beaten him 6-0, 6-0, 7-6 with the tie-break going to a massive 26-24 point game.

He was devastated. Afterwards, he slumped, a broken figure, on the side of the court. His father couldn’t console him, but both had the good grace to shake hands with me before we left the court at shortly after 9pm.

So, I am through to the second round, and due to play early tomorrow afternoon. It has been an amazing adventure so far and anything else in the future is a bonus.

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