Young at Heart: Confessions of a tennis tragic

I AM a tennis tragic. There are no other words for it.

As a child I loved tennis and we had some fantastic heroes in those early years, with Hoad and Rosewall, Yvonne Goolagong, Margaret Court, Rod Laver and  later the “Macs” and the Pats, Cash and Rafter. 

As kids we all gathered on our battered country courts playing our hearts out, imagining the big city lights beckoning as we rode our bikes at 6am to the courts to meet our mates and practice.

It was never to be, but I did pass on that love of tennis to our children and now our grandchildren.

Today even as I write this we have a young Greek Australian god who may well herald in a new Australian dawn for tennis.  

It’s been a long loyal wait.

I returned regularly to Kooyong each year to watch the Australian Open. Later with friends we trekked to the Australian Open when it moved to Melbourne Park – a much better venue but not as up-close-and-personal as lovely old Kooyong.

Later still I have found it a more comfortable option to watch the Australian Open in front of a television set, sitting comfortably in a recliner, feet up, cup of coffee by my side and the loo not too far away. Heaven on a stick!

However, there is another reason for this.

I do have an awful and utterly embarrassing tale to tell about my last expedition into Melbourne Park, one I don’t choose to dwell on too often.

One of my sons-in-law, knowing my passion for attending the Australian Open, invited me to join him one evening when his office was handing out free tickets for the evening show, plus a hamper to begin the proceedings. 

I couldn’t believe my luck.

Nadal and Federer were playing in the afternoon session. At 10.30 that evening they were still playing! 

We had eaten the very ordinary food in our hampers and were sitting on the floor among hundreds of others, waiting for the evening session to begin. That hamper proved to be my undoing.

Eventually we filed into the centre court but I almost immediately began to feel ill. 

By the time I warned my son-in-law that I had to leave I managed to be violently ill all the way up the stairs to the exit. 

St John’s people rescued me at the top of the stairs, patted me down as best they could and we slunk off into the night and drove silently home. 

Whatever was in that hamper had obviously caused food poisoning.

My son-in-law was amazingly gracious about it all. 

I was utterly mortified. No tennis that year. 

I declared I would never show my face at the Australian Open again and I haven’t. 

During all these years it has been an agony to catch only snatches of Wimbledon and the French and US Opens. 

I was never organised enough to arise in the early hours of the morning to watch.

Recently, we happened to be in Ireland, in Kilarney, when the tennis finals were on at Wimbledon. 

It was Nadal and Federer again... what bliss!  

I settled myself in for an afternoon’s television of sheer joy. Here were my two heroes.  There was I, halfway round the world, watching the the tennis championships at the most famous tennis grounds in the world, Wimbledon, in real time, and then.... and then... the whole match was broadcast in Gaelic.  I could not understand a word of what was said. The Gaelic language is even more obscure than Russian. I still watched it. 

I am nothing if not a tennis tragic. 

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