If it was strange and wonderful to watch Wimbledon matches on screen on the 28th of June it was even more so to be able to spectate the women’s final on Saturday. Lucky enough to be able to score a ticket via another tennis junkie, I got to spend some time in the stands filling my head with almost the same dreams I had all those decades ago when I found tennis.
I was twelve when I first got to hold a racquet, a wooden Kawasaki Junior. I would certainly have been a geriatric in today’s game but back in the day, playing at twelve wasn’t easy because the racquets were wooden and so much heavier. For years I had been sitting courtside pushing my glasses up my nose and pleading to play while I watched my older brother and sister take lessons. Eventually in the same year I trialled rock-hard contact lenses, my mother bought me the Kawasaki, more beautiful than any coveted hi-fi of the time. I can still feel how happy I felt holding the glossy racquet and letting my skinny hypermobile legs run around court to chase down balls. It was pure joy.
I loved playing tennis then and still love it at my actual geriatric age. Over the years tennis has given me more than the endorphin fix I need and regularly get thanks to some kind hitting partners. Tennis has taught me about grit and getting the ball back into play one more time – sure – but also about the simplicity of enjoying yourself even when the body begins to give. Because even if you can’t win the Wimbledon Championships as the fabulous Ash Barty did this year, you can still pick up a Head Gravity racquet just like hers and hit balls feeling a little of that Alpine cedar in your hair and the freedom that little girl had when she so badly wanted to play all those years ago.