Inspired by Greg Rusedski as a child, Stefan has always had a keen interest in tennis and last year took the step back into competitive singles by joining the Leamington & Warwick league. Four rounds later and he's finished as group champion three times, met many really nice people and made his opponents move around - a lot
I started playing tennis when I was younger and spent time at the tennis club where my dad played, participating in group lessons and knocking up against the wall. As I improved and became more enthusiastic, I played competitively in local leagues and tournaments. I was a big fan of Greg Rusedski and remember the night of his 1997 US Open final where I was crowded round the TV with other fans at Leamington Tennis Club. The sound did not work so we had the radio commentary on which was slightly ahead of the screen. When he broke to win the third set, we were cheering before his shot had even passed Rafter.
I was looking to get back into tennis and play some competitive singles matches when I found Local Tennis Leagues online. I was pleased to be able to play at different local courts and at flexible times.
On court I want to chase down every ball and make every shot, so I'm not an ideal doubles partner. I've always preferred the single mindedness of a singles match and it allows me to play my baseline game. I like to hit ground strokes and enjoy rallies with lots of movement and changes of direction. I want to make angles by hitting shorter balls or taking the ball early.
My favourite matches are against other players who really go for their shots as it can produce some special moments. Often after the match I will think back on certain rallies or sequences which seemed really inspired and wish that we had filmed it. You would have to edit out quite a few double faults, missed returns and approach shots into the net, but I'm sure there would be a couple of minutes of memorable tennis in there!
The league offers a lot of variety in playing styles, which makes unpredictable match-ups. You can have a great win against one player and the next week lose against someone who they have beaten handily. It's interesting to follow the group results online to see how it plays out.
A match that stands out was the one I needed to win to clinch the league title for the first time. I was playing David and it seemed like I was well in control after taking the first nine games. An hour later we were in the middle of a third set and panic was setting in. I managed to win just as it was getting dark and it was a great feeling.
I've also met many really nice people and their passion for tennis is very motivating. Players in the Leamington & Warwick league are reading tennis books, going on tennis trips and travelling to tournaments to play and improve, which is a great environment to be in. I was having a game with Matt and broke a string so had to use my second racquet. Afterwards he offered to string it for me and now I am playing with the same string set-up as Roger Federer! Admittedly, the shots coming off the strings are not quite the same as his.
I'm really pleased I joined the league and would definitely recommend it to others. If we are drawn to play each other, expect to move around a lot. My secret? Vaseline and two pairs of socks!
If you would like to join Stefan on court in the Leamington & Warwick league, the next round starts on 4th April and you can sign up here.