23 August

Five years of fitness and friendship

Tony Wilson

A few years ago, Tony had barely hit a tennis ball. Then, in an introductory session at his local gym he caught the bug, joined the Swindon Tennis League and has not missed a round in 5 years. He is currently playing in his 24th consecutive round.

In 2007 I joined a local gym, Next Generation, for the gym, swimming and sauna facilities. Quite often after a gym session I'd have a coffee and through the viewing area watch people playing tennis though I never thought to give it a go.

After about a year my wife decided to join and she was offered an introductory 4 week introduction to tennis course. I asked if I could come along. I remember in the first lesson being tasked to try and hit the ball from the base line to my opponent, on the opposite baseline, 4 times. We found this to be an impossible task. Our coach said to us if we ever feel we're not making progress then remember that first task. After the fourth week we were able to consistently keep a rally of over ten shots going, progress indeed. I signed up for a weekly group session for beginners, met a great group of people who we became friends with and caught the bug. It's an enjoyable way to carry out some cardiovascular exercise without the monotony of sitting on an exercise bike or pounding the treadmill. 90 mins on the tennis court flies by, it's enjoyable and it's a good workout.

It's also a game where age isn't a massive consideration. I'm 57 and in this league I play against opponents from their early twenties to their sixties. The youngsters don't always win.  It's also a great way to meet people socially. 

I started playing in box leagues at Next Generation which I found enjoyable and a good way to meet members of a similar ability. Unfortunately the Club closed down and our membership was transferred to David Lloyd who didn't have box leagues at the time. I was sent an e mail from a fellow graduate of our Introduction To Tennis group, thanks Charlotte, informing that you were looking for players of all abilities to form a local league with the emphasis on enjoyable tennis against people of a similar ability. I signed up and I don't think I've missed a round in the last 5 years.

Theoretically I'm a master of technique. Unfortunately I'm not brilliant at transferring theory into practice. I'm not a particularly hard hitter. I would try and move the ball around the court rather than slog it out. Ultimately, when under pressure I resort to rule one - get the ball over the net and in the box one more time than the other guy.

I think being in the league has made me aware of the different styles that people play and make me more able to adapt my style. 

There have been plenty of memorable matches. You regularly meet the one player where it's a really close contest that goes the full distance but it's always the other guy who comes out on top....until that day when the Gods are looking down on you and you triumph. The next match against that player and, in your head, your 5-0 up before you've hit a ball. 

I would definitely recommend the league. It's a great way to meet new players. You very quickly find yourself in a league with players of a similar ability so there are some really enjoyable matches to be played. 

The next round of the Swindon Tennis League begins on 21 November. Click here to join