Only now when I look back over the years do I realise what a journey I have been on with regards to tennis. One thing is for sure though, I am so glad I decided to start playing the sport.
I was fortunate to have gone to a school which was particularly sporty. I enjoyed playing and competing in school matches in many sports; hockey, netball, tennis, rounders and swimming. From the age of 8-13 I was a keen equestrian, but as that interest faded, my attention turned to tennis. At the age of 14 I started having lessons at David Lloyd. I was taught by a Russian coach, Maria. She was disciplined but kept the sessions engaging and gave me the excellent foundations.
For a few years I found myself caught in the middle of not being a good enough player for sessions of people my age, because they’d all been playing since they were very young, but also too young to join the adult groups. What also become apparent was how male dominated the sport was which unbeknownst to them, this was rather intimidating. I therefore continued with private lessons and although these were beneficial, I was lacking match play. It also became a viscous circle of lacking match play but being too scared to play in matches in order to gain that experience and improve. I also preferred singles but seemed many adults preferred doubles. Due to many contributing factors I found myself falling in and out of love with the sport.
From 2008-2009, I had an excellent experience of working in Dubai. One of the first things I did when I got there was to seek out a tennis club. For me, it was a way of being able to meet new people whilst continuing to play tennis. I attended Dubai Tennis Academy where I’d play in an organised coaching session a couple of times a week. Again, great for honing skills during drills but no real match play experience and again, no one was anywhere close to being my age.
I then had a number of years of playing intermittently. Other things such as studying and work took priority but also a skiing injury set me back. Whilst trying to figure out what I wanted to do with regards to a career I actually completed my Level 1 tennis coaching but decided to not pursue that avenue any further.
In August 2016, due to work, I moved from Derby to Surrey. I didn’t know anybody and must admit it was pretty daunting. I continued being a member of David Lloyd and played in a few tennis groups but found it hard to establish myself within the tennis circle there. Then COVID-19 hit and everything came to a standstill…
Last year, a friend sent me a link to Local Tennis Leagues. I read what it was all about and thought ‘this is exactly what I have been looking for’ – an opportunity to play competitive singles against people of similar standard and subsequently being able to build up a pool of people to play with outside of the Leagues. I entered the Elmbridge Local League and as soon as I received the details of the other people in my group, I was straight on it organising the matches. In fact, I was that keen and eager to get going I played the next day! I’ll have played six out of the seven matches within two weeks of the Round starting and have even joined the Richmond League as well. After what feels like eternity of not being able to play due to restrictions, it has felt so liberating being out on court, hitting balls again and doing something other than a walk!
I have played two matches; won one and lost one. What I have enjoyed so far is how evenly matched the games have been and it has been great meeting new people from all over the world. I think it’s great that the Leagues run frequently throughout the year so you don’t have to wait too long to be able to join a League near you. Overall, I can’t fault the experience so far. The communication is great and all the hard work is done for you. All you’ve got to do is organise a time and place to play.
Been looking for friendly, competitive tennis like Olivia? Join your Local League now.