On the face of it, says Graham from Fleet in Hampshire, tennis should be easy - just hit the ball over the net and keep it within the lines. But he's not the first player to realise it isn't quite that simple. Since playing in his local league, however, his game has improved immensely...
When I was younger, I always enjoyed watching tennis on the TV, but the nearest courts available to me during my childhood were just too far away for me to easily get to... and so I never managed to play. When my son joined cub scouts last year, I noticed the scout hut was right next to some tennis courts (and at a far more convenient distance from my house this time). So, since last year I have been making up for lost time.
Maybe its nostalgia from watching it on the TV all those years ago, but there’s just something so relaxing about knocking a tennis ball back and forth across the net; plus, you always learn something about your own game whenever you play a match, which you can then work on for the next time.
At face value, the game is incredibly simple: hit the ball over the net within the lines, and it can bounce once. Yet there are so many layers you can peel away at, it keeps getting more and more fascinating as you explore them. I also love that it’s a game that is readily accessible to anyone, and it doesn’t cost the earth to play.
What attracted me to the league was the opportunity to play regularly and learn from different people. I've learnt more about the game from playing these league matches than I have through watching any online video, and I've met some great people along the way.
I’d probably say I was a counterpuncher - though when I first joined the league I was far more aggressive (and it cost me a lot of games and sets). Playing in the league has helped my game immensely - there’s no substitute for experience, and having the opportunity to play and learn from lots of other people is invaluable. With the leagues occurring so regularly, there’s frequent opportunity to try to put what you have learnt into practice, plus every match I've played in has been played in a good spirit and it’s always nice to play a familiar face and meet a new one.
My very first league match was a double bagel loss, but 6 months later I managed to win against the same player, so that was a pretty special moment. It’s also improved my fitness quite a lot – about 2 years ago I had a back spasm which left me struggling a little with my mobility, but slowly and surely I’ve regained that movement with the help of playing tennis.
All that is something I've missed during the lockdown. But it’s been okay – though it’s certainly going to be unusual going through a summer without Wimbledon!
The tennis club I play at is a few minutes down the road on our running/cycling route, so it was quite weird going past it every day during lockdown and seeing it completely vacant, especially during the lighter evenings. I’ve spent the time inside doing more yoga/stretching which should hopefully be helpful for when the next league starts. Now that the tennis courts have been re-opened, it’s been great, and with the kids still at home, I’ve been using it as an opportunity to take them, so they don’t have to wait 30+ years before they can get to play on a court.
Would I recommend the league? Without question. You get the opportunity to lean from others and help others improve. Plus, there’s probably not a better time to join with everyone having been cooped up inside for so long, and in need of some time outdoors, albeit within the limitations.
Graham plays in the Fleet Tennis League. The new round starts next week. If you would like to play, join here!