20 July 2018

Keeping on winning

Robert Rhodes

Robert joined the first round of the Potteries Parks Tennis League in June 2016 and won the top group. He has since played in another four rounds and won the top group every time. We caught up with him to learn his winning tactics

When I was at high school at Brinsworth Comprehensive, Rotherham, I taught myself to play tennis and I spent many hours playing on the courts with friends and neighbours in the summer. I’ve always loved watching it, playing it and hitting a good winner. Getting back a shot that looks unreturnable is always satisfying.

Between 2002 and 2006, I played in the City and Suburban league in the Potteries but it was always doubles. Then I picked a racket up again when the Potteries Parks League started back in 2016, as I’d never played singles competitively.

I'm surprised I've won all 5 rounds I've taken part in. There are players who are technically better than me who I have played and beaten but as we all know, tennis is 20% hitting the ball and 80% movement and once I get a few games into a round, I'm pretty competitive.  

I do like to serve and volley but hard courts don't lend themselves to that very well. I'm tough to get past and I would say my fitness levels help keep me in points, so it’s got to be a good shot to beat me. Fitness is crucial. As you see in the professional game, if you want to be competitive your fitness has to be a good standard otherwise players will move you round the court like a good chess player round the chess board.

Serving is my best weapon. It’s not fast but it’s accurate and my kick serves give a lot of my opponents problems. Plus I'm a lefty and they sometimes don’t realise they are feeding my forehand!  Serving is the only part of the game you can control from the word go. My son is 10 and I take him down to the nearest park with courts and we both practise our serving for a good 15 minutes. That's where my practice ends as we are not at the level where I can improve my rallies yet with my son. Hopefully it won't be long before he's giving me the run around.

I would recommend the league to anyone who enjoys tennis regardless of ability.  I love the flexibility of the rounds, and playing mornings, weekends or evenings. You can't do that with a local tennis club where match times are rigid and on specific days. With a young family and work, the parks league fits around my lifestyle and my family which has allowed me to enjoy the game. I’m absolutely ready to take on all comers! I'll be back in the spring of 2019 in the Potteries Parks League and I'd love to be pushed.

Want to get ready to take on Robert! Get in training in the next round which runs from Thursday 26 July to Wednesday 19 September. Join here by Monday 23 July.