23 August

Smashing it in singles

Matt Pickering

Federer-fan Matt has just won his group in the Leamington & Warwick League and will be heading for group one next time. All those hours watching Roger's technique and the challenge of playing on the different surfaces of local park courts, have paid off

I've played racket sports most of my life, although I played badminton before tennis. When I was younger I played football too, however I enjoyed it most when I had the ball and I must have been a bit of a ball hog as the idea of having the ball half the time in racket sports appealed more! 

It wasn't until I started high school and many of my friends there played that I first picked up a  tennis racket. I started doing a group lesson once a week with my friends and playing casually in the school holidays. I was always behind my friends who'd played for longer but I had definitely got hooked.

When I went to university I had the opportunity to play 3 or 4 times a week and that's when I started playing to improve rather than just for fun. I think seeing all the team play at a much higher standard than I was playing motivated me to take the sport more seriously. 

What I really loved about tennis was the variation of shots and how technically different each shot was. Despite initially really struggling to hit topspin, the idea of spinning the ball in different directions to get different effects fascinated me from the start. 

For the vast majority of the time when I competed in tennis matches it was always doubles. Not out of choice but because that's what all the clubs I had played at focussed on. While I enjoyed it, deep down I really wanted to play more singles. I had more opportunities to play singles at Uni but since then very little. Just over a year ago I became aware of LTA tournaments (how I never knew about them earlier I don't know) and started entering them once a month to get some singles matches. I really loved competing and the level was generally well above my own so I learnt so much. Around the same time I found out about the local league and joined that too to get some more singles practice. More recently I joined Leamington Lawn tennis club where they have a singles ladder. I finally have enough singles practice that I very rarely play doubles.

I play tennis 2 to 3 times a week but I probably spend as much time watching it as I do playing. My favourite player is Roger Federer because I've supported him as long as I can remember and also because of the way he plays the game. Everything he does looks so effortless and pleasing to the eye. I have spent a lot of time over the years watching slow motion videos of his shots, trying to copy the technique. In terms of the way I play though it's much more from the baseline. Unfortunately I haven't been able to emulate the same aggressive style attacking the net like Roger! 

Having the extra singles practice matches has definitely helped my game. You get to play so many different styles of players on a regular basis. It also it forces you to play on unfamiliar courts around the local area. One court we play on quite regularly in the league is a hard concrete court on which the ball bounces very high. I have struggled on that court ever since joining the league but I feel like I might have started to get the hang of it now - fingers crossed for the next round! 

I would absolutely recommend the league to anyone. I'm happy to have made friends and met a lot of great people in the league, It's always good fun. Whether you're new to tennis or just looking to play more matches competitively the league is a great place to play tennis. For me, it's been a great way to play more singles.when most clubs in the UK seem to focus on doubles especially for adults. 

The next round in Leamington & Warwick starts on 5 September. To join, click here