We got in touch with Steve when he left a testimonial on our site praising the leagues and his reasons why. Once having a read we were keen to find out more about Steve and how the leagues have helped him on his transformative road to recovery…
Thanks for getting in touch Steve and sharing your story! Can you tell us how you got into tennis and how long you have been playing for?
I lived in Barnet, North London, when I was growing up and lived within walking distance of a fantastic tennis club with a great junior social scene that gave me lifelong friends. I played most days from around 12-17 and sadly stopped after that. I am now 38 and starting playing again about 3 months ago.
What do you like about playing tennis?
I have always loved watching tennis, going to Wimbledon a lot when I was a kid and I was lucky enough to be at a Federer v Djokovic US Open Final, although sadly the advent of YouTube convinced me that if I watch enough top pros clips online then I can hit like them, but that is never the case, which became very clear during my lockdown comeback. I found the mental side of tennis a lot tougher when I was younger but now I really enjoy playing the game for the fun of it and trying to work out (again without a huge amount of success), how to beat the other player and what my strengths are. There are few things I enjoy more than playing tennis on Highbury Fields on a sunny evening and I make sure to savour the odd moments in matches. I feel incredibly grateful that I have such a thing in my life.
What's your style of play usually?
I’ve done a lot of work on my volleys so I look to come in to the net as often as I can. I have totally reworked my serve and am playing around with serve and volleying, which I quite like. I do like also standing at the back and trading groundstrokes, but at the moment I feel I lack the consistency and depth to win a whole match like this.
And what was it that made you join Local Tennis Leagues?
I suffered with addiction issues in my 20s and most of my 30s. It got pretty bad and I wasn’t living my life very well or enjoying it, frankly. Watching Arsenal play football was my only exposure to live sport. Then, about 2 years ago, I made the decision to turn teetotal and decided to turn my life around. It wasn’t easy or particularly fun at first, but slowly but surely things got better. I dedicated a day at the weekend to charity work, got heavily involved in the local community and wanted to put my energy in to being of service. I am now in the position of mentoring those at the beginning of their own similar journey which is a privilege and with the help of my partner Elle, who is a yoga teacher and is brilliant regarding all things relating to mindfulness and wellbeing, I slowly began to get fitter and healthier. I was very underweight too which meant I didn’t have a lot of energy for playing sports for an extended period of time, so we set about basically starting again with my health. These days I meditate in the mornings, write gratitude lists and do yoga daily which has transformed my mind and body, I’m now 3 stones heavier than I was 2 years ago which is pretty incredible. My partner is the most supportive and caring person I have ever met and I’m truly lucky to have her. I also wanted to reconnect with a sporting passion of mine, so tennis was the obvious choice. I wanted to play a competitive match within 6 months, which was the goal. My childhood friend Alex, a former tennis coach and great player, worked with me to get my basics back. I was really out of sorts when I started hitting with him and his patience was limitless. I slowly but surely got a bit more comfortable on the court and took time to pick a tennis coach for weekly lessons before work. I ended up working with the brilliant Hitesh Soma at Highbury Fields who has helped me hugely. It feels like I am hitting with an old friend and he made me feel very comfortable. To be honest, I found my first few lessons pretty embarrassing as my shots were horrible but we went back to basics and now my lessons are great fun. Again, I am just in a position leaving a lesson where I am grateful to have them in my life. Hitesh has some serious winners in his locker and has no problems flashing them past me if I start strutting around on court after I have hit five forehands in a row.
So good to hear your positive experience in tennis has helped, what was it like playing your first match after some time off court?
I must admit I did not enjoy my first match back which was on 3rd June 2020. We had the court booked for 2 hours but only needed 1, as I lost 6-0, 6-1 in what felt like 25 minutes. I could not string together 3 shots in a row and my opponent had zero issues with me. By the end of the match I was just tanking to end it. I didn’t take in to account that people in a tennis league I had never met would not hit with me with the kindness that my friends and coach do. If you aren’t game tight then you an opponent’s dream. I have a notebook I fill in after matches and lessons with a ‘pros and cons’ and the ‘pros’ list was pretty barren with the corresponding ‘cons’ list having about 15 examples of negativity from the match. I then told Elle that perhaps tennis was not for me and that that window was shut to me after being out for so long. I was very, very disappointed but about 2 or 3 days later, I returned to the list and added in the ‘pros’; ‘I am playing tennis again after 20 years’, ‘I am playing competitive sport again’ and ‘I am well enough to play again’, ‘playing tennis outdoors in a park is beautiful’ and suddenly, the list did not look so bad. It’s a start and, as Elle is fond of saying to me, ‘you are right where you should be”.
A very good way to overcome those initial wobbles when returning to tennis and to focus on the positive! Any goals achieved and/or memorable matches, or things you have been pleased to work on?
My goal was to play a competitive match within 6 months and I played 6 within 3. So that was good. I got thumped in my first 4 matches with 0s and 1s to my name, but in the final two, a miracle happened and I WON A SET. In my penultimate match I even got 2 match points which I squandered (one was shameful) and eventually lost in 3 sets. I lost in a 3rd set tie-breaker in the final game. The last two matches could have gone either way and I’m happy I managed to finally give a decent account of myself. I managed to avoid relegation in my group and in the words of all Arsenal fans’ I am looking forward to starting again with a clean slate next season (round). My goal was not to be thrashed every time and although it very much looked like I was going to be destined for exactly that, my hitting sessions with Alex and lessons with Hitesh paid off.
Excellent! Determination is key with sport! How have you found your return to tennis in general?
I love it and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s a constant challenge and a learning curve but when you’re not a 15 year old throwing your racket after missing an easy volley, tennis is actually a lot of fun. I love it and can’t wait for the next round of matches to commence on 6th August 2020.
Would you recommend the league?
Absolutely. I have met some fantastic people who I hit with outside of the official matches and it gives me something to really look forward to in the week. I am looking to improve and hopefully soon I will get my first win. If I do my best and enjoy it, I win either way. It is never too late to pick it up again or even for the first time and only good things will happen.