The last week in June and first week of July have always meant ‘Wimbledon’ to me. Since I was little, I’ve had a passion for this wonderful sporting fortnight. My, how it’s changed, yet so much has stayed the same since I use to make the long journey down as a child in my early teens, on my own, and quite happily queue for hours to get the coveted ticket to enter the ground AND, more often than not, had the golden ticket to be seated on Centre or Number 1 Court….
I use to play tennis lots as a youngster – I use to play in all the local and county tournaments. The first time I played on grass was at Ilkley. I then progressed to the fortnight in Hull which took in the County championships and the Hull open in Chanterlands Avenue. I don’t think the grass courts are there any longer, which is very sad but I have lots of nice memories. When I think about it, I really don’t know how I managed to sort out travel and accommodation for the 2 week period when I was so young……The only way I was allowed was if I sorted it all out myself…….Looks like I’ve always been independent……..I stayed at the ‘International Hotel’, along with all the other players, which was probably a dive, but when you’re young, anything looks good. I even met one of the girls I played some years later at college and she remembered me……… Bizarre that I’ve come back to live near there now, after all those years down in Milton Keynes:)
My mum and dad never saw me play. I remember my dad coming to a final once and leaving immediately, as he couldn’t stand the tension of watching me play – very sad as I won that match! They use to want to hear all the stories, but never watched me. I never got to play for Yorkshire as I didn’t come from the right side of posh as I was very working class……I was part of the county team and remember everyone else arriving for practise with their parents in tow in their posh cars – I would travel for hours and arrived on the bus – by myself……..but it never worried me as I was just happy playing.
Being part of that community meant I would always be in the draw for tickets for Wimbledon at my local club. If I didn’t get a ticket in the draw I would trundle off to join the wonderful queue of people who would wait for hours and simply get in through the magic gates and sit and watch the big screen for hours and potter round the outside courts. I was in heaven……. I would save up all year to afford to go. I saw all the greats play on centre court, from Laver and Newcombe to Borg and McEnroe, Anne Jones to Chrissie Evert, Navratilova and Virginia Wade – a wonderful era.
I stopped playing tennis competitively in my early twenties. I picked up a racket a few times and enjoyed playing on those few occasions. I went through a period as the girls were growing up, when I started again and taught a friend how to play and we had so many laughs but then stopped again for some reason – money probably…….I’m not sure whether I could cope with actually going to the Tournament now but I still love Wimbledon on TV and this fortnight is always a magical fortnight……….Come on Andy!!