tennis

img199 Although my grandfather was a committed golfer as well, we were a tennis family and as a child, it felt thrust upon me.  Sure enough, as soon as I made varsity tennis in college, I quit, determined to make my own decisions about how I spent my time.  Throughout my twenty-something year hiatus, my mother would remark “When are you going to start playing again? One meets such nice people playing tennis”, to which I would reply that there were many other places to meet nice people.

When I began picture life’s first book,  my mom’s, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed hearing about her growing up years, realizing I had heard snippets, but never the whole narrative.  One recurring theme was, well, tennis.  Her grandparents had a tennis court in Durban, South Africa, her parents met playing tennis and golf, and then my mom met my father playing tennis in London.  The other relevant piece of the story is that her father, Michael, on the right above, and Michael’s twin brother Humphrey, on the left, spent much of their lives together as co-chairs of Slazenger’s, an English sporting goods company.  Humphrey handled golf, Mike tennis and cricket.  This picture of them is taken on Freshwater Down on the Isle of Wight, at a wild and windswept golf course that is still there. They were both good athletes, switching back and forth between sports.

Mike commuted to London from the Island every week.  As Slazenger’s was an early sponsor of Wimbledon, he met many of the best tennis players through his work.  He would bring them down to the Island on weekends, giving them a cottage to stay in and a much needed opportunity to relax.  Representing Slazenger’s, he travelled with his two daughters to Australia to try to help a young up and comer named Ken Rosewall.  Competitors were not allowed to be paid to be on tour, so he “gave Ken a job packing boxes” in one of the warehouses, though Ken was never to actually show up.  Mike instead had his daughter complete the work while giving Rosewall the paycheck.

While I couldn’t tell you why, hearing these stories and understanding how much this sport formed my family has allowed me to return to it, on my own terms, while yes, making some very nice friends.

1930's tennisMy mother’s mother, Natalie with her sisters Peg, Noelle and Pam.

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My mother’s parents, Mike and Nat, with her.  Check out the box of balls and the length of the racquet shaft. It’s like a lacrosse stick.

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My mom with her friend, Joy.

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My siblings and me when we perhaps not so cheerfully played some tournaments in the UK

IMG_6125Next generation, off to hit ’em hard and hit ’em often.

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It’s paddle, not tennis, but you get the idea. Here are some of the friends. Love them.


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