Antarctic Tennis

Posted on March 21, 2013

I ventured out for my first game of tennis this ‘spring’ at lunchtime today. To say that it was a pleasurable occasion would be over-egging the experience just a tad as three things immediately sprung to my attention.

  1. My backhand has reached such a comical level that if I demonstrated it on a live stand up show; the aisles would be rocking with laughter. The turgid forward defensive shot that I have adapted at cricket has now become such a feature in my tennis exploits that I find myself desperately running 360 degrees around the ball to get it onto my forehand.
  2. My knees, the old complex joints that have served me so well in all the sports I have tried over the years, are now about as resilient as a couple of digestive biscuits. To hear me running around a tennis court is like hearing the chain turning on a bicycle that has been sat in a damp shed for fifteen years.
  3. I can’t take the cold any longer. As a boy I would happily go out in a T-shirt in mid-January, run around a football pitch for half an hour and spend the rest of the day nice and warm. Today the easterly wind bit into my body and soul and stubbornly refused to let go. Where the Hell is spring?

Murray-esque- Me serving a rasping ace earlier today!

I have been wondering lately whether this bitter weather is normal in March or whether it is just my body failing to cope with the demands of a British winter. Is it really the case that I am on the first steps of the descent that will leave me in years to come, like one of those pensioners you see wrapped up in a scarf and hat on Swanage beach as the temperature nudges 30 centigrade in mid-July?

It is with some relief that this may not yet be the case, at least not quite yet anyway. This March has been colder than January and December and it is already on track to be the cloudiest and coldest since 1963, a winter that anyone over the age of 60 will happily remember as being the coldest ever recorded in the UK.

The night and day combined temperature has averaged three centigrade meaning it is already the coldest March since 1987 and the forecast predicts that the unrelenting Siberian blast will continue unabated, so the Met Office will almost certainly be combing the record books come March 31st.

It does seem ridiculous that I am almost pleased that the recent weather is not just me getting old; it is just statistically colder than possibly, my lifetime of March’s, which equals 44 in total. Despite the misery of it all, I am now going to take solace out of the fact that I may not be getting as frail as I first imagined this morning and it is just a case of it being unseasonably, bloody freezing.

What the weather means for the fast approaching cricket season I just don’t know. Outside training begins in a fortnight but catching a freezing cold piece of leather that is approaching at high-speed is the equivalent of placing your hand on a work bench and asking your friend to take a twenty yard run up with an eight pound club hammer before slamming it in to your knuckles.

Cricket and cold weather are the bitterest of enemies resulting in multiple hospitalisations to hands and in more sickening cases, teeth and testicles. Two years ago on an unseasonably cold day playing cricket, I managed to let a cricket ball stave into my big toe and fizz up into my teeth within a quarter of a second; with claret spilling out of both ends of my body, I was quite an intriguing sight at Basingstoke hospital and I have yet to surpass such a cataclysmic sequence of events, though it’s never too late.

Whatever happens, I will be spending my spring combining the two sports, a miserable mistake that will result in confused forehand lobs into the gleeful hands of a fielder in cricket matches and the playing of static footed forward defensive shots as a return to the bemused server at tennis. Mixing sports is a stupid mistake I have spent my whole life making, but it is difficult to resist the thrill of hitting that one big ace down the centre of the court or nailing a cricket ball in the middle of a willow bat and watching it sail over the clubhouse and into the trees.

It is with some sadness that I already know that my knees have seen the last of being capable of converting a rugby ball between the posts or volleying a football into a bulging net, but the prospect of getting lucky with my timing of a tennis or cricket ball remains a possibility, albeit a slim one.

All the while this is still the case; I will continue to resist the temptation of jogging gingerly alongside my strange shaped sphere I have just rolled along on a Crown Bowls pitch somewhere in the depths of the New Forest!

1 Reply to "Antarctic Tennis"

  • Trevor
    March 22, 2013 (12:15 am)

    Nice post. I played tennis yesterday too (but without trying to rub it in it was 26 degrees here).

    A few years ago I played in a tennis tournament in Italy (tournament is very loosley defined) as part of Newbury ‘Twin Towns’ event – it meant that I got a free trip courtesey of the tax payer to Feltre which is a beautiful town if you ever get the chance. Anyway someone filmed my on court exploits – (I lost all my games to French, Italian and German opposition) and I realised how hopelessley flat-footed I was on court. For years I had imagined myself springing cat-like around on the court but watching the video gave me a grim realisation that I basically walked quickly around the court. Sad. Still, it was a good trip and allows me to claim that I represented my town at an overseas tennis tournament!

    “Cricket and cold weather are the bitterest of enemies” – like that 🙂

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