November 25, 2016
After their infamous meeting at the Rio Paralympics, we quiz Lucy Shuker on what five things she loved most about one of Britain’s best-known comedians.
Well, I first met Johnny when he made a brief appearance on my court during one of my early matches. He had come into the tennis arena via a back entrance and not knowing where to go he sat on the nearest empty chair which so happened to be a linesman’s chair at the back of my court!! I remember seeing him sat there and recognising his face but didn’t really know what was going on.
Then he went and sat with my family (fortunately my dad did know who he was!) and waited until the end of my match for me to come off court to say hello. Those little things say everything about him. I mean he was so supportive, not just of me but all the GB Paralympian’s in Rio. He was there filming with ‘The Last Leg’ but he really took time to experience the Paralympics as a whole and showed such an interest, he even came back to watch a couple of my other matches!
Obviously he was very funny. When I first met him, he said he wanted to be my coach. I don’t think he is particularly bothered about not knowing too much about tennis and he is not a very sporty person, I mean he usually had a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He is always taking the mickey, he will joke about anything. His whole demeanour is very funny!
He went to the Paralympics without any preconceived ideas and he was blown away by what he saw and experienced. You see that a lot in people, they are inspired and moved by what Paralympic athletes can achieve with the right determination, and Johnny really took it all in, he was so enthusiastic about everything and I think he came to really love the essence of the Paralympics and the talent of the athletes.
He has a very warm nature about him and gave me a celebratory hug at the end of one of my matches in Rio. He also invited me to be his ‘plus-one’ at the Pride of Britain Awards recently, but I wasn’t able to go because of my tennis commitments. That would have been an amazing event to attend and once again just shows what a great bloke he is to even think of me, I think Will Bayley got to go instead!
In all seriousness, Johnny Vegas is one of the most genuine people you could ever wish to meet. He is so down-to-earth. Fame obviously hasn’t changed him one bit. It’s so refreshing to see that in a celebrity. You just instantly feel that what you see is what you get with Johnny. I hope we are able to stay friends and remain in touch because he is someone who is helping to tear down the walls that have sometimes prevented disabled people from being viewed positively in the past.
He is hoping to come along to our Singles Masters event in London in December as well. This is the final event of the year and only features the top 8 men’s and women’s players and top 6 quad players. You can buy tickets here – http://www.wheelchairtennismasters.com