May 18, 2020
What a special weekend it was for tennis!
The sheer joy felt by so many in England because we could finally play again!
The first big step in the right direction. Some normality at grass roots level.
The exquisite feeling of holding a tennis racquet once more. The sweet swish of the stroke and delightful ping of the ball.
Sharper movement. Athleticism recalled. Coordination rediscovered. Cobwebs and rust removed.
We tested ourselves in friendly competition. We laughed and joked at the thrill of it all.
So much still to look forward to. We are on our way!
That’s not to get ahead of ourselves. We’re not back to big-time tournaments in packed stadia just yet.
We’ll probably have to wait until next year for epic matches between huge names and a return to life on the tour.
But what emerged over the weekend was a new wave of tennis mania.
Our passion for tennis is undiminished. In fact that passion has only intensified.
Andy Murray set the tone on Friday when he hit with his brother Jamie.
They went to the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton just as soon as it reopened.
And you sensed Andy’s sheer delight at being able to do one of his favourite things on his birthday.
Playing tennis with his big brother just down the road from Wimbledon. For the love of the game.
What a treat for Murray’s 33rd birthday!
Pretty soon everyone who could find a court was following suit. And how we loved it!
There were precautions to be observed of course.
Only two people per court – unless members of the same household could form doubles teams.
Each player had their own tennis balls clearly marked. That way they didn’t have to handle anyone else’s.
Coaching was one-on-one only.
Clubs gave more time and space to the handover of precious those courts to the next eager players.
But people were only too happy to stick to the rules. The reward was a sense of sporting enjoyment we hadn’t been able to taste for months.
Some of us tried too hard. A stiff back here. A tight muscle there. This wasn’t quite the relaxed rhythm of jogging or cycling.
This was tennis!
Bodies complained the next day. We didn’t mind. It was a price worth paying. Next time it’ll hurt a little less.
What could we conclude from it all?
The nation loves tennis!
The courts were fully booked. We can’t get enough of it!
We love playing. We love watching, too.
No wonder the LTA plans a return of the National Championships later this year.
And it’s not just England now getting back into its stride, with the prospect of bigger things to come.
Household names are returning to action in their own countries. Our beloved sport is slowly finding its feet.
Dominic Thiem will be the first top ten player to show off his skills in a sizeable tournament.
He will play in the Generali Austrian Pro Series later this month.
We all long for the day when the best players in the world are back on court against each other – not just their compatriots. Of course we do.
This is the golden age of tennis. We want more and we will get it.
That added joy will come. If not this year, then next. We just have to be patient.
But what a consolation in the mean time.
To be back on court at all is something to celebrate for now.
Andy Murray knows it. And so do the rest of us.
Hooray for tennis!