Jonathan Edgington talks us through tennis in Winchester.
You can’t, in my view, beat a social game of tennis with friends on a summer’s evening followed by a beer (or two) on the club terrace – provided, of course, you don’t have to drive anywhere afterwards. I certainly enjoy playing team tennis for my clubs in the Salisbury-based Sarum League and the Southampton’s Apsley League.
If you’re looking to play tennis in the Winchester area you’re really spoilt for choice. Among the local clubs are Winchester, Kingsgate, Osman (River Park Centre), Twyford, Compton & Shawford, Littleton. I’ve hedged my bets and am a member of two: Winchester and Littleton. Both are friendly with lots to offer. I’ve also heard good reports of the other clubs.
As a seasoned player I’m often asked, “What sort of tennis would I play if I were to join a club?” The short answer is that social, ‘mix-in,’ box league, tournament and team tennis are usually available at most locations.Another question that frequently comes my way is, “How do I start playing tennis if I’m an absolute beginner?” Either that or, “How can I get back into playing tennis if haven’t for years?”
A tip for novices: the thing not to do is to join a club and turn up at their weekly club night – or ‘mix-in,’ as they’re sometimes called – completely unprepared. Although ‘mix-ins’ are meant to be organised evenings of social tennis for club members of any ability, they rarely are that. The reality is that you should possess some basic skills before heading onto such a potential minefield. Being able to hit the ball back when someone hits it to you, for instance. Or being able to serve with only the occasional dreaded double fault thrown in.
So if you are thinking about joining a club, please first contact the coach and book a lesson. He or she will then be able to assess your form and advise you of your best playing strategy.
As someone once wisely remarked, “The secret of enjoyable tennis is the careful selection of opponents.” Or words to that effect. There are, however, satisfying ways of taking off the competitive edge. A long-standing ‘Middle England‘ tradition in the Sarum and Apsley leagues is for both teams to sit down together to enjoy a formal post-match tea. It doesn’t matter what day of the week or time of day we’ve played. It might, for instance, be a Saturday afternoon match that finishes in the evening at a club in the depths of the New Forest (and you’re going out to dinner later that night). Regardless, etiquette demands that you sit down for tea provided by the home team.
Just for the record, tea normally involves copious plates of sandwiches (egg & cress and/or salmon & cucumber), sausage rolls, scotch eggs and the most fabulous of fabulous homemade cakes. It’s considered the height of rudeness to refuse a slice, and ruder still to turn down the inevitable offer of a second. This is why, despite having taken part in a long afternoon of strenuous physical exercise, I usually return home from matches with a calorie count considerably higher than at the start of the day.
Tennis is a wonderful and amply rewarding game to play, and great way to make new friendships or sustain those you already have. I’ve known players who continue well into their eighties…by which time they’re probably long past caring how many slices of cake they consume! So whether you’re a tennis newbie or a returnee, now might be just the time to get out on the courts and start a racket.
Jonathan Edgington is a Winchester based writer and member of the Chesil Theatre where several of his plays have been performed by their Youth Theatre.