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Anyone for Tennis? by Audrey McGrath

Writing.ie | Magazine | Mining Memories | Tell Your Own Story
Audrey McGrath 

Audrey McGrath

It’s that time of the year again. The summer solstice has come and gone, the smell of fresh cut grass hangs in the humid air and I’m humming the theme tune to Wimbledon.

I have always had a very special relationship with this wonderful tournament. I can remember as a child lying on the couch watching the epic 1980 Men’s Singles final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. I wanted McEnroe to win as I loved the way he shouted at the umpire and threw down his racket saying, “You cannot be serious man”. My mam loved Borg and I was so upset when he won. Mam gave me a big bowl of strawberries and ice cream to cheer me up and my love of tennis and Wimbledon began.

I was one of six children and we loved watching and playing all sports but Wimbledon was our favourite sporting event. My parents couldn’t afford expensive tennis lessons so we taught ourselves by watching our favourite players and hitting tennis balls against the back wall. But our dream was to have our very own centre court in our large overgrown back garden.

When I was nine, my aunt and uncle got new bunk beds and as we always gratefully accepted their hand me downs we acquired their old set. We didn’t need them but Dad’s motto was ‘waste not want not’. He’d seen a potential use for them and with my older brother Brian’s help he put his plan into action.

A few days later we woke to find that they had created the Doyle Family’s very own Wimbledon SW19 centre court. My Dad had soldered the two spring framed bases together to make a net. Then after cutting the grass they’d marked out and painted a tennis court using left over white Crown gloss paint. We looked out the bedroom window and gasped. Our dream had come true and we raced down the stairs bursting with excitement shouting, “Anyone want to play tennis?”

The cry went up around the neighbourhood. We brought out two kitchen chairs for the players and borrowed a bar stool from the GAA club for the umpire to sit on. I persuaded Mam to buy us Robinson’s orange barley water and paper cups for the players refreshments. This was a professional tournament after all.

Brian whose head had grown to the size of a watermelon because he had helped with the creation declared he was the tournament manager. All players had to register with him and he drew up a schedule. For the next two weeks our garden was a hive of activity as the girls became Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova and the boys were Borg and McEnroe. We even set up an area for spectators. The wall between our garden and the O’Leary’s worked perfectly.

We realised early on that we needed a trophy to get the other kids competitive streak flowing. It was agreed that the silver platter that had pride of place in Mam’s china cabinet would be the girls’ trophy and our Dad’s only golf trophy would do for the boys. In keeping with Wimbledon tradition the winners wouldn’t be allowed keep them. Just as well as my parents wouldn’t have been too pleased.

Our Wimbledon tournament was hailed as a success with Louise Seery crowned as the inaugural girls champion and David Wolverson the boys. Mam gave us a celebration tea in the back garden and thus the routine of outdoor dining and playing tennis all summer long was born.

Forty years later and every year my own children remark that for the two weeks of Wimbledon I am glued to the television. Yes, I adore it and all the pantomime that goes with it. But mostly it’s because when I sit down to watch it I am transported back to our big back garden, the smell of fresh cut grass, white paint and those long never ending summer days of my childhood and the cries of Anyone for tennis?”

(c) Audrey McGrath

About the author

I have always loved writing and joined Writers Ink in May 2021 and have taken part in three of their Writing Challenges which I really enjoyed. It is a lovely group very supportive and encouraging and I am learning lots about the writing process.

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