By Brenda Parry
Growing up in England, my introduction to tennis was very much “tennis in an English garden”. Not exactly Wimbledon, but my dad, who has sadly long since passed away, used to play and belonged to a small club with two grass courts surrounded by allotments (including his own) just minutes from where we lived. My brother, sister and I used to go along to club socials in the hope of getting the chance to hit a few balls before the grown-ups came along. Of course, we were soon booted off the courts when the adults turned up to play, but my love of the game grew from that moment on.
I remember rushing home from school to watch Wimbledon on TV in the 1980s, the Borg v McEnroe and Navratilova v Evert (Lloyd) rivalries being my earliest memories. I loved the Wimbledon traditions, the theme tune and the compilations the BBC used to put together to music throughout the fortnight. By the time the Germans – Steffi Graf and Boris Becker – and Monica Seles came along, I was hooked and haven’t missed Wimbledon since despite having moved to France in 1997. Along with the rest of the nation, I was gripped by Henmania in the late 1990s/turn of the 20th century, and the victories (and defeats) of Goran Ivanisevic and Jana Novotna in the Wimbledon final are firmly engraved in my memory.
Surprisingly, I’ve never managed to get tickets in the ballot myself. I have only been a handful of times with someone who has, the highlights being People’s Sunday in 2004 when I got to cheer on the Brit and crowd favourite, Tim Henman, on Centre Court and semi-finals day in 2012, which was of course the year Andy Murray – my favourite player of recent times – made it to his first Wimbledon final. The buzz around the grounds following that win was absolutely electrifying. When he lost in the final to Roger Federer a few days later tears were streaming down my face during his post-match interview, tears that turned to tears of joy weeks later as he claimed the Olympic Gold in front of a partisan crowd beating Federer on the very same court at Wimbledon! This was quickly followed by his first Grand Slam title at the US Open, and he has since become Wimbledon champion twice. I have huge respect for what Andy Murray has achieved, and continues to achieve, on and off the court.
Rolling back the clock to when I moved to France in 1997, this is when my own tennis, which had been limited to socials and the occasional inter-club doubles match in the UK, really took off and developed. One of the first things I did upon arriving in Strasbourg was join a tennis club, as I was really keen to keep playing. It was then I realised how developed the French tennis system was, with ranking points on offer for every win, in team matches or tournaments. Being highly competitive, this fuelled my motivation to improve and compete, and I frequently entered tournaments throughout the year in the numerous clubs around Strasbourg. I am a real fighter on the court, chasing down every ball and never giving up until the last point. I am renowned among my opponents and teammates for playing three-set, three-hour matches despite my advancing age! Even through the lockdown period over the last couple of years, which has been an extremely challenging time for all, I have succeeded in maintaining my highest singles ranking (15/4) since 2012. Having also qualified as an umpire, I was once a lines judge in a professional match for a young Pierre-Hugues Herbert, which was a nerve-wracking experience.
I follow the professional circuit avidly, am active on social media and frequently attend tournaments in Europe, most notably the French Open, the Rolex Paris Masters and Les Internationaux de Strasbourg – the only professional tournament I can get to by bike! As part of the Murraynators, I have also made many friends and have been lucky enough to be present at numerous Davis Cup ties in recent years to support and cheer on Team GB from the stands. More recently I’ve not only experienced the Queue at Wimbledon but have had two absolutely fantastic experiences of working at The Championships, as a Picture Editor in the Digital Team in 2017 and as a Guest Services Team Member earlier this year.
In brief, tennis has become an all-encompassing passion – it’s not just a game, it’s a big part of my life and who I am and I wouldn’t have it any other way.