The Inner Game of Tennis

The queue of little tents now reaches back from the gates of the All England Tennis Club to the entrance to Wimbledon park; about 300 yards. It seems to be one continuous BBQ, with many of the tents draped with national flags. It’s a very sultry afternoon here in Wimbledon and the rain we haven’t seen in weeks, appears to be working itself up to coincide with the beginning of the championships.

Last year, I managed to get tickets for the centre court on finals day but didn’t say long, as my small daughter lost interest in the tennis very quickly and showed more enthusiasm for the ice cream stand.

It all rather takes me back to my twenties, when tennis was an obsession and a source of income. It was fun while it lasted and like many others, I learned that there is a gulf between those who are good enough to scrape a living on the circuit and those, like me, who kept falling at the final hurdle. In my own case, it was very much a lack of the ‘killer instinct’ and I lost count of the number of times that I lost to an opponent when I was two sets up and at match point. Something always made me play ‘safe’ when I should have just carried on playing instinctively. In a Zen sort of way, a quarter of a century on, I realise that the moment I started thinking about my actions, my mind got in the way and interrupted the rhythm that games like tennis are built-upon.

If I was coaching again today and once upon a time, I found myself coaching a Wimbledon champion, then I would encourage any player to take-up Iaido or Tai Chi. Anything that is that allows them to develop the inner-self or in this case, the inner game of tennis.

I haven’t played for five years but maybe I’m better off concentrating on my Iaido than reminding myself that I’m not a 'wannabe' Bjorn Borg anymore.


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