My son, Josh and I were so excited to attend the Quorn Family Tennis Cup in Eastbourne on Sunday.
After playing in a fun mixed generation red ball tournament organised by Josh’s coach Frances Candy at Rye LTC in the Easter holidays we had no idea that, on coming out on top, we would receive such a brilliant prize: a day of playing more family tennis at Gildredge Park in Eastbourne and free entry to Devonshire Park to watch the professionals play at the Nature Valley International open – one of the main pre-Wimbledon ‘warm-up’ tournaments.
So on the morning of Sunday June 23 we drove to Eastbourne and played five friendly matches against winners of other club tournaments around the country. They were all pretty evenly matched, although I’m sure I let my partner down with several rusty and wild shots. However, we played well and enjoyed it. Tennis is a big part of how we spend our time together as a family so it felt like a great day out from the start. Some medals and certificates were awarded (unfortunately not to us!) and we all made our way to Devonshire Park.
First stop was to catch the end of Katie Swan’s match against Zhang Shuai. The British number 5 was winning the final set 4-2 when we took our seats, but started to miss a few shots and the match quickly slipped away from her.
The quality of the tennis was mesmerising. And being so close to the players at Eastbourne makes you really notice how incredible the standard is at professional level and how physically and mentally demanding the competitive matches are.
Josh and I were keen to find a well-known player for an autograph now, so we wandered around the practice courts.
Fortunately the American player, Sloane Stephens was the first person we noticed. She was playing a practice match (wow she hits the ball hard!) which we caught the end of and then waited for her to come off court. She dutifully signed away for a few minutes and posed for photos – I felt quite star struck for a moment or two.
Josh then reminded me that we were invited to a meet and greet with a ‘mystery’ player in the press room. It turned out to be Cam Norrie the British number 2, who seemed like a really lovely guy and deflected Josh’s question: ‘Who is your least favourite tennis player?’ very ably with his response: ‘Myself, on a bad day’. Diplomatic!
He was relaxed about his path to becoming a professional tennis player, reflecting on how he just enjoyed the sport and had a normal, balanced upbringing before turning professional in his twenties: reassuring for the young ones listening in and also for the parents with aspiring tennis fanatic children – it doesn’t have to be their whole life, at least for the meantime anyway.
Our final stop before heading home was to watch some of Johanna Konta’s match against Dayana Yastremska on Centre Court. It was again incredible tennis to watch. And the atmosphere was brilliant, perhaps since Konta is not only the British number one but Eastbourne is her home town. She had a full house of supporters and went on to win the match.
It was an extremely well organised and fulfilling day and the perfect way to spend time with my eldest son.
I am very grateful for how much he loves his tennis and to Rye LTC and Frances Candy who have helped him fall in love with the sport; we almost depend on it as parents with four young children to entertain.
Now I think we are hooked on watching live tennis as well! And Josh’s first question when we got in the car to drive home: “Can we play tennis this evening?” No! School tomorrow…
Image Credits: Frances Candy, Daisy Edmondson.