Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Forfeit

During a particularly bleak moment in my glorious career, I was on the phone to my mother wailing about the atrocities being enacted upon me.

Even with the benefit of distance, they were indeed atrocities.

However at one point mother came over all US inspirational rather than her usual biblical. She said: 'Winners never quit and quitters never win."

It must have been running on the TV at the time over in America The phrase came to mind on Saturday morning after round 4 of the tennis club tournament.

On Thursday late in the morning still recovering from a quick snap of bad belly, I phoned up to ask if the Thursday night match could be rearranged. Too late the organiser said. We'll phone your opponent to tell him not to come. I looked out the window at the dark clouds looming and figured natural forces might intervene. "I'll phone back at 6pm," I said.

As I emerged from my slumbers later that afternoon, the sun had decided to do the same and there was no way the heavens were going to open.

And since I needed some fresh air, what better way to obtain it than by running after a tennis ball. So off I trotted expecting a rapid annihilation.

After the first few games I thought to myself this is winnable - if only I had my usual pep. Should have won the first set. Didn't. Got the second set. And could not hold serve in the final set. The opponent served for the match at 5-4 but I levelled and so - with night enveloping the clay court, we moved to the floodlit hard court.

6-5 to me. 6-6. Tie break and this is where it got a bit heady. I squandered three match points from 6-3 then it went on from saving match points to losing them. And at 14-13 to me he hit a poor forehand and it limped into the net.

Match. More than three hours later.

Matchday four - to get all UEFA Champions League about it - was on Saturday morning. And after losing my opening service game I broke back and then gritted on to win 6-1 6-0.

Not as easy as the score line looks. "We have the same kind of defensive game," the opponent concluded. "Only you were more solid than me."

Once back in the club house I was told that matchday five was on Sunday morning. But I was on a train to London. Not good enough as an excuse. I asked if my beaten opponent could play instead of me. Not allowed. For that to happen I would have had to abandon at 5-0 up in the second set. And I didn't do that.

And I wasn't about to cancel work to play a very amateur tennis match.

So my unseen adversary marches on - the beneficiary of my Paris London lifestyle rather than my quitter mentality. The organiser at the club had offered to bring the match forward to late Saturday afternoon.

But given what had happened earlier in the week and the fact that I had an evening out with the family lined up, it wouldn't have been the most clever of moves.

Or as the missus put it - "You don't want to injure yourself."

That's game, set and match on every level.

Simply Eurostar

'"Are you Mick Hucknall?" - "Not at this time in the morning...." Simply deadpan really. I said to the rock megastar know what you mean and paid a compliment to the stuff he'd belched out over the years. He graciously accepted the compliment and asked if I knew which bit of the coffee machine to prod. I suggested asking one of the lounge assistants.

Woudn't call it rubbing shoulders but he was cool. Ronnie Corbett and his wife were just ace and Eric Cantona had presence.

Wow travelling between London and Paris can be pure showbiz.

Mr Hucknall and his companion probably went on to savour the delights of ├╝berclass while I dug into the more modest second sphere of travel.

And simply read.