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A Close Encounter of the Hird Kind

Posted on July 4, 2009 | in Tournament | by

When an invitation came our way to compete in the Royal Tennis Court’s summer handicap doubles tournament, Malcolm Howlett and I jumped at this rare opportunity. "Oh you play real tennis, like Henry VIII at Hampton Court?". "Well, yes!". Although this is not actually Henry’s 1530 court, but one that was completed circa 1626. This was fortunate timing since we arrived at 1700.

The tournament was played on a time-limited format (30 mins), so the pair in front when the bell sounded won the game. Note to Fixture Secretary selves: a great way to control court timings. Note to Player selves: weird not being able to target a set number of games.

We squeaked through undefeated in the Friday evening round robin stage, which included a rubber against two members of the Hird Dynasty (mother and the "other place" triplet). Congratulations to Doris and Sarah who went on to win the plate tournament.

I think our primary focus on Sunday, having endured a hot, blocked M25, was to stay around for more than just 30 minutes. We managed to win through tight matches in the quarters and semis by just sneaking ahead in the final minutes. At times I could hear a Buddhist chant – stay calm, keep the ball down, get serve, keep serve, serve tight, make them work. Oh, and stay calm. Thanks Malcolm.

But then….in the final we met another Hird, this time one of "ours". Karen played with Kate Lawrence, a provisional 60-ish handicap, and our Zen mindset was defeated by Karen’s court coverage and accuracy – I think it’s called talent – coupled with Kate’s ability to keep her concentration and play a really solid game. We lost 4-6 and our tactical plan almost worked. Let’s face it winning RTC’s internal tournament would have been impolite, but that didn’t stop us from trying as hard as we could.

Thanks to all at RTC for their friendly welcome and hospitality (and prizes). And finally a word of advice to the tourist who departed the galleries stating "It’s just a load of old blokes playing tennis"………Dude, you watched the wrong match!

Gerald Smith

Gerald Smith, Karen Hird, Kate Lawrence and Malcolm Howlett runners up in the Hampton Court Handicap Doubles
Gerald Smith, Karen Hird, Kate Lawrence, Malcolm Howlett: Summer Handicap Doubles at Hampton Court

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