Home' Scoop : Scoop 50 Summer 2009 Contents 112 SCOOP SUMMER 2009
Want a great way to burn off the kilos
and have fun at the same time?
Head to the tennis courts this summer...
text norman burns « images tim lofthouse
Cliff Richard has it. Boris Yeltsin
had it. Roger Federer definitely
has it, as does rapper Snoop
Dogg. Belgian Kim Clijsters has
it so bad, she made a comeback.
Perth's Hayden Gibson has it. And so do I. The
"it" is a love of tennis, a game deeply ingrained
in the Australian sporting psyche. Names such as
Newcombe, Roche, Hoad, Laver, Court, Goolag-
ong and "Muscles" Rosewall dominated the sport
in the pre-Open era (before 1968) and in the
early years of professionalism -- unluckily for them
before the megabucks arrived.
Australia, despite Lleyton Hewitt's dogged
determination and occasional winning streaks by
talented athletes such as WA's Casey Dellacqua and
Queenslander Sam Stosur, no longer stands like a
Colossus astride the tennis arena.
The reasons for our "demise" are myriad, and
complex. Aussies grew up on grass courts, but now
there are just a handful of grass court tournaments
left (one a minor affair in London's SW19). Other
sports caught the public's imagination; maybe the
"hunger" to succeed was stronger in other coun-
tries where tennis (and its riches) offered an escape
from the daily grind (Russia, sign in please).
Being good enough for "the Tour" (women's or
men's) is one thing; making it big another.
Former touring pro Hayden Gibson, 32, knows
full well the rigours of week-in, week-out competi-
tion. The former WA Open champion reached a
world ranking of 500 before injury stalled, then
ended, his pro career. But not his love for the
game. Hayden now runs two busy tennis shops
in Perth and is a director on the board of Tennis
West, the sport's peak body in the state.
He still hits a mean ball, as I found out when
we teed up a game in "match conditions" for the
photo shoot for this article.
Anyone for sphairistike?
While various forms of "tennis" date back to the
1300s, we can thank British Army Major Walter
Clopton Wingfield for forming the basis of the
modern game. In 1873 he designed, patented and
marketed a lawn tennis game he dubbed "sphairis-
tike" (Greek for ball game) that could be played
outdoors. Selling the whole kit and kaboodle in a
box for around five pounds, the game -- but not the
name -- caught on. The good major eventually fig-
ured out just calling it lawn tennis was a better bet,
and so it proved. Four years later the first Wimble-
don tournament was held and by 1896 tennis was
one of the sports at the modern Olympics.
~ Continued on page 114
LET IT RIP: Perth's Hayden Gibson
shows the style that took him to
the men's professionial circuit.
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