I have become a tennis fan.
If you'd asked me even two years ago whether I liked tennis, I would have muttered something about Wimbledon and changed the subject.
But now, I'm a proper fan. I have an app on my phone – well several in fact – that give me draws, results, news and basically minute-by-minute update on matches and tournaments... day and night. I shout at the TV too, when I am worried that the amazingly wonderfully fabulous Andy Murray won't win.
And I love it.
The reason why? FJM has taught me about it. He's explained the rules, the way the points system works – ANDY MURRAY IS NUMBER 2 IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW YOU KNOW? – and who's who in the amazing ATP and WTA tour and beyond.
He's taken me to see live tennis at Rotterdam, Queens and Eastbourne and last night we got the double treat of watching Belinda Bencic and Andy Murray win their respective tournaments in Canada (on TV sadly). It was brilliant.
Growing up I had an average interest in sport. Top of the list was rounders – possibly because it was the first sport I learnt and I was the least deaf then – and then hockey, netball, tennis and cross country running were all grouped together in the 'things I regularly tried to get out of' category.
Looking back, apart from the cross country running, which is just evil, I think part of the problem with the other sports was that I had no idea what was going on. I had no idea what the rules were – and for some reason it never occurred to me to find out – and I couldn't hear the teacher yelling instructions or the whistle.
Randomly though, this didn't stop my PE teachers from putting me in the teams. I was goal keeper in hockey and a wing for the year above. I had absolutely no idea what a short corner was (to this day I still don't) and yet I still had to take them, which usually involved the referee yelling something at me until I thwacked the ball in the vague direction of someone on my team and hoped for the best.
With tennis, I really didn't understand the rules and it didn't help that the teacher had the strongest Welsh accent in the world and a beard. It would have been easier trying to lipread a chipmunk on a trampoline. He'd shout and yell at me and I had no clue what was going on. I used to be pushed forward and back in doubles, hit the ball in all directions and gradually – in about two weeks flat – decided that I hated tennis.
Why didn't I say, 'Um, Sir, what the hell is going on?' Well I guess at 8 years old, and not yet aware of the fact that I was going deaf, I just assumed that everyone else had no clue what was going on. Something I did a lot back then. I thought that French listening was meant to be difficult to hear and that Dictation – where the teacher read out a story that you had to write down, was intermittent words so you had to make up the rest.
I did not understand school at all. It felt like one big challenge that I couldn't work out.
Looking back, I wish I had known about my deafness back when I first started to learn tennis. I wish I had been the proactive, TELL ME WHAT I'VE MISSED, person that I am now, as I might have actually learnt it earlier, been able to play it and understand it, and had a lifetime of being a fan under my belt. As it was, I was so completely hopeless that I got moved down to join the juniors with the giant red plastic racquets and yellow foam balls, which destroyed any interest I had in the sport for the next 25 years.
All is not lost however, because I get it now. I understand and love it.
So perhaps now I should see if I can put my knowledge into practice and try actually playing tennis again. Twenty five years later, you never know, I could be alright.
Happy Monday peeps