The tension was building on Court Five at the Aegon International at Devonshire Park on Tuesday lunchtime.
A group were seen to walk past, observe the unlikely ensemble of players and remark rather loudly, “Well, they’re not very good are they?”
They were referring, of course, to Yours Truly who teamed up with sports writer Andy Naylor of the Brighton Argus, to take on the might of BBC South East weather girl Rachel Mackley and Daily Telegraph features writer Jake Wallis-Simons in a set of mixed doubles to mark the tournament’s 40th anniversary.
The journey from absolute beginner to tournament participant had begun six weeks earlier when the LTA threw down the gauntlet and challenged four journalists to improve their game.
I had regular training sessions each week with Francis Mackie and the team at Tennis In The Park, a workshop with up and coming tennis star Kyle Edmund and Davis Cup captain Leon Smith at the National Tennis Centre in London and engrossed myself in the French Open to learn the scoring system and pick up points.
A brand new Babolat racket and a Nike tennis outfit were thrown in to the equation and, after having an early glass of Pimms for Dutch Courage, I was feeling optimistic as we were introduced to our opponents at midday. After all, my serve was looking good, I could get it over the net, my cursing was under control and I knew where to stand on the court – roughly.
Our supporters lined up along the side, we had line judges, ball girls and boys and a lovely umpire, the sun was shining and the Devonshire Park’s infamous wind was only moderate. Nothing could go wrong.
I was already planning where to place the coveted Love 40 Media Match trophy on the mantel piece at home as myself and Andy racked up the points and were hugging a 5-4 lead. But quicker than you could say, “I’ll have a large Pimms with strawberries and cream”, Rachel and Jake hit back and despite our best efforts we lost 7-5.
Still, it was all good fun and as everyone says, it’s the taking part that counts.
And I can put it down as one of the highlights of my career as it was a fantastic opportunity to be able to play in the tournament.
I decided to drown my sorrows in a rather large jug of Pimms for the vast majority of the day but to top off a perfect day was called up to Tennis In The Park in Gildredge Park by my lovely long suffering coach Francis Mackie and his wife Gemma to be presented with, not a restraining order, but a beautiful Runners Up engraved trophy. Anyone for tennis?!
A few tickets are still available to watch world-class tennis in Eastbourne and can be purchased from the tournament ticket office at Devonshire Park from 10am each day or via www.ageoninternational.co.uk Tel 0844 581 3015. Outstanding matches featuring international star players will be staged every day until Saturday.