No wonder British tennis has been in the doldrums for decades.
As I recently discovered, trying to find a public court to play on on a glorious summer’s day in Worthing and Lancing is not as easy as the tennis authorities would have us believe.
After taking advantage of Impulse Leisure’s promotional campaign to allow users to play for free in July a fortnight before, I was looking forward to playing there again last Friday, having definitely caught the tennis bug once more. The attempt to play was thwarted because of the arrival of the school summer holidays, which meant that the courts had been taken over by a soccer school.
Predictably, both the courts at Church Road in Tarring were occupied, so it was on next to Homefield Park. After wasting energy trying to find a working ticket meter in the car park, we located the attendant, who, with all the enthusiasm that I have come to expect from local ‘customer service delivery providers’, advised us that, in addition to the hourly court cost of £6.70, we would be required to leave a deposit of £30 to take possession of the court key.
At that point, we should have turned on our heels and bolted, but we were probably persuaded by our successful attempt to negotiate a half-price deal on the deposit at £15.
Undeterred, we proceeded to the courts, or ‘court’, more accurately, as the net had collapsed on one of the courts and the others resembled a war zone. Following our hour, we discovered that the attendant had left a message on our phone advising us that she had gone to lunch and would not be available for an hour to collect the key and return the deposit. It hadn’t occurred to her, of course, at the time we booked the court to tell us that this would be happening.
The deposit was duly returned after an unscheduled stop for lunch, but at the end of an experience that we hadn’t bargained for at the start of our tennis adventure. I wonder what Andy Murray would have made of it.