Five star Milford on Sea

Queing post match for refreshments. The person serving is very cheery. In passing she says in  a surprised tone “There’s even someone here who travelled all the way from Newquay!” My craziness exposed, I admit that I am the culprit.

If I had a star rating then Milford on Sea would get five stars! The Milford on Sea event in its 23rd year, is a gem of a tournament. It’s like everyone in the place loves the game of tennis! Everything is extremely well run, with a relaxed ‘we know what we are doing’ vibe. If indeed a seniors tennis tournament is allowed to lay claim to a ‘vibe’ at all! The courts are well prepared. The paninis and cookies are moreish. There is even someone to toss a coin at the start of each match. Nice touch! For the stars of the show, there is even an umpire for the finals!

Yes it was a bit windy this year. Though once a match has started, it’s just another factor to take into account; partly frustrating, partly satisfying. Satisfying, when the wind is used to slide a serve wide of the waiting opponent’s outstretched arm. Frustrating, when my set point backhand down the line drifts wide on the wind. That’s tennis in a nutshell!

Tue 18 April

A tilt at the over 55s singles today and why not. 

There was absolutely no point in getting to the venue a little early! It needed to be early enough to get on a practice court. Immediately got snared in schools traffic! And still managed to get on court for a pre match hit. It was windy and only truly the extent was known as we tried to hit a few balls over the net. 

The wind won many points today and to assist it I found myself in my not unusually generous mood by gifting unforced errors freely. If not this, double faulting or playing the ball so short, that any half decent shot was returned, skidding away on the astroturf into the corner of the court – out of reach.

So what was going on. It felt more like a Sunday afternoon practice hit than a match I had travelled four hours to compete in. This was not the tennis I dream of, with the ball arcing away deep into my opponents court, with good pace and spin. Far from it, this was survival tennis. 

Started on the back foot and stayed on the back foot most of the day. The architect of my own downfall by being too cautious. Scraped through my first match, which could have gone either way. 5-7, 6-3, 1-0 (7) and lost my second match very tamely 1-6, 1-6. 

After one particularly atrocious game, I could feel my brain twisting itself like an elastic band, adding tension with every twist. I launch my racket at my bag at the changeover. Anticipating a soft flump of racket on bag, instead I got a hard karang! of racket on metal water bottle. Aah! that does’n’t sound good. I immediately apologise to my racket, then cradle it gently, to say sorry. Stroking it gently where the impact has caused a scratch in the paintwork.

Further indiscretion. I wack a ball hard along the ground in frustration toward the back fence. It scoots through and into the edge of the waiting undergrowth. The liberally sprinkled nettles, just coming into their own at this time of the year are waiting. Best efforts of myself, my opponent plus two spectators spend fruitless minutes searching. I reflect that non of them could have seen the frustration which sent the ball into the undergrowth. I think I would have let the culprit forage alone. Kind people here at Milford, the nettles less so. My itchy ankles are payback as we continue one ball down.

Weds 19 April

Today is another day, a fresh start with the over 60s. Sixteen players line up for the start. Fast 4 compass draw, 4 matches to play. Perfect.

Winds of 19mph today. A little more breezy than yesterday. I know what to expect. The wind is cross court this time rather than straight down the court. This is somewhat preferable as the difference either end is not as extreme. Just add a splash of sunshine from one end to keep players on their toes.

Today’s results; 

1-4, 3-4 (3) 

4-2, 2-4, 1-0(7) 


1-4, 0-4 

Accompanied by cries of frustration, mine included. There is also some laughter, mine included. 

There was not a lot to divide the first two matches. Different outcomes entirely possible. A walk over seemed beneficial at the time, while I waited for my next opponent, hoping he would tire himself out. In reality, this really was fast 4. Over and done in the blink of an eye. A nicely warmed opponent playing consistent tennis at a medium pace. It looks innocuous enough from the sideline. Never felt in it and added a variety of unforced errors, just to make the task easier for my opponent. 

Post match

As at the best tournaments, after match conversations can be interesting things, on any number of topics. Maybe include a nod to the just completed match, about how close it was or something similar. Watching matches, we analyse, we note the comparative ease of some players, the difficulties for others.

Will player x be able to adapt to that sliced backhand? – no was the answer. Why is player y trying to hit a winner from that position? 

Where are you playing next? This would be a good tournament to try?  

There are the usual grumbles about recent tournament organisation or lack of it. Here at Milford on Sea it’s a tennis oasis, a tennis time machine with all the best of the past brought up to date for the present. The only thing lacking would be the compulsory afternoon tea and cake at 3pm, for everyone whatever the score in their match. Maybe I will suggest that for next year.

Queing post match for refreshments. The person serving is very cheery. In passing she says in  a surprised tone “There’s even someone here who travelled all the way from Newquay!” My craziness exposed, I admit that I am the culprit!

Interestingly the farthest travelled player is announced to have travelled 177 miles I recollect. Nice for someone else to get the farthest travelled accolade, rather than me. I check later, just out of interest (a bit nerdy, I agree) you understand, to discover that my journey was 182 miles. From Newquay that is not an unusual distance. I will not on this occasion be writing to the organisers to point out their error!

When called upon to justify my travel, especially if I have not won the tournament. Which is always! The conversation can go something like this “Why are you travelling all that way. I’ll give you a game any time” Others look on in disbelief, that anyone would travel out of county, for something as trivial as a tennis match. The answer I have decided is not one that will satisfy anyone who has to ask the question.  

For those who know, they know. It’s for the experience. The challenge. A chance to do your best against different opponents. It’s about testing myself, to see if there is progress, adapting to the unknown. Controlling nerves and butterflies in the stomach. Accepting the wins and the losses (they still hurt) and hopefully learning from the experience. 

Setting out each time with the aim to try and win the tournament. Preparing properly, warming up, having a clear game plan. And beforehand preparing physically off court and practicing with purpose. In fact the travel to the venue is only the visible part of the preparation. 

For the investment of time and money to travel to the tournament, I owe it to myself to learn something from these two days. It would be much easier to confine the event to history and move on. Its a tough discipline to think back over disappointing performances, but here lie the nuggets of learning for improvement. It’s a flawed process, trying to provide objective analysis on something I am so heavily emotionally engaged in and difficult to stand back from. I try as best I can and log my thoughts for future reference. Time will tell.


After a month away skiing it is taking a while to get my tennis legs back. On the  practice court I have been struggling with my movement and timing of the ball. I expected some readjustment and re-aclimatisation, but not quite to this extent. The backhand has been particularly frustrating and comical in turn. I see the ball coming towards me, even slowly and then struggle to line everything up to return the ball back over the net. No regrets though as the skiing was great!

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