The French Open Tennis Championships began in Paris on Sunday and as usual, it is a delight to watch. The great tennis players of our time are out there playing for big money and doing their best to blast their opponents off the courts with powerful shots.
I get all nostalgic when I see the clay court and the colorful planting and flowers. Back in pre-World War II days when I was very young, I used to spend time at my grandparent’s home. They had a tennis court. Imagine, their very own clay court in the garden. I was always told that the clay was sand from ant-hills which was very fine and which produced the smooth playing surface. A servant watered and rolled the court, probably every day. The same servant, who may also have been the gardener, walked onto the court every Friday and repainted the lines, dipping his brush into a bucket of whitewash as he walked slowly along the lines.
After Friday, came the weekend. I remember the pretty young women and the handsome young men, all dressed in whites. I remember the umbrellas or more properly, the sunshades, over small tables set out on the adjacent lawn and the jugs of colored fruit juices that had been squeezed in the kitchen. The windows to the lounge, which opened out onto the lawns were thrown open and music from the piano drifted across the garden. And I remember the continuous laughter of the players and spectators at these weekend tennis parties. What fun they had. I’m sure I thought this was how my life was going to be.
I remember too, how the family sat around the large radio in the dining room and listened to the grim news of the war. No more tennis parties, no more tending the court. One by one these young people disappeared or called in, dressed in army uniform, to bid farewell to my grandparents. Some of them never came back and tennis was never played on that court again. I wonder if it’s still there…