Another violinist/tennis player was Colin Sauer (leader of my first professional quartet – the Dartington).
Colin had been runner-up at Junior Wimbledon during the war, so was no mean player. We used to try to fit in the odd game between concerts (this was before I’d met Pinky).
Colin was in a different class as a tennis player to me and was so confident of beating me he offered to change positions in the quartet if I ever won a set. I pointed out that in order to do so I would have to spend all day every day practising my tennis and in the unlikely event of doing so would probably have forgotten how to play the violin.
I did get an insight into how champions’ minds work though when on the one occasion I got to within sniffing distance of winning a set, on a vital point I slipped and fell at the back of the court. Lying there helpless on the ground I was amazed to see him kill the ball with the utmost venom – he wasn’t going to take the slightest chance that I might somehow get back into the game. He was quite proud of this side of his otherwise gentle personality!
One summer he suggested that we enter the doubles at the local (Torquay) tournament. We then thought, as we are going, we might as well enter the singles as well.
Imagine our surprise when on arriving at the club we discovered that the 1st seed was the one time Wimbledon winner Jaroslav Drobny who along with several other top players was getting some grass court practice, pre-Wimbledon. Fortunately neither of us drew Drobny in the first round but I found myself playing Mark Cox, at the time a student and captain of Cambridge tennis team.
I have been quite nervous in my time playing late Beethoven or Schoenberg quartets but never anything like I felt as we knocked up for that match. Goodness knows what he must have thought. I couldn’t hit a single ball over the net or anywhere near him.
But adrenalin pumped through my veins and come the first game I somehow managed to produce my best services and probably because he was so surprised that I could play at all found myself 1-0 up!
Needless to say I lost the match 6-1, 6-0.