I’ve been think about yesterday’s post and about how why the average tennis match needs to take three and a half hours to complete and whether there might be a speedier version.
I was thinking in terms of 20 Twenty Cricket which has been incredibly successful and then I realised that I’d discovered the answer over forty years ago — Hymn Book Tennis.
We used to play this in my first few years at senior school during Wimbledon fortnight when we all became tennis mad for the duration, thanks to the likes of Fred Stolle, Tony Roche and John Newcombe.
The equipment was very simple — a piece of chalk, a hymn book, a few school bags and a hardcore playground for the court.
We’d start off by laying the line markings in chalk on the floor exactly like a normal tennis court, but quite a bit smaller. The school bags were then lined up across the middle to form the net.
The “racket” was the school standard issue hymn book, chosen because it was small enough to be held in the palm of the hand and hardbacked enough to give the normal tennis ball a good thwack.
The rules were exactly the same, although we avoided all that running around by playing on our knees or in a squatting position. We even took it in turns to be umpire and it was quite skillful in its own way.
It had its drawbacks as a spectator sport because you couldn’t get more than eight people around the court and you’d need mobile phone sized cameras to put it on the telly. There were also inherent dangers, such as scabbed knees and detention if the head caught you desecrating your hymn book.
But the point is, it was quick. We could play a three set match in the morning break and several five setters at lunchtime, so applied to Wimbledon, the whole tournament could be wrapped up in a couple of days.
As would the pain of not having a home player in the final. Again.