1976 to 2016…..A career in tennis
I have been both very lucky and extremely privileged to have been involved in tennis for the past 40 years. It all began by visiting Wimbledon in 1974 standing on centre Court watch the men’s semi-final between Stan Smith and Ken Rosewall.
Rosewall coming back from 2 sets down to win in 5. Just as tiring for a young teenage lad standing in one position for about 5 hours, I was exhausted!
In 1975 watching Arthur Ashe dismantle the brash defending champion Jimmy Connors in the final was pretty epic too, only this time I watched from the comfort of my armchair at home.
1976 was the big year for me. The arrival of my idol Bjorn Borg. Different from the smart middle class tennis player Borg brought Rock and Roll, sex appeal and a young hoard of fans which changed the game forever. A quiet unassuming young man with a headband, figure hugging Italian designer wear attire and wielding a tennis racket like no other player before him. Heavy topspin and a fitness and speed level beyond any player of his generation. This was my time to start playing, inspired by a fantastic role model, the new generation of tennis was born.
Having taken some lessons once a week for a year and attending a weekly class too I found tennis pretty easy to do, so as I love teaching, I decided to become a tennis coach. So one year on from starting to play the game that would influence my life, the shy left handed slightly built boy from east London became a full time tennis coach, qualified and all!
I gave up my office job and started working for the centre where I had started learning myself.
I always believed in certain aspects of life that had to stay true to me and my future in the game if I was to have any longevity in the sport and after around 50,000 hours on court I think these are important lessons to remember:
During the years of teaching the game I managed to have shares in my very own tennis club, become a tutor for coaches with the PTR and worked with some really great inspiring coaches who have inspired me during my career. I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to meet many great trainers and players during my career.
To name but a few of them:
Mike Matthews, Stuart Braithwaite, Lionel Bradford, Adrian Rattenbury, Clive Carrigan, Mike Barrell, Ken DeHart, Leo Alonso, Dr Mark Kovacs, Andy Dowsett & Anne Pankhurst who is the best, a superb motivator and devotee to tennis. Thanks to all of you and others not mentioned.
In an ideal world I would love to get these coaches together at the National Tennis Centre along with Diana Wilkinson and together the group would be truly putting tennis on the map. Dreams heh!
I hope that I have helped nurture and inspired young coaches who have worked with me over the years including Jaime Cotton, Jon Guntley, Chaz Khan, Jamie Vivian, Andrew McNeil, John Golding, Craig Miller, Ash Davis & Karl Mills. Again it would be great to bring the ‘Dream Team’ together again.
I have had great tennis partnerships along the way, Diana Wilkinson (Kennett) the best person I have worked with in tennis and a great friend too, the PTR family including Dan Santorum, Julie Jilly and Jorge Andrew and the rest of the staff at Hilton Head. Very proud to have met you all in 2013.
Over the years I have been very lucky to have witnessed 2 Great Golden Eras.
Borg, McEnroe Connors plus Evert & Navratilova in the 70’s & 80’s, and now Federer, Nadal and Djokovic plus the only British male winner of Wimbledon in my career Andy Murray.
My personal all-time list of players is as follows:
In the Men’s game:
Other players who contributed, Rafael Nadal, a great fighter and superb sportsman, Jimmy Connors, what a great fighter. Andre Agassi a charismatic skilful superb ball striker.
In the women’s game:
Other great players.
Chris Evert….A graceful champion, Evonne Cawley…Another graceful player, Serena Williams..…An icon for young girls to take up the sport.
Yes I have been blessed. Watched great players, worked with great coaches and taught an array of wonderful people, young and old, beginner to advanced levels. I have loved it all and will continue to do so for many years to come. 50,000 and counting!
Thank you Tennis…Thank you all!!
Some of the places I have coached/played at:
Aldersbrook Tennis Club Wanstead
Bourneside Tennis Club Southgate
Bradfords Tennis Academy Buckhurst Hill Essex
Conway Tennis Club Southgate
David Lloyd Dartford
David Lloyd National Centres for PTR
Drummond Tennis Club Essex
Hacienda Del Alamo Spain
Holly Park Georgians Muswell Hill
Lee Valley Olympic Park
Linkside Tennis Club Essex
Muswell Hill Methodist Tennis Club
Old Albanians St Albans
Parkside Tennis Club Southgate
PTR HQ Hilton Head Island USA
PTR National Courses
Queenswood School Hertfordshire
Rookfield Tennis Club, Muswell Hill
I have been very lucky thus far to be under the guidance and tuition of a true legend of the game of tennis, someone who works tirelessly to improve and shows a true passion and love for the game. Even after all these years he is always looking to learn, and above all his enjoyment of the game is infectious whenever you are around him as a fellow coach or as his student of any age, he will get you smiling whether you are 4 or 84 and give you a run around. To all tennis coaches out there enjoy doing the greatest job in the world, keep it fun, keep learning, keep inspiring and keep working hard.
Yes, Phil has truly been the most loyal, talented and inspirational coach I have ever worked with....and there have been a few! Brought tears to my eyes and many fond memories indeed. Let’s keep adding to the list of clubs as there are many years to go.
Hey Phil great post, I can't believe you have been coaching 40 years, what an amazing effort, thank you for hiring me all those years ago(22 to be precise) Holly park junior tennis club, I was stacking shelves at Waitrose not really knowing what I wanted to do, I remember meeting you for the interview and you said that you were doing a taster session at a school and did I want to come along, so off we went Diana, you Mel and me and that was it I was hooked, I had found my passion, so thanks again for giving me the opportunity to get into coaching, for be a great mentor and giving me a great base to build from. Jaime
Wow what an amazing tennis journey you have had and still continuing.
I am so grateful for you introducing me to tennis coaching back in 1993 in those heading days at Rookfield TC alongside the ever enthusiastic Diana Wilkinson. You both saved me from the fashion modelling industry. I had no career and financial direction. You gave me the opportunity to escape and go again in life.
So I will never forget that.
I learnt so much being with you and Diana. The sport has allowed to meet so many amazing people here and abroad, and allowed me to make a very good living.
Once again so grateful to you Phil.
Huge thank you to Phil for the mention in this inspiring post and thanks for starting my coaching career off. Would be great to get everyone together again. Thank you for starting my teaching career. I clearly learned from the best as a young coach and now look where I am all thanks to you sir.
Well done Phil 40 years is amazing, enjoyed reading about your life and experiences. Thank you and Diana for all of your help when I first started at Holly Park and Georgians had 2 great years, those years I will never forget!
Phil thank you for your daily input to tennis and life. You are also one of life's greats.
Great inspiration Phil. Nearly 12 years since I met you in MK on my first course as a 16 year old and I took a lot from a fellow left handed player. I have also had the pleasure of working with some of the people in your list whose knowledge and love for the game has also helped me as a coach. Great Post and hope you have a fantastic 2016.
Bjorn & Patricia Borg..........
Keep up the good work! Happy New Year!
Thanks Phil for your influence in my career as well as others mentioned in your post! I would not be doing what I am now if it wasn't for you guys.
Really inspiring post Phil! Have learnt so much from you, Andy and the team already and it inspires me to keep going, playing and what I can continue on to achieve!
Terrific, insightful post Phil. Happy New Year and all the best for the next 40!
What a great tennis life story! Thanks for sharing
Awesome bio Phil looking forward to working with you in the next 40 years!
Wow! A true great! What a legend! Well done mate
What a career Phil. Privileged to know you. Great read for all tennis people
Awesome Phil, outstanding.
Rachel Bennett ..........
A great read Phil - tennis and you and Jamie have had a big influence on our family in the last few years- I wonder where it will take us in 40 years’ time!