Fitness: Anyone for tennis?
It's that time of year again. Against a sound track of the steady thwack of tennis balls we are obliged to tuck into a bowl of strawberries, yell at the television and make a well meaning resolution to locate that racquet.
Wimbledon kicks off on Monday and in the spirit of the most English of sporting competitions, I headed to Blackheath Lawn Tennis Club to be put through my paces.
Coach Greg Whitecross, right, knows a thing or two about the British Grand Slam. He competed back in the late '70s and early '80s when he was knocked out by a then unknown Boris Becker. The following year Becker won the men's singles.
Having failed to squeeze into my tennis skirt - a garment that last saw the light of day in the sixth-form - I cobbled together some suitable kit and armed myself with a racquet so retro it may as well have been wooden.
A bad workman blames his tools and following a quick warm-up Greg concluded there were more pressing things to focus on - namely the power of my shots.
Greg said: "There are only two things to worry about in tennis, getting the ball over the net and inside the court."
My technique for both can only be subject to improvement. Slowing down my back swing was the first adjustment to be made to my forehand and correcting my grip to close the racket reduced the height of my shots.
Simple mistakes are easily ironed out such as which hand leads the back hand?
"Right," I answered confidently. Wrong, it's the left.
Just when I thought I had one element nailed I'd let something else slip - mastering my footwork on the back hand sent my grip out the window and the ball into the net.
Familiar problems cropped up with the serve - slowing down the ball toss and keeping my elbow up instantly improved my efforts to such an extent I managed an ace - albeit a lucky one.
Tennis is a great way to get your heart pumping and channel your competitive streak. Playing on grass is a luxury and joining a club is a great way to boost your social calender at the same time as your fitness.
Typically rain stopped play but fortunately there was no sign of Sir Cliff.
Blackheath Lawn Tennis Club has four grass courts open for five months of the year and hard courts open all year round. Annual adult membership is £240.
Go to Blackheathlawntennisclub.org.