London — Competitve women tennis players over the age of 40 can proudly enter tournaments for veterans; over 60, those for super veterans. Men play veteran's tennis at 45 and 55 And there are some matches limited to those over 65.
Generally, the Monitor is not interested in people's ages, but in the case of veteran's tennis, it's all part of the entrance requirements. What's more, after a fairly slow start, veterans' tennis is lobbing vigorously around the world.
One of its most articulate and enthusiastic supporters is Lynn Weatherill, who has played a hard and fast game of tennis since she was a schoolgirl.
"I've never enjoyed tennis more," she asserted as we talked in her upstairs living room, within walking distance of the Houses of Parliament, where her husband serves as chairman of Ways and Means and as deputy speaker (sometimes in a wig).
There are veterans' tennis clubs and organized groups in many nations, and it is not unusual in the summer for Mrs. Weatherill to join 10 or 12 others for a long weekend of competitive tennis in Belgium or France, in Denmark, Portugal, or Spain.
There are times, she explains, when the group meets at the airport, and before this some may never have even met one another. But by the time play starts, doubles teams are formed and singles competitors are chosen, and they have already developed a "cooperative bond of support."
Mrs. Weatherill, pressed to say why tennis with other veterans is such fun, repeated her assertion that part of it is improving one's game with the encouragement and tutoring of others. A typical weekend has a Friday start, with housing taken care of by the host players. Then matches for men's singles and doubles, women's singles and doubles, and mixes doubles.
I was assured that the tennis playing was serious and highly competitive; that the players often umpire for one another; and that a national bond of camaraderie develops immediately. Or, as Mrs. Weatherill expresses it, "We play well and for sheer joy."
But what about those husbands and wives who do not play tennis? Mrs. Weatherill solves this problem in a most unusual way: She rents a villa to hold as many as four or five couples. They all put in a common purse and prepare their own meals, sharing the chores.
Those not involved with the tennis may play golf, or rest, or sight-see, or whatever. "But for a week, it's sheer heaven. Wonderful tennis, good parties, your own privacy when you want and need it, and couples together."
And what is even more pleasing and satisfying, I was told by several "veterans" I interviewed, is the learning. We're more accurate, they explained. We aren't just going for the power shot; instead, we're learning to place the ball much more skillfully. Also, we've learned a steadiness. But it was an umpire at Wimbledon who gave me the real educational lowdown:
"I've learned more tennis," she explained, "since I've been playing with these marvelous veterans from all over England. I see them do a certain serve, and I ask them to teach it to me. I now have the patience to learn, and they have the patience to teach." She paused:
"I must say, it certainly is wonderful to be able to keep playing at my age."