* * * *
A few weeks after Nathan's success in the Junior Nationals, Jez was practising with Brian and
Mike, when a man cycled over and asked if he was in time for the coaching class. When Mike
explained that the lesson had taken place the previous day, the man looked so disappointed
that Jez offered him a half-hour individual lesson at the weekend.
"Thanks very much!" said the man, who revealed he had heard about the coaching from the
At the weekend, a pirate television transmission had gone out over the entire southern region
of the UK. During an episode of the Teletubbies, viewers had heard a squeaky voice promoting
the coaching programme available at Upper Gummtrey Tennis Club. The incident had attracted
equal amounts of favourable and adverse publicity, and although demand for his coaching
courses had suddenly rocketed, Jez's pleasure at the unexpected windfall had been offset by
the disconcerting experience of being grilled for several hours at the local police station.
Whilst unquestionably blameless himself, Jez had a fairly shrewd idea Nathan's father
was behind it all.
"Have you been playing much?" Jez asked the cyclist.
The man shrugged. "Well, I had a game last week. It didn't go too well. I forgot to get my
racket back early. I forgot to point at the ball. I forgot to bend my knees on my
volleys. I also forgot to change ends because . . . because I even forgot the score. Will you
be able to help me?"
While Jez pondered the problem, Mike advised in a low voice. "Make sure he pays in advance!"
After a short conversation, the man got back in the saddle and pedalled slowly away.
"Hang on!" called Jez, running after him with an outmoded aluminium racket. "You've
"Did I hear one of the juniors fell over and cut himself earlier on?" Brian asked Mike as the
two of them sauntered off towards the clubhouse.
"Yes," Mike confirmed. "Looked pretty nasty at the time, but he didn't need stitches."
"Jez got his first-aid qualification last week, didn't he? That must have come in useful."
Mike raised his eyebrows. "Oh yes. His technique was excellent!"
"Eh? Good! What did he do?"
"What, Jez? He sat on the bench and put his head between his knees to stop himself fainting!"
Brian was still coughing when Jez caught up with them.
As was often the case at this time, Jez steered the conversation to Australia, where he and
Mike and Nathan were heading during the winter.
"I'm really excited about it," said Jez. "Wonderful country. They're religious about sport!
Mike and I are thinking of emigrating to Australia one day."
"Eh? Come off it, you two don't really know anything about the country!" Brian scoffed.
"Sure we do!" asserted Jez. "Test us then!"
"Mmm, right. What's the capital of Australia?"
"That's easy. It's 'A'!" said Jez.
Brian caught his pipe as it dropped from his lips. "Come on, seriously chaps!" he spluttered.
"Mmm, now. What state is Sydney in?"
"He's in a terrible state!" said Mike, grinning. "He's flat on his back in the clubhouse. Just
played a five-setter with Neil!"
"I should have seen that one coming!" said Brian with a grimace.
A few months later, Jez and Nathan were sitting together in the players' dressing room
at Melbourne Park, discussing tactics in advance of the Boys Final. Nathan had taken full
advantage of his wildcard and had beaten the top seed in the semi finals, despite a point
penalty for racket abuse at 5-5 in the final set.
"It won't be enough to serve and volley," said Jez. "You're going to have to chip and charge
"Where's my racket?"
"It's over there, cowering in the corner!" Jez observed, fixing him with a slightly icy stare.
"Keep your racket in your hand this time! Don't forget now - chip and charge! Do it on his
second serves at least. If you keep pressurising him and deny him time, you'll be all right."
"Are we gonna go surfing before we go home?" asked Nathan. "I wanna go to Bells Beach. We can
hire some wetsuits. What the hell? If I win, I'm gonna buy us some wetsuits and a
surfboard each. I wanna get me some beach culture. What do you think?"
"I don't think chip and charge will make any difference," said Jez, gloomily.
"Don't worry, Jez!" said Nathan, spinning the racket on his finger. "I was listening!
I'll chip and charge him to death!"
* * * *
Upper Gummtrey Tennis Club organised a lavish reception for Nathan and Jez on their triumphant
return from Australia. Brian and the committee members and a number of enthusiastic volunteers
had decorated the fencing with bunting and organised a balloon release and firework display. A
sumptuous champagne buffet awaited them in the clubhouse and a large gathering of friends,
neighbours and club members awaited them outside the club gate.
"Did you miss him a lot?" asked Pauline, as Tracey brushed snow from the path. "It's been a
long time, especially with them staying on for the Open."
"Yes, I'm really glad he's back. It's done him good though. He's kind of grown up a lot and
become more mature. Nicer, somehow. Spooky!" She pointed to a snowman just off the path
near the car park. "I told him about the snowman and how the kids had put the bandana round its
head in his honour and everything. And he was really interested! Said he'd organise a
snowball fight for them after the buffet. He's become very sensitive and thoughtful really."
At that moment, the air was rent asunder by the blaring of a car horn and a huge cheer
went up as Jez and Nathan emerged, singing 'We are the champions!' with such an infectious
exuberance that the whole crowd took up the refrain. Jez brandished the racket that had won
the Australian Junior Open, pulled the carrot from the snowman's face, took a bite and
announced, "Thanks everybody! Great to see you all!"
Then, as Tracey watched with her mouth agape, he proceeded to decapitate the snowman with
something resembling a sliced backhand, snatched up the bandana and proclaimed, "Wimbledon,
here we come!"