cumberland cup 2010

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The Cumberland Cup mixed tennis tournament is supposed to star today with the mens qualifying rounds. However, the good old British weather has intervened and it may be easier to decide results by breastsroke across the courts as it has been raining all night and seems down for the day. I arrived yesterday to set up the stringing equipment in the top floor of this very famous tennis/squash club that has now linked up with the adjoining cricket club to offer a rare large expanse of greenery in East Hampstead.

Rackets came in pretty fast yesterday and I was kep busy from around 1pm up to 10pm. A lot of poly as usual and nothing unusual in terms of new rackets or strings. The Tournament Director is Sarah Price and she seems on the ball, the stringing is being done within the tournament office, lots of space, murky view of the GPO Tower and the never ending passage of the traffic warden, hunting for the unwary motorist - The meter gobbles cash at the rate of 20 pence per 7.5 minutes and £40 if you dont get your timing right. This happened to me 2 yrs ago, in between rackets - and it is surprising how expert one can become at launching tennis balls at wardens from the adjoining balcony - not me of course.

  • Martin -Wilson K - Big Banger @ 55lbs x 2
  • Campbell - Wilson K - Mains Big Banger, crosses VS gut @ 61lbs
  • Laporte - Wilson K - TF Promix 1.30 @ 59lbs
  • Hand - 03 Speedport Tour - Prince Polygut @ 65lbs x 3
  • Bradshaw - Wilson K - Prince Polygut 17g @ 57lbs x 3
  • Pritchard - Head Prestige - Mains Apollo Poly @ 61lbs, Head syngut crosses @ 61lbs
  • Turner - Wilson Blade - Big Banger @ 55lbs

It is now Sunday morning and I am about to start on my first racket of the day, Head Extreme Pro Mid+, Big Banger in the mains and Wilson Extreme in the crosses, all at 56lbs. This came in last night but I saved it for today, to get me started.

Radio 2 reception is good, two coffees down my throat, the players are unsurprisingly all asking"When will the rain stop?" or "When do we start?" An early morning arrival was a coach from Slovenia, over here to link up with his 19yrs old daughter, arriving today from Munich. We discussed the philosophy of enriching the "inner being" and not seeking to chase materialistic goals. I nneded another coffee after all that.

Monday morning - No rain so far, weather forecast fair for today. Just 7 rackets in yesterday. Part of the problem for the stringer is that this London tournament is popular with lots of players who live within 20 miles and who are able to commute and can bring along their freshly strung rackets from their clubs. Most of them will be in the qualifying stages and I expect that as that concludes, the bulk of the stringing will be from the overseas players, the brits generally having been eliminated, not a very positive view on British Tennis, but realistic!

Tuesday - Rained for most of the day and just 4 rackets in for stringing. I have spent most of today on the laptop, keeping in contact with UKRSA members and other stringers around the world. At around 10pm, Nigel Smethurst, the tournament physio and I decided to have a walk into Hampstead and look for a good pub to have a pint. After about 15 mins, we did indeed find a pub that seemed to fit the bill. It was busy, bustling with customers, looking smart and welcoming. Nigel began to speed up, no doubt in anticipation of that well-earned pint. I began to follow him and then there was something in the back of my mind holding me back ...

Earlier in the day I had googled around for "Hampstead pubs" to see where they might be and maybe save us some time hunting around. I suddenly remembered one particular pub, very famous and extremely popular for a certain crowd. The "King William 1V" looked just like the image I had seen on my Google search. The only problem was that its nickname is "King Willy" and the young man standing outside the door and taking an interest in Nigel was wearing lipstick. As I steered Nigel out of the doorway and away from the pouting admirer, Nigel muttered "I get the message, I get the message" Things then got a bit more dodgy as we got a little bit lost in our efforts to circumvent the King Willy and I realised we were heading towards Hampstead Heath, popular with George Michael for meeting people. So I dragged Nigel back towards the only other pub and our very well earned drink - at £4.00 a pint.

By now it was 11.30pm and we decided to ease our nerves with another pint back at the hotel. There was a crowd of very retired chaps from the North who were returning from a day of horse racing at Brighton and we soon developed a rapport with them. As the pints disappeared, I began to think that I had never met such a well mannered bunch of real gentlemen. Unfortunately, at 1.30am, a group of Germans arrived, weary, ready for a refreshing drink and looking forward to the big England/Germany match on Wednesday. It was like Jekyll and Hyde all over again, with a bit of Fawlty Towers thrown in. Our once sober/now inebriated new friends from the North suddenly imagined that they could speak German and by the looks of the new arrivals and the mirth of our new friends, it was evident that anglo German relations were on the slippery slope. As the average height and weight of the opposition was about 6ft 3ins and 90kgs, we abandoned the bar, deciding that we were no longer thirsty and that if asked by police the next day for a statement, that we knew nothing!

Wednesday - Rain for most of the day again and for the first time ever in the middle of a tournament week, no rackets in at all. Yeterday, the ladies were bussed out to a local indoor centre (Westwood) and got through some matches, not too popular with the players as they suddenly had to switch to a carpet surface. Today it was the turn of the men to wander around London. The evening Tournament Barbeque was abandoned and for most of the day the players were fixated on their wireless laptops, seemingly now part of the travelling necessities for any touring pro. Each LTA Tournament Office has a wireless modem that can be accessed by all (including me of course) so you can have lots of players dotted all over the office, jabbering away in foreign tongues on Skype.

Thursday - Rain again for most of the day. We are using hard courts, they take about an hour to dry off and so play is soon resumed. Everyone was transported over to the local David Lloyd Club in the early evening and they got through a lot of matches before calling it a day at 1150pm. I had just 4 rackets in all day, amazing. I am busier with general tournament duties than with actual stringing. First thing in the morning I help to get the balls, baskets, name boards etc downstairs to the Control Desk, photocopy the order of play/results, distribute these and answer the phone. The Tournament Stringer is part of the TEAM and so must be prepared to help out in any way. These events depend on good teamwork and everyone mucking in.

Friday - A strange bright light in the sky, the frogs and ducks have scarpered off the courts and the players have had to get out on court on time for a change. Not much to report today, the matches have progressed well, nobody is too bothered about restringing, either within reach of their own local clubs or just not having played enough matches to tire out the strings.

One of the three people covering the stringing here in the club was stringing a racket and I got into conversation with him. He was double pulling everything and using Pro Hurricane. I did not see any restringing posters or price lists in the club, or any information to the members on what string to choose etc. They have around 900 members, so I thought that the restringing work alone would be almost a full time role - 900 x 2 restrings per year (at least) @ around the £12 profit margins brings you above £20K and they have a small shop as well.

Saturday - Maurice Mosdell kindly agreed to travel down into London to look after the stringing whilst I travelled over to support the Andy Gudgeon Golf Day in Devon. I got away around 8am and by 10.20 I was on the M4 and seeing some alaring signs warning me of "Long Delays" on the M5 between Junctions 19 to 24. I popped into a service station and the chap had access to the AA traffic reports. There was a 20+ miles long queue on the stretch where I was to travel and so after waiting to see if the problem lessened, I had to turn back. A 200 miles trip to no avail. When I got back, Maurice had completed one racket for Thomas Oger, one of the finalists.

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