funny in an individual sport that when I look back at the
emotional highs (particularly)
and lows they are dominated by team matches.
Maybe that says something about my personality that I like being
able to make a real difference, but the true value I feel is
only when in the context of other people being part of it.
BEATING DADDY - EVENTUALLY...
I remember the earliest lows vividly and they were, however,
very much individual performances. Taking on the greatest
sportsman of his time (in my mind), I used to come home
absolutely distraught at having been resoundingly been beaten (again)
by my Dad!
Although having had to follow his father into farming, my Dad
was an excellent cricketer, hockey player and as I discovered
squash player. Despite my best efforts, I just couldnít win a
game and as with all great sportsmen he made it look so easy Ö.
Grrrr so annoying!! Many tears were shed, and although
eventually I did get the win, more importantly I had learnt to
persevere, and if at first (second, third, Ö) you donít succeed.
BEST IN AL-AHRAM...
my biggest highs and lows occurred in Egypt.
The Al Ahram International was one of the major events on
the tour at the time and whilst the early rounds were on the
traditional courts at Cairo Stadium, the Last 16 was scheduled
for the incredible setting of in front of the Giza Pyramids.
Having qualified for the main draw, I drew World no.5 Alex
Gough in the first round. I managed to beat him in straight
games and progressed to the glass-court stage which was
spectacularly set in front of the Pyramids.
What an incredible experience that was to play in front of the
wonders of the World, a true highlight and one I will never
The only downside to that was that I had promised my friend and
flat-mate Julian Wellings that I would bleach my hair (it was
fashionable then, honest) if I made it to the Pyramids.
On arriving home, there was a bottle of bleach just inside the
front door. I bypassed that and went straight to the phone to
book an appointment at the hair-dressers!!
WORST IN AL-AHRAM
year later and sport showed my clearly that it can be a tough
master as I suffered probably the lowest point on my
The World Championships was back in Egypt and followed a similar
format to the Al Ahram. I won my first round and set up a Last
32 clash with World no.6 Australian Dan Jenson who,
whilst I hadnít beaten, I had generally played well against.
I had been in decent form, was at a career high ranking of 26
and if I won would not only get to play out in the desert again,
but would also jump close to the World's top 20 and avoid the
brutal battle ground that is qualification.
In a tough encounter, I edged two of the first three games and
moved to 14/11 (we were playing to 15 at that point). Dan hit a
backhand drop from the back of the court, which he later
admitted he was sure was going down and didnít bother covering.
I did cover it, but it was millimetre perfect and I couldnít get
it back. Two more hard rallies followed, but again went by the
wayside. A fourth match-ball at 14-14 and again I couldnít find
the all important winner. I tried to re-group in the 5th, but
admit was a bit shell shocked and the match slipped away.
Having dealt with requisite handshakes, I put down my racket and
walked out of the centre to hide the tears that were streaming
down my cheeks.
TEAM MOMENTS - PADERBORN
However, as mentioned earlier, itís the team highs that really
remain with me, whether it was winning key matches for my
original home club of Lingfield or now helping
Lansdowne to Bath Cup titles.
However, one of the most special ones was for Paderborn
in the European Club Championships.
We had never won the ECC, and had a decent team on paper but in
the final faced the dominant force at the time in the form of
Schneider & Stefan Leifels put in great performances at 3
and 4, but went down 0-3 and 1-3 respectively. Leaving us with
everything to do.
However, we did have ex-World no.1 Peter Nicol at no.1
and he duly won 3-0, leaving me to play ex-World no.10 Mark
Cairns and needing to win 3-0, or 3-1 and face a points
Having played Mark on many occasions (on tour and in practice)
the records suggested that this was unlikely. Fortunately,
records are made to be broken and I managed to clinch the 3-0
win and a first ever ECC for Paderborn. I was so focussed on
each point that having won the final one I wasnít actually sure
what I needed to do, but the reaction of my team-mates was a
Whilst winning titles is fantastic, there is a certain
satisfaction in avoiding relegation! This is particularly so
when, as in the case of my province Border in South Africa,
you are the underdogs.
Every year Border battles to stay in the A-Section of the
Jarvis Cup (South African Inter-provincial competition).
team is allowed one non-South African, and I have been Borderís
adopted player for 10 years! One year, we knew we were in
trouble and in a key fixture I faced ex-South African no.1
Craig van der Wath in the deciding
Craig is renowned as a tough competitor and over years we have
had some pretty bruising encounters. This one was no different
and with my team-mates urging me on the match entered a fifth
game, eventually going down to the wire before I edged it to
take the match and the fixture.
Hand-shake over, I calmly walked out of the court around the
corner into the changing room before letting out an almighty
roar and being mobbed by my team-mates. Western Province were
having their pre-match team meeting there and looked a little
bemused. As in his description of the Iceland football team,
Cristiano Ronaldo might say it was like we had won there
tournament, well to us we had!
WORST FOR LAST...
My biggest team low, was probably the off-court experience of
only getting selected as non-travelling reserve for the
European Championships despite a World Ranking of 26 and
never having the chance to represent my country.
How I would have loved to have pulled on my national shirt and savour the