John Lloyd’s sizzling visit

Saturday 29 June, 2019

On the hottest day of the year so far, when the temperature reached over 30 degrees in the shade, John Lloyd visited the Woodfield Grove Tennis Club to conduct a clinic for a dozen or so team members, who sizzled as they were put through their paces, focusing particularly on volleying skills.

“You can’t volley properly without moving your feet,” Lloyd said. “Happy feet! You need happy feet to make room for the ball.

“And don’t swing! Way too many of you are swinging at your volleys. You don’t have time. Block the ball back with a firm wrist and use your feet!”

With teaching pros Lucia Sariscanova and Josue Madera Valles on hand to feed balls to start the taxing drills, the squad were soon finding their feet and a noticeable improvement in volleying became apparent.

John Lloyd is a former pro player who reached an ATP world ranking of 21 in 1978, was ranked British No 1 in 1984 and 1985, and served as Britain’s Davis Cup Captain from 2006 until 2010.

He was a finalist at the Australian Open in 1977 and won three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles partnering Australia’s Wendy Turnbull, beginning with the French Open mixed doubles in 1982.

The pair finished runners-up in the mixed doubles at Wimbledon that year, and then went on to win the Wimbledon mixed doubles crown in both 1983 and 1984.

He is now a renowned television commentator and is a member of the BBC’s broadcasting team at the coming Championships at Wimbledon.

Lloyd’s skills were on show on Saturday as he volleyed with deceptive ease, cajoled, encouraged and bullied progress in everyone, taking individuals aside to give personalised advice from time to time.

The pace of play in the drills was amazing and, with two courts in action, the groups were in constant motion.

After a couple of hours, it was all over and everyone came off court, sweaty and red from the sun, tired but happy, having each learned something that will undoubtedly improve their games over the coming weeks and months.

“That’s a good bunch, there,” observed John. “It was good they were all of similar standards so we could really get into it. Often in clinics you get such a differential in standards that it becomes quite difficult, but this was really good. 

“We concentrated on volleying because it is such an important element of doubles play, particularly for club matches.”

As everyone took refreshment, John settled into a lively talk about all things tennis, answering questions, giving his opinion on current controversies and offering insights into the rigours of television commentary.

“It was a great event,” said Jon Elwes, Woodfield Grove’s newly elected Chairman. “We were delighted to have John here for the second time, and hope we can persuade him to come back again at a later date because we were all learning such a lot.”

Everyone enjoyed a delicious lunch, with proceedings eventually breaking up around 3pm.

John, who was a friend of Maria Bueno’s, was touched by her portrait now hanging in the clubhouse: “That is so good,” he said. “I know she is missed terribly and it’s so good to see the club honours her.”

Maria was very fond of the club and was an honorary member there.

It was a place where she could play and relax without any pressure and many members got a unique opportunity to get to know this very great champion.

When Maria died in São Paulo on Friday 8 June, 2018, members were shocked and saddened to lose one of their own.

The committee decided to commission a portrait to grace the clubhouse in her memory, and to name the balcony that she opened in the autumn of 2013, the Bueno Balcony.

Luis Morris, an artist who specialised in the portrayal of tennis players and had gained commissions from the Lawn Tennis Association and the All England Club at Wimbledon, was asked to paint the oil portrait, which was completed on 5 December, 2018, and hung on the wall in time for the Christmas Party.

A member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters who has exhibited widely at galleries, fairs and institutions, Morris won the prestigious BP award at the National Portrait Gallery, London in 2007.

The portrait of Maria Bueno is one of his finest works and captures her character and humour perfectly.

On 9 May, 2019, the plaque commemorating the Bueno Balcony for posterity was installed upstairs.

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