Thursday, 16 October 2014

Guest post on After Wimbledon by Jennifer Gilby Roberts

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In tennis scoring, nothing isn't called zero or nil, but "love".  So, a love story set around a grand slam tournament is starting at a bit of a disadvantage.  But it happens, despite the obstacles.

Separation is the biggest problem.  Tennis pros are touring roughly ten months of the year, so relationships are long distance unless you can persuade your significant other to travel with you (which scuppers most career plans).  And it's not much easier if your sweetheart is another player.  The men's and women's tours are separate and only meet up for the grand slams and a handful of other events.

Lack of time and energy are also a factor.  In After Wimbledon, Lucy's romantic plans are postponed more than once due to sheer exhaustion.  Between matches, fitness training, practice sessions, body conditioning and all the rest, there aren't a lot of free hours to devote to a relationship.  Which is one reason why retirement seems like the only way Lucy's going to forge a serious connection with someone.

And we can't forget the media.  The top players have a lot of fans, especially in their home countries, and rank as minor celebrities.  The press can be cruel when they uncover a scandal, as Lucy and Sam both find out.
After Wimbledon was actually inspired by a trip to the Australian Open.  I will have to shock you with the news that I have still not been to the Wimbledon Championships.  It's appalling, especially since I used to live only 15 miles or so from the All England Club.  You never get round to doing what's right on your doorstep, do you?  Maybe next year I'll leave my husband to look after the toddler and take my mum and mum-in-law to Henman Hill.  Or Bennett Bump - a name which Lucy dislikes intensely.

I was very into tennis when I wrote it; following the tours avidly online.  My backpacking trip around Australia was scheduled around getting to Melbourne for the second week of the slam.  Cue a week spent sitting in Federation Square, watching the action on the big screen.  All except one day, when I treated myself to a ticket for the Rod Laver Arena (the equivalent of Centre Court) and got to see the big names live.  Since I was travelling alone, I managed to grab a stray seat right at the front.  I was close enough to hear Roger Federer say the S word.  It's amazing how much larger the court looks when you're really there.  And how much faster the ball seems to move.  To be honest, if one of those came at me, I think I'd just duck.  I like my teeth in my head, thank you very much.
What After Wimbledon is really about, though, is finding the courage to move on to a new phase of your life.  Lucy is struggling with whether it's time to give up her dream of winning Wimbledon and embrace ordinary life.  I had just finished my degree and ended a relationship and was trying to make a plan for the rest of my twenties.  As it was, things turned out quite differently to how I expected.  But isn't that what makes life fun?

Jennifer Gilby Roberts has a degree in physics and a postgraduate certificate in computing, so a career writing fiction was inevitable really. She was born and grew up in Surrey/Greater London, but now lives in North Yorkshire with her husband, small daughter, two middle-aged cats and a lot of dust bunnies.

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