I Work For...The LTA: It's my perfect match


I've loved tennis since the day my parents arranged lessons when I was aged eight. My family are mad about tennis, we've always watched every match we could and I began going to Wimbledon as soon as I was old enough to join the queue. I also remember playing tennis during a school tournament with a girl called Clare Wood who completely thrashed me, though she was four years younger - she went on to be Britain's number one female player. I used to go autograph hunting in Eastbourne and saw Sue Barker, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova among others - but my all time favourite was Henri Leconte because of his looks and his entertaining tennis.

The first time I went to Centre Court at Wimbledon was when I won tickets for the men's final. People offered me lots of money for them. But it felt so special to be sitting in the sunshine, opposite the Royal Box, surrounded by an excited crowd and television cameras.

I always knew that I wanted to work in sports through secretarial work hadn't occurred to me. I began working for an events organiser, but after five years in the job, applied for a wonderful-sounding position with an international sports company involving liaison with players, the media, and lots of travel. It was only when I was invited for an interview that I discovered it was the Lawn Tennis Association, and that the ad had made the job sound much more glamorous than it was: but I didn't mind. I was just over the moon to be working for a sporting organiser as PA to the chief executive.

People always say to me "but what do you do when Wimbledon isn't on?", and I have to explain that through Wimbledon is a two-week tournament, my job actually takes up 52 weeks a year. During the tournament we decamp to our new offices at Wimbledon itself - we used to be based in Portakabins, but when the new Number One Court was built we moved in to our own offices deep in the complex.

When John became chief executive, he was completely new to tennis, having previously run Vickers Defence Systems, and was chosen for this role because of his business skills. But he promised us that within six months we'd all assume he had worked within this field forever, and he has been true to his word.

Most of us working here play tennis and some are ex-professionals. John's tennis was a bit rusty when he started, but he's been taking lessons ever since, and I am partnering him in the LTA's tennis ladder so we will soon know what standard he's managed to reach.

It's a shame most tennis fans tend to pick up their rackets when Wimbledon's on and throw them back in the cupboard once it's over. But the LTA is trying to change the game's profile, encouraging people to see it as an all-year, accessible sport.

My work shifts from secretarial work to being given the responsibility of accrediting all international visitors from the nations affiliated to the International Tennis Federation. I very much enjoy meeting such a wide range of people, many of whom are very friendly, occasionally bringing us gifts specific to their countries - strange alcoholic concoctions, clothing more suitable for a beach than a British climate, and lots and lots of chocolate.

But I recently had a very embarrassing situation when I was asked to make out a pass for a gentleman and his wife, and, assuming that his details were unchanged, copied the passes from the previous year, only to discover that he had divorced and remarried in the interim. The new wife was not amused at being given the name of her predecessor.

During the tournament I become very popular as everyone erroneously assumes I can get them tickets. Of course I do dash out from time to time and see the odd game, but I have to be careful as once I start watching a match, it's impossible to tear myself away. Similarly I have to keep track of John to make sure that he doesn't get so involved in a match he forgets his meetings.

Wimbledon provides an ideal occasion for business deals because everyone whose anyone in the sport is present. During the fortnight we get asked a variety of questions like: "Who will be playing in the final?" or "When is it going to stop raining?'

When I'm not at Wimbledon, I'm based at the LTA's head office at Queen's Club: my duties include dealing with John's correspondence, organising his diary, taking minutes at meetings, and arranging travel for the business trips he makes after British players progress at tournaments around the country and occasionally overseas.

I've just come back from maternity leave and I now find myself rushing back home to see my son at the end of the day. Just as my parents encouraged me to play tennis at an early age, my husband and I hope to introduce our son to it as soon as he can hold a racket, but we certainly won't be tennis parents from hell.

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