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The Independent Online
In the days before it was common currency, the big dealer in big serves was a blond left-hander who listed his home as Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. Powered by a serve once timed at 153mph, Roscoe Tanner reached the Wimbledon final in 1979, losing to Bjorn Borg in five sets, and was twice a losing semi-finalist.

"The difference between then and now is that there was a greater variety of styles when I played, whereas today many of the players have very similar games," Tanner said. "I'm very happy that I played when I did."

Had he not shown talent with a racket, Tanner would have followed his father into the legal profession, but the decision to leave college for full-time tennis proved hugely successful. Now in his 44th year, he retired from the professional circuit 11 years ago, but remains in heavy popular demand.

"I have a pretty busy schedule," he said. "I work with resorts on developing tennis programmes, I do some entertaining on behalf of various companies, plus I play exhibitions and on the Seniors Tour."

Last week, he played the ATP Seniors event at the Hurlingham Club in London, which also featured Fred Stolle and Ilie Nastase. "It is great fun, but very competitive. It still hurts to lose," he said.

He lived for 18 years in California, but recently took his wife, Charlotte, and their four children back home to Chattanooga, where he has a 130-acre woodland property 15 minutes' drive from Lookout Mountain, where his 80- year-old father still lives. "I love to relax and fish there and it is a very good environment for the kids," Tanner said. "Plus California is very expensive now."