I didn’t see the first serve, but I did hear the ball rattle the wire fence behind me. The second I spotted, but couldn’t co-ordinate my brain, arm and racket to get even close to it. I thought that I had the third (a marginally slower one) lined it up, drew my racket back and… swing and a miss!
Facing Goran Ivanisevic was proving harder than expected. Actually, that’s not true, it was proving just as hard as expected.
I felt like the quarry of a bird of prey who had been dropped from a great height, and was now stunned, and ready to be swallowed.
His next few serves weren’t particularly fast, they just spun like the tastiest of deliveries from Shane Warne, and just when I thought I had it figured out, the next one would turn the other way.
I am, as it may be clear, out of tennis practice. Indeed when Ivanisevic won Wimbledon in 2001, I had already hung up my racket. So this rediscovering of the sport at The Hurlingham Club, where my opponent was appearing at the BNP Paribas Classic, was quite shock to the system.
But after the serving humiliation, I rallied as we rallied, with Goran giving me strict advice on my back hand. And my jolting action and poor follow-through seemed to lull him into a false sense of security, so mid-way through one rally I took my chance on a high ball and smashed it past him. Take that Goran! He looked up surprised. And while I struggling to erase those pacy serves from my memory, I’ll always have my winner.
The whole experience has given me the idea to write a new column, which each week will see me challenge former sporting heroes to simplified versions of their games. Touch rugby with Bill Beaumont say, or French cricket with Sir Ian Botham, unicylcing with Chris Boardman and keepy-uppies with Rodney Marsh. The possibilities are vast.
Now all I’ve got to do is convince the editors here…