Frank Jenkins

Article by Joe Edwards, Express and Star – 15/05/20

After all, as soon as Tettenhall Tennis Club reopened its doors in line with new lockdown rules earlier this week, Frank – born and bred in Wolverhampton – was there.

Tennis has been his passion for many years and seen him travel across the globe for various veteran tournaments.

In 2017, aged 87, he represented Great Britain at the Veterans World Tournament in Florida.

And if it was not for the Covid-19 outbreak, he would have been in Italy now for another event.

Frank usually plays ‘three or four times a week’, so after several weeks of having to stay at home, he was more than ready to get back on the court.

“I play at both Tettenhall and the Albert Tennis Club in Aldersley,” he said.

“My club tennis is normally played with people who can play during the day, people who are retired in their 60s, 70s and 80s – there is nobody else who is 90.

“I usually play three or four times a week and, during the winter, there’s a chap at the Albert who runs a local veterans’ league indoors, playing at Tipton Sports Academy, so a match I played there last and finished the season off.

“Then we had to pack up as we couldn’t play there anymore.

“I normally play doubles tennis – mixed or men’s – as playing singles when you get to my age is a bit of a struggle.

“But, of course, now you can only play singles, unless you’re playing with a household member, so I played singles on Wednesday morning for the first time.”

As alluded to by Frank, who began playing in competitive veterans’ events aged 75, current rules allow you to play a game of tennis with someone from another household as long as you respect social distancing and remain two metres apart.

So, now he is brushing up on his singles skills – on ‘very nice, very bright, easy to play on’ newly-laid courts at Tettenhall, the club having given them a makeover during lockdown.

Frank had hoped to be competing in multiple tournaments this summer – after sitting out last year – but the pandemic has seen most of them called off.

He explained: “Since going to Florida, I’ve had a couple of operations, so I didn’t play in any tournaments last year.

“And of course this year, there has been a washout in tournaments.

“I’ll still keep playing tennis – I should be in Italy at this time of year for a veterans tournament.

“Then, there was one at Bournemouth which has been cancelled. Then I used to go to Switzerland, in Bern.

“This year, we were supposed to play at Wimbledon, a veterans tournament, but that has been cancelled.

“That leaves two tournaments this year as a possibility for me – one at Eastbourne at the end of August which is still on the calendar, and the other being the worlds in Mallorca.

“I’m hoping to go to that as an individual entry.”

Veterans tournaments are grouped in five-year intervals, with the current oldest group being 85-plus.

Frank, though, is keeping his fingers crossed a new over-90s group is introduced as there are ‘probably half a dozen’ more over-90s in Britain still playing, and many more around the world.

He does, however, ultimately admit he goes to such events for the enjoyment and to catch up with old friends.

For now, Frank is just happy to be practising at both Tettenhall and Albert clubs – and seeing friends again.

He added: “I’ve made many friends at Tettenhall and the Albert, and we’ve spoken on on the telephone obviously over the past few weeks, just to keep in touch.

“Your knees, at my age, give you a bit of trouble and you have to be very careful not to pull a hamstring as they take a long time to heal.

“You always stretch your muscles and everything before you play – that’s old age for you.”