Grantham tennis player Simon remembers the day he and his partner beat the World Number 3 in county match
Keen Grantham tennis player Simon Brown sent the Journal a picture of his Lincolnshire Men's first team taken on the day when he took part in a ‘dream match’ win over talented youngster Chris Bailey on July 24, 1986.
Simon was playing for Lincolnshire against Norfolk. Bailey, the then world number 3 at under-18s doubles, had been seeded third at Wimbledon just a few weeks before.
Now, after 18 years of recovering from multiple bone fractures and soft tissue injuries in both feet due to overloading in the gym, Simon has finally got back to some practice sessions with a semblance of movement again. Relocating a dislocated foot bone last December has helped him massively.
Thanks to the patience of good friend and fellow Lincs county player Graham Firth and many light knocking sessions, Simon has finally felt a loosening off of severely strained feet and is back doing light jogging again.
This year, Simon remembers his dream match win over Chris Bailey and his partner John Slater 35 years on. Bailey was not only a top doubles player but was also World Number 8 at under-18 singles, having reached the quarter final at Junior Wimbledon in 1986 and losing to eventual winner Eduardo Velez who beat Javier Sanchez in the final.
Lincs Men's first team had to play Norfolk on men's County Week on the grass at Malvern two weeks later on July 24, 1986 and the winners of that match (both were on three out of three wins) would guarantee being winners of the group and automatic promotion.
Simon and John Hilton (father of the future British number 5 Mark Hilton) got Lincs off to a dream start with a 6-3, 7-6 win over Norfolk first pair of Chris Bailey and John Slater. Bailey, 6ft 5" tall with a 130mph serve and crunching backhand, went on to take Goran Ivanisevich to a fifth set match point at Wimbledon some years later. He sadly suffered a crippling cruciate ligament injury that finished his career in 1994 at the age of 26.
Simon says he put on his old county tracksuit top on July 24 "to do a bit of gardening and remember what some might say was a fluke win, but as the lovely Gary Player used to say - 'the harder I work, the luckier I seem to get'."
Simon said: "The trouble with tennis is that you only get around a ten years' window to steal some good wins before Father Time wreaks his evil revenge and as Jimmy Connors said: "By the time you learn to play tennis well, you're too damn old to do it'. A salutory lesson for all up and coming juniors to bear in mind.
Simon had faced British Number 9 James Turner's 135mph serve in County Week in 1984 and five years of playing with and against Plamore's big serving captain Tony Davis's 120mph serve certainly helped Simon deal with Bailey's 130 plus mph Howitzers.
Simon and Tony watched Bailey win his first First Round proper match at Wimbledon in 1987 against American Gary Donnelly. Simon puts much of his early improvement down to many tough table tennis sessions with his brother Richard who used to knock with Chester Barnes when living in Essex in the early 1970s. Simon says handling spins at both sports is very similar. Chester barnes, England Number One five times and European Championship quarter finalist, sadly passed away on March 18, 2021, aged 74.
Simon is also grateful for the help from Grantham stalwart table tennis coach John Mapletoft with his superb technique, coaching and insight. John coached many British juniors to international level.
Along with Richard, Simon, Chris Bryan, Simon Pullen and Chris May won the Lincs Inter-town Haigh Cup (table tennis0 for Grantham three times in the late 1980s/90s.
Despite his injury woes, Simon says he feels lucky to have made his peace with the very fickle and often unforgiving tennis Gods for allowing him to see some of the big boys playing on the other side of the fence.
Simon has a final word of thanks also to Paul White, his regular partner during those fine years and also a knocking partner.