Photo: Susan MullanePaul and Christine French (GBR)
For British natives Christine and Paul French, competing in the 55-age group in singles and mixed doubles at the ITF Senior World Championships this week, tennis was the glue that brought them together as a couple.
But to be totally transparent it wasn’t really love at first sight.
“We met through tennis and I met her the first time when she was 20 and we didn’t date then,” Paul said. “We met again when she was 30 and we dated for six months.”
Christine finished the timeline. “We met again the third time at an ITF event in Austria the year of 9/11 and it clicked," she said. "By then I had moved back to London.”
This is a special year for the couple in that Christine and Paul can play together in the mixed doubles - this is her first year and his last in the 55-age group. When it was joked he married a younger woman, he laughed: “Yes I did.”
Both Christine and Paul are teaching pros, but not at the same place. As Christine puts it, “that would be too much. Paul teaches at Queen’s Club, where the ATP Tour holds their well-known Wimbledon tune-up event, and also at Hurlingham.
Christine, who grew up in Liverpool, learned to play at 13, played college tennis in the USA at Indian River in Florida and Beaumont in Texas, and taught tennis in Jacksonville, Florida for 10 years before moving back to England. She currently teaches on the 12 public courts at London’s Regents Park.
“We like the traveling,” Paul said. “I mean, ‘How lovely is this? We get beautiful places to go. ”Christine quickly added, “Also, we meet nice people and form good friendships. We see them year after year. And it beats working.”
In singles, the fourth-seeded Paul French lost on Tuesday, but the seventh-seeded Christine won her singles match over Jeanette Robert of South Africa 60 60 on Wednesday. Their next mixed doubles match is scheduled for Thursday.
And both are hoping they won’t have the rare on-court couples’squabble as they did on Monday night when they played.
“We had a mixed doubles and it nearly came to blows,” Paul said, as they both laughed. Christine filled in the details: “It happened after the fourth game and he wasn’t speaking to me for 10 minutes. But we got it together. We made up because we can’t get mad for too long.” And Paul finished the thought: “We made it through in a 10-point tiebreak.”
Not to worry. To aid the peaceful cause they read a book called “How to Treat Your Doubles Partner” that offered some helpful tips. Or so they say.