10 Nov 2017

From County Cup to the Worlds, 40 years on

News Article

By Harvey Fialkov

Photo: Camerawork USAAnne Clark and Chris Nicholls (GBR)

Anne Clark didn’t have a partner for the mixed doubles portion of the Seniors World Individual Championships this week in the North Shore Tennis Center.

So she reached back into her past, 43 years to be exact, and called on Chris Nicholls, who she teamed with to win the Sussex County junior tournament back when they were teenagers.

“That was the last time we played a competitive match with each other. I was 17; he was 18,’’ said Clark, 60, a doubles finalist in the 2010 Worlds in Mexico while earning another silver medal with Great Britain in last week’s Alice Marble Cup.

“We won that day, beating Nigel Sears and his partner. Nigel was a very good player and Andy Murray’s father-in-law.’’

After high school the pair went their separate ways, Clark to Exeter University and Nicholls to Manchester University where he played tennis and squash.

“I don’t have a tennis history,’’ joked Nicholls, 61, who’s only playing in his second World event. “I was a squash pro for three years but went to own my own business, an investment management company.’’

Clark tried the pro circuit for a year in France and the United Kingdom before marriage and four children got in the way.

“I nearly qualified for Wimbledon but just missed out,’’ said Clark, who’s in the railway business.

While Clark didn’t get the opportunity to earn a membership into the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club by winning Wimbledon, she did become a fully-fledged member in 2014.

“Two members must propose you to the club and two more must second it,’’ Clark said. “It’s a real honour.’’

That allowed Clark and Nicholls to practice for this week’s reunion on the hallowed green lawns of Wimbledon.

And 43 years melted away as the unseeded duo marched to the semifinals. However, they ran into the top-seeded tandem of Patricia Medrado and Pierre Godfroid – the second-seeded finalist in the 60s’ singles division - on Thursday and bowed 64 63.

It was a rough day for Clark as she and doubles partner Kim Reed fell to top-seeded Medrado and Susan Wright – the  second-seeded singles finalist in the 60s’ division – 60 63 in a women’s doubles semifinal.

Last year Clark played for Great Britain in the Seniors World Team Championships in Helsinki but had to skip the ensuing World Individual tournament for an excellent reason.

“I was invited to play on centre court,’’ she said. “[It’s a tradition]. The week before Wimbledon begins they arrange a practice game with four ladies. It was absolutely amazing.’’

Clark is also allowed to purchase two tickets to every day in the Wimbledon fortnight and has seen several memorable matches, including Murray’s gold-medal victory in the 2012 Olympics and his first of two Wimbledon crowns in 2013.

Nicholls said his favorite match while attending Wimbledon had nothing to do with ball-striking.

“I was watching Richard Krajicek in his first final and it was the first time a streaker ran across centre court and I was there,’’ Nicholls smiled.