Four decades of dedication to Chatteris St Peter’s Tennis Club earned Simon Grainger a national prize and an audience with the Duchess of Cambridge at Wimbledon this week. The sport’s great and good gathered under Wimbledon’s No1 Court for the annual LTA Tennis Awards, where Simon picked up the Lifetime Achievement gong. He was joined on stage by the event’s host, GB Davis Cup coach Leon Smith and other winners including young stars Jack Draper and Katie Boulter.
Simon was among hundreds of nominees, winning first county and regional awards before emerging as the national winner. It’s worth noting just a few of his achievements at St Peter’s. Simon is club chairman and treasurer, having joined the club 43 years ago as a boy, when there were just two grass courts and a handful of players. Today nearly two hundred members play on four hard courts, with floodlights and a clubhouse all made possible by the six-figure funding, raised by Simon and fellow volunteers.
Nevertheless, he was surprised to hear his name announced, “I was astounded to be frank,” he says, “It was unbelievable.” And that was not the only surprise of the day, as Simon joined a select group of winners invited to meet the LTA’s patron HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, out on the Wimbledon practice courts.
“It came completely out of the blue and it was an absolute honour to be introduced to her and tell her a little bit about what we’ve been doing for tennis in our small community. I don’t think she’d heard of Chatteris. She knows Cambridgeshire obviously, I’ve changed that, now she knows about a small fenland town in the north of the county.”
The Duchess of Cambridge is also patron of The All England Club and was keen to talk tennis, says Simon.
“I think she’s got a genuine interest in the sport, she says her two children are hitting tennis balls at a very young age and showing an interest in racquet sports, and hopefully that will continue.”
Simon was accompanied to the awards by his wife Ann, to whom he paid a warm tribute in thanks for her support over the years,
“Ann is very tolerant, said Simon, ‘I don’t get hassle for all the time I spend at the tennis club. I couldn’t have a better wife. She’s lovely.” They must now decide what to do with a new addition to their Chatteris home...an engraved crystal bowl as reward for a lifetime’s dedication to tennis.