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92-year-old tennis player still in love with the game

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: February 08, 2013

By geraint thomas

Basil Smith celebrates his birthday

Basil Smith celebrates his birthday

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HIS percentage of first serves being in is not as high as it once was and his backhand lacks real power these days but the amazing statistic about tennis player Basil Smith is his age – 92!

Despite being more than three times older than Andy Murray, the pensioner has made something of a name for himself at Swansea Tennis Centre with his nimble footwork and tireless enthusiasm.

As well as daily and nightly exercise routines, the dedicated former RAF sergeant makes a weekly 80-mile round trip from his home in Carmarthenshire to play at the Morfa-based indoor arena.

Barry Cawte, the tennis centre's general manager, said: "He's part of the furniture down here.

"We had a little surprise party for him with a cake and some food.

"He plays mixed doubles twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays for two hours at a time, with the over 50s, even though he's probably 40 years older than most of them.

"He plays well, he's a good player, and always passes on advice to the youngsters."

Basil, a Welsh speaker from Upper Tumble who has been married to Glenys for 44 years, said: "Tennis is my one joy and I look forward to my weekly routine just as keenly as when I was in my teens.

"It's a sport anyone can participate in and is one of the best antidotes for keeping young in heart and healthy in body."

Explaining his incredible fitness levels for a man of his age he said: "I have never smoked and I drink very little and do exercise for half an hour before breakfast and half an hour before going to bed every day."

Of his twice weekly tennis sessions he said: "My wife's not interested in sport so I look forward to the two hours on Mondays and Thursdays.

"I forget everything when I am playing."

Of his favourite players over the years Basil, who is thought to be the oldest tennis player in Wales, said Bjorn Borg stood out as the best.

Of today's generation, he said: "At the moment Roger Federer is a real gentleman on the court as is Rafael Nadal; and Murray is getting better now he smiles more.

And as for advice he said: "Forget about the last point because it's gone, you will never get it back, concentrate on winning the next one."

Collette Richards, a friend and chairwoman of TS365, the not-for-profit group which runs the centre, added: "He's well liked in the centre and an incredible chap, long may he play.

"I refer to him as our wonderful freak of nature, he's an incredible fellow, always happy and smiling and a great advert for what tennis can do for you."

His tennis CV dates back 83 years and has included playing in Durban, Los Angeles and New York, as well as in Baghdad when serving with the RAF in the 1940s. Added to that he has won veterans singles competitions, playing competitively for Llandybie Tennis Club until the age of 75.

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