Connect with us

Tennis

International Women’s Day: Christine Windmill’s life in tennis

Published

on

Tennis Scotland Honorary Vice-President Christine Windmill has been reflecting on an incredible life in tennis which has seen her rub shoulders with Bjorn Borg, compete around the world and represent her country on the international stage.

Christine has been a successful player, coach, tournament director, volunteer, administrator and representative, devoting endless hours to developing and supporting the sport she loves.

At New Year, Christine was given an OBE for Services to Tennis in the King’s Honours and, at the age of 74, has just been named in the Great Britain Seniors national team for the first time.

Reflecting on her sporting life to mark International Women’s Day, the first female chair of Seniors Tennis GB vowed: “I’ll never get tired of tennis.”

A lifelong love of tennis began with Christine hitting balls against walls, often while “hovering around” as her father played cricket. She then developed her game at school in Sussex before being selected for her County and playing at the famous Queen’s Club in London.

From there, as she started to improve in her teenage years, she qualified for Junior Wimbledon at 17 and 18, competing in mixed doubles and singles, where she first came across fellow Seniors tennis stalwart Marjory Love.

“I started playing seriously from about the age of 12,” recalled Christine. “I liked that you could represent your school and your club and then get into the County team, where we would play away from home and stay at the houses of players in the other teams. I still have good friends from those junior team days.

“I had my share of winning and losing, but I loved that world and played a fair number of tournaments, as well as representing the local grass court club at the side of the cricket ground. Winning the County singles and later making it to Junior Wimbledon was so exciting – although somewhat jeopardising the A-level focus, if I remember!”

Christine first moved to Scotland to study at the University of Edinburgh, where a certain sporting offering during Freshers’ Week caught her eye.

“I was walking around looking at the different clubs, when I suddenly saw all these silver cups and trophies… it was the tennis club, and I thought ‘they must be good’. Then I saw this face appear and it was Marjory Love. I was instantly sold and joined the tennis team. We all did well in Scotland, and further afield; and with star Galea Cup player Billy Dickson, I even won mixed doubles in the British Universities championships one year.”

40 years in Scotland

Life and work took Christine back down south, where she started playing at the Cumberland Club in London while undertaking her first coaching qualifications and leading a community tennis outreach programme for local children. It was at Cumberland where she came across five-time Wimbledon champion Borg, who practised on the club’s lush grass courts throughout that winning run.

After marrying husband David, the couple spent time in Nigeria where he was stationed for work – but there was no chance of that interrupting Christine’s love of tennis, spending her time there wisely, helping in a local sports club and reaching the Nigerian Open doubles final and the quarters of the singles. “GB’s Debbie Jevans, Andrew Jarrett and Richard Lewis were competing there too, but I played doubles with one of Nigeria’s top-ranked women who I later invited to the UK for her first visit outside Africa.”

The couple’s next step was a return to Scotland, where they’ve now lived for 40 years, immersing themselves in the tennis community both on and off the court.

Living first in Helensburgh, Christine joined Craighelen Tennis Club and became a firm fixture on the committee, while also developing her coaching skills and picking up a refereeing qualification. Working full-time in tennis at this point, she led children’s sessions and women’s mornings and would take club and County squads to competitions at home and abroad.

As well as working with Tennis Scotland’s development programmes, she also took on the role of tournament director for the annual Easter event at Craighelen. “I enjoyed finding sponsorship, promoting the tournament and trying to make it bigger each year,” she recalled. “I was inspired by Tommy Watt, father of top player Malcolm, who had staged amazing international junior events at the club. He encouraged a committee of us volunteers to accommodate European players and their coaches and to create a whole programme around the tennis.”

Later in Edinburgh, Christine supported Tennis Scotland in offering that same dimension to both junior and senior internationals playing at Craiglockhart. “Over the years, our family has hosted players from Australia, Austria, Belarus, France, Georgia, Nigeria and Uganda, as well as UK entrants. Other tennis friends also supported these programmes – keen to welcome and engage culturally as well as to help the tournaments. 

“Through both David and our son Mark’s interesting work postings, we have also managed to play in clubs and competitions in Chile, Kenya, Hong Kong and the USA.”

At the age of 40, Christine began her first steps into Seniors tennis, developing the category in Scotland with her old chum Marjory, a path which eventually led her into her current roles as LTA Councillor for Seniors Tennis GB, Scottish representative on the Seniors Tennis GB Council and LTA Seniors Representative for Tennis Europe. 

After moving to Edinburgh, her devotion to tennis continued, with her many roles including Director, Centenary Convener and then President of the East of Scotland County Board. In 2009, she joined the Tennis Scotland Board, before becoming Vice-President in 2010 – a year in which she represented the Board at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, seeing Scotland win a Gold – and President two years later, a role in which she saw Andy Murray win his first Wimbledon title in 2013.

‘Fantastic female role models’

During this time, Christine has seen the number of women and girls involved in tennis grow, both on and off the court, as well as overall participation and club membership increasing nationally, and has a special mention for the female leaders at Tennis Scotland, including Head of Operations Denise Irvine, Head of Performance Karen Ross, Head of Facilities Kirsty Humphries and Workforce Manager Anna Myatt.

“There are fantastic female role models at Tennis Scotland,” said Christine. “It’s wonderful, they bring great skills to their jobs, they’re innovative and are running excellent, successful programmes. Tennis Scotland’s reach is infinitely wider because of them and their brilliant co-operation with volunteers, who I see as the oxygen that further spreads and sustains participation.

“It’s so important to inspire more women and girls to get involved in tennis, I’m very aware of my responsibilities there and am always trying to encourage and share opportunities.

“The last 20 years has seen great investment in tennis infrastructure leading to better-than-ever performance and outreach, but there is still a breadth of volunteer help needed to run teams, clubs, parks, competitions and County programmes. I advocate this as I have always found it rewarding and enjoyable to share objectives and skills with other volunteers and alongside both Tennis Scotland and LTA executive teams.”

Despite her many tennis hats, though, it is on the court where Christine remains happiest. “Whenever I’m asked to take on an off-court role, I will always say ‘only if I can still play’. I still believe I can get better, I’ve just made the national team at 74, which has always been a silent goal, and here I am about to fly to the World Championships in Turkey.

“I play seriously and I play for fun, I put myself in the singles leagues at my club [Waverley] and so appreciate playing in their teams – even in the Scottish Cup if they are really short.

“Tennis is the best social sport you can do. It’s time friendly, great for focus and fitness and easy to plan as a regular activity at whatever level. You can compete in friendly teams if you wish; and there are good coaches to help you develop at whatever age. It’s the perfect sport to take on holiday, and to watch and follow as a fan.

“I will never get tired of tennis.”

Continue Reading