After being granted a place in the historic tournament by way of a wild card, Isle of Wight tennis hopeful Mickey Pickles arrived at SW1 this morning carrying a solid plastic racquet and a set of the popular 1980s garden game, Swingball.
Never before in its illustrious 136-year history has Wimbledon had an entrant hailing from the Isle of Wight. Perhaps most remarkable of all, the 22-year-old from Shanklin was only introduced to tennis just six months ago when his uncle returned from the mainland with a racquet he had found in a hedge, and that he initially believed to be a sophisticated device for dicing apples.
‘Playing at Wimbledon is like a dream come true,’ said the part-time farm hand who is competing in his first Grand Slam. ‘We haven’t got the same level of facilities back home as some of the top seeds, but I haven’t let that hold me back. There’s only one racquet on the island, so most of my learning has come from playing Swingball and reading a 1979 issue of Tennis Today I found in the library. I just hope I’m not drawn against Björn Borg.’
Pickles, who says the biggest crowd he has played in front of is two, describes his playing style as ‘mainly serve and volley’. ‘I can’t wait to get out on the court,’ he said. ‘Though I’m not sure there’s going to be much for the ballboys to do during the game.’
The confident novice makes his first appearance on Thursday in a showdown with Serbian maestro, Novak Djokovic. ‘I’ve never heard of him before, so I have nothing to fear,’ said Pickles. ‘I just need to stick with my Swingball tactics: hit, duck; hit, duck, unravel; hit, duck, unravel. I’ll be fine.’