By Kim J. Harmon
By Kim J. Harmon
Alex Aitchison has a lot of stories to tell.
Like the one when he first meets John McEnroe, a 12-year-old superstar-in-the-making â¦ or the one where he is accosted not by one, but by two armed criminals â¦ or the one where he gets into three horrific car accidents â¦ or the one where he is elected president of the Newtown Tennis Association at the first meeting he attends.
If you want to hear these stories and many more, then invite Alex over to dinner and settle in for a spell.
Or, instead, you could pick up a copy of A Tennis Experience And All That (Â©2006 by Alex Aitchison, published by Vantage Press, 203 pages, $14.95).
This is a book about 20 years in the making (16 years or so coming to grips with the concept and a little over four years of actual labor), born out the well-meaning but seemingly implausible advice of a helpful nurse.
The complications of a 1984 car accident finally became too much to bear and in 1985 Alex found himself in North Shore Hospital struggling with excruciating neck pain when a nurse told him, âThinking about things you have done, or want to do, might help take your mind off the pain.â
Alex remembers, though, âIt didnât help. But the seed was planted and I started to think â¦â
vAbout meeting his wife â
âI really disliked her intensely and she probably disliked me even more,â Alex said of Marjorie. But that when Marjorie was dating Alexâs playing partner, Colin, and always seemed to be interrupting a match with trivial matters. Things changed later on when Alex needed Majorie to sub in for his team in a very important match and a simple wager turned into a night out and, later, a proposal over a bottle of milk.
âI have worked so many long hours on longer trips and she has been wonderful,â said Alex. âShe has carried me through everything.â
vAbout meeting John McEnroe for the first time â
It was in 1971 when McEnroe visited Australia as a 12-year-old and it was then that Alex saw the signs of the kind of great player McEnroe would become. But it was a couple of years later, in the states, when Alex began to see the other side of McEnroeâs personality â the childishness and the temper â and it was very disconcerting.
â(Bad behavior) really bothered me,â Alex said, âbecause I never thought it was necessary. It detracted from their ability.â
vAbout having encountering one, but two gunman â
The first incident came in the early 1950s when Alex was chauffeuring a limousine on the night shift (6 pm to 6 am) and picked up a man with a sawed-off shotgun who was very anxious to locate a cheating wife. The second incident came a little later when he picked up a âMr Peters,â who directed Alex to drive to an appliance store and then pressed a gun against the back of his neck and told him to stay put.
âThese were serious situations,â said Alex, âbut when youâre in that sort of business, thereâs always an element of risk. But it was a good paying job and I needed the money to play tennis.â
vAbout getting into three serious car accidents, the last one nearly ending his tennis-playing days forever â
âThe most frightening one,â Alex said, âwas the one I had at Port Washington (in Long Island). My head was literally resting on my right shoulder.â
It was October of 1984 and he was on his way to the Port Washington Tennis Academy, where he was Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, when he was struck broadside by a car racing through an intersection. The initial diagnosis was severe whiplash, but later it was discovered to be R/O compression of the fifth and sixth vertebrae.
Not only did the accident lead to severe neck pain â¦
âBut my arm was hanging down by my side, useless,â said Alex. âThen my friend, (Dr) Irving Glick tells me, itâs time to start playing tennis again. I could have kicked him.â
vAbout meeting Andre Agassi for the first time â
It was in 1977 and a young man of 12 or 13 lucked into an open slot at the Rolex International Junior Championships, but somehow misunderstood details on getting to the court in time for his first match. When Alex was forced to default Agassi out of the tournament, he soon received a call from an irate father who set an unreachable standard for all other irate fathers and mothers to come.
âI never had a conversation like that â ever,â said Alex.
vAbout being elected president of the Newtown Tennis Association â
Itâs fairly clear that Alex and Marjorie moved to Newtown in the nick of time.
The day they toured the Beaver Brook Tennis Club looking for a place to play, Alex was asked about instructing at a clinic the next day. And the day he and Marjorie attended their first meeting of the Newtown Tennis Association â of which they knew nothing â he was nominated, and duly elected, as president.
âWe hadnât even joined,â Alex said. âWe just went there to listen and learn about the club. When I was nominated, we nearly fell off our chairs.â
There are more stories in the 203 pages of the book, like Kooyong â Haunt of the Wild Fowl and Henry Christian Hopman, that will take you through the key moments in Alex Aitchisonâs tennis career. A Tennis Experience And All That is available at amazon.com or direct from Alex (just send $20.03 to 8 Lake Road, Newtown, 06470-1106 and heâll send back a signed copy).
He signed copies last month at the Little East Conference womenâs tennis championships and has been signing books all week at Beaver Brook Tennis Club and will be there Friday from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm and 3:30 to 8 pm., and Saturday from 8:30 am to 2 pm.
Future signings are expected at the Cyrenius Booth Library and Borders in Danbury.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to programs that will encourage the introduction of junior players into the game of tennis as a life-time recreational sport.