TENNIS-mad Tom Baron is celebrating the triumph of a lifetime – a few days short of his 80th birthday!
If Andy Murray ever needs a role model as he waits for that golden Grand Slam moment to arrive, he only has to admire Tom’s exploits.
After over 60 years’ dedication to the game, Tom, of Stockydale Road, Blackpool, has achieved his biggest ever success.
He proved he was game-set-and-matchless in his age group by winning the national 80-year-old indoor championship at Dudley.
And the winning streak continued as he took the national doubles title in the same category.
That’s not bad going at the best of times, even more so for someone who had quadruple heart surgery six years ago.
After an hour and a quarter on court, Tom was crowned champion after beating John Draper, of Middlesex, 6-2, 6-0 in the decider.
Before then, he had a series of qualifiers to overcome before attaining his cherished goal.
Tom said: “When I used to play tennis as a young man, I would look at players in their late-30s and think they looked like old codgers!
“I had the quadruple heart by-pass in 2006 and thanks to surgeon Mr (Joseph) Zacharias at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, I was back hitting a tennis ball ten weeks after the operation. I still play to win – but to enjoy it as well.
“I can’t do anything too quick on the tennis court nowadays. It is more a question of keeping as fit as you can and outlasting your opponent.” Age is quite definitely just a number so far as Tom’s refreshing philosophy is concerned.
In fact, he was counting the days to the start of 2012, when he became eligible for the 80-year-old category.
In the doubles final, he and partner Tom Eastop, from Devon, got the better of Draper and Paul Drane (Kent) 6-4, 6-4.
In the process, Tom emulated his wife Christine, a past winner of the national 60-year-old women’s title a few years ago.
A retired sales manager, Tom, who will be 80 on Tuesday, travels to the Blackburn Northern club to practise and play, saying he is forced to do so because of the lack of local indoor facilities.
He remarked: “It doesn’t say a lot for Blackpool that there is only one indoor court in the town.”
And retirement is far from Tom’s mind. He pledged: “I will only stop playing tennis when I can no longer walk!”