The ArgusEastbourne tennis test for Argus reporter (From The Argus)

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Eastbourne tennis test for Argus reporter

The Argus: Julie Hobbs and Andy Naylor Julie Hobbs and Andy Naylor

It is nearly crunch time.

No, not England v Italy in Brazil, Naylor v not sure who at Eastbourne.

If you are visiting the Aegon International on Tuesday you might just stumble across your correspondent puffing and sweating as profusely as Roy's Boys in Manaus.

To recap for those of you not totally devoted to The Argus sports pages, I have been invited to take part with three other journalists in the pre-Wimbledon showpiece I have reported on since joining the paper in the late 1980's.

'Love 40', or in my case 'Don't Love 50', has given us the chance to be coached by experts, dressed by the LTA and play a set of mixed doubles on the lush lawns of Devonshire Park as part of the event's 40th birthday celebrations.

At least that was the plan until my male opponent from the Daily Telegraph suffered an injury.

At the time of writing precise details of Tuesday's encounter are a work in progress. There is even a suggestion I could end up facing my coach Julie Pullin (as I knew here when covering her career, Julie Hobbs now that she is married).

The former women's British No. 1 against the men's vets 7,897 (that ranking could be a tad optimistic)? The Eastbourne patrons will be choking on their strawberries and cream!

I have to confess I was a little bit apprehensive when I agreed to get involved. I am glad now that I did.

Not because I have a new Babolat racquet and Nike clothing but because it has given me the opportunity to squeeze in four lessons, either side of a family holiday, with Julie at the Pavilion and Avenue tennis club in Hove.

You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear in six hours but it has been both an intriguing and inspiring experience.

Intriguing because Julie, reigning Sussex coach of the year, is such an accomplished teacher.

As well as managing to get me hitting shots I did not imagine I was capable of, she has been brimming with useful advice and tips on matters such as grip, positioning, tactics and dealing with the treacherous Eastbourne wind.

Inspiring because she has also altered my mindset.

I entered the process convinced you cannot teach a previously uncoached old dog new tricks.

That will hold true on Tuesday. I am sure the occasion will get to me and I'll revert to the cautious style that has served me so modestly throughout an undistinguished career, continued nowadays at Wickwoods Country Club close to Hickstead.

What ever happens though, Julie has given me the belief that you are never to grey to improve, that if I work at it I can add an attacking edge to a grinding safety game.

Love 40? I've loved every minute.

* Visit www.aegoninternational.co.uk for ticket information. In tomorrow's Argus a two-page preview of Eastbourne, including an exclusive interview with former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

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