Craig Salmon talks to former tennis professional David Shaw, who is now a coach and is the director of tennis at Stonyhurst College
Former tennis professional David Shaw got more than he bargained for when I caught up with him the other day to get the lowdown on his eventful life in the sport.
Once a top British junior – who went on to be ranked inside the top 400 in the world and featured at Grand Slam events such as Wimbledon and the French Open in the early 1980s – Shaw has gone on to cultivate a fine career in the game as a coach.
So being a keen tennis player myself, I brought along my shorts and favourite Dunlop Aerogel racket and asked him if he could help me sort out my very dodgy forehand.
Fortunately, the new tennis director of Stonyhurst College, in Hurst Green, was in obliging mood as he put me through my paces in an effort to improve my game.
With a slight change to my grip and a few handy tips, I started to hit my forehand with a lot more authority.
It is the sort of coaching expertise that the pupils at the college and the adjoining St Mary’s Hall School will benefit from in the coming months and years.
The ex-junior No.1 – who was once the club coach at Fulwood Tennis Club –also has plans to get involved in the local community so that as many people as possible get the opportunity to benefit from Stonyhurst’s fabulous facilities.
“I am really looking forward to the job here at Stonyhurst,” said Shaw.
“It’s going to be a fantastic opportunity to put tennis on the map.
“The plan is to bring tennis to the youngsters, from the three-year-olds through to the eight-year-olds through to the 13 to 18-year-olds and bring it all together.
“And then to work with the local community here.
“We will be doing a lot of external events to try to take tennis out to the local community.
“So that’s how we want to do it really.
“Stonyhurst has got some amazing facilities.
“They have recently just had a dome built so there’s two indoor courts there which is absolutely fantastic to help develop all-year-round tennis.
“There’s 12 outdoor tennis courts, which are amazing.”
Shaw’s career in the game began when he picked up a racket at the relatively late age of 12.
Attending his local club – Southport Argyle – Shaw soon discovered that he had a natural talent for it.
It was not long before he was beating all his peers and being invited to train at Bisham Abbey as part of the national junior training set-up working under the guidance of Alan Jones.
In 1981, he won British Junior Wimbledon in both singles and doubles.
“I took up the sport by chance really,” said Shaw, who is married to Susan and has two daughters Harriet and Emily.
“A friend of mine at school asked me if I fancied going down to Southport Argyle.
“It was one Friday evening and all the kids were there and I really, really enjoyed it.
“From that day on, it just really took off.
“I just loved picking up a racket and hitting a tennis ball.”
Shaw turned professional at the age of 17 and was good enough to reach a career high ranking of 383 in singles and 216 in doubles.
He played some pretty good players along the way, including former Wimbledon champion of 1987 Australian Pat Cash and legendary Aussie doubles player Mark Woodforde, who won 12 Grand Slam doubles titles.
He said: “My biggest win would be Mark Woodforde, who won Wimbledon many times at doubles and Dannie Visser.
“Both of them were in the top 100 at singles at the time.
“I beat Woodforde twice – our head-to-head is two-all.
“I played Pat Cash – he beat me 6-4 6-4.”
Having got inside the top 400 in the world, what prevented Shaw from going further and reaching the top 100.
“I think I would put it down to my serve,” Shaw said.
“Technically, it just wasn’t good enough and physically; I am quite wiry.
“It’s not to say I was not good with all the other shots, it’s just that the serve is so dominant that it was the one shot that I probably needed to be better at.
“I did beat a number of players who were in the top 100, but you need to do it on a regular basis.
“Tennis is not known for its brutality, but it is a brutal sport.
“If you are the 300th best player in the world, that’s pretty good in football terms.
“But at that level in tennis, it’s difficult financially.
“You are just about covering your expenses.
“If you’re in the top 100, you’re making a great living, but when you’re down around 300, it gets to a point where you need to start making a living.”
After retiring as a professional player at the age of 24, Shaw made the transition to coaching where he has attained elite level five – attending the same course as Judy Murray, mother of two-time Wimbledon champion Andy.
“I have been fortunate enough to be involved in sport all my life,” said Shaw. “I started playing tennis too late really but I am proud of what I managed to achieve.”