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Suffolk-based tennis legend Christine Truman Janes, MBE, answers a volley of questions from Susanna Heath about her newly-published memoirs
 Smashing success – Memoirs of a British tennis legend
 Christine Truman Janes MBE holding court at Aldeburgh book shop launch
National treasure Christine Truman Janes MBE, was ranked both World Number 2 and French Grand Slam Champion aged 18, the youngest Brit since the war. She holds the record at 16 of being the youngest British semi-finalist at Wimbedon since Lottie Dod in 1887. Also, US finalist 1959 and Wimbledon finalist 1961.
My grandmother, Freda Scott, was also a tennis star, winning the All England’s Ladies Doubles Championship three years running pre-war (1933-1935,) and her mixed doubles partner was Fred Perry. So it was a pleasure for Bury & West Suffolk Magazine to share memories with the icon who made Aldeburgh her home more than 20 years ago...
How did you get started?
After the war, my four older brothers and sisters started to play tennis. We had a big enough garden for a court to be marked out and our neighbours gave us a net. I always
wanted to join in, but they told me I was no good and to get out of their way. When I was eight, we moved to a house in Woodford Green, Essex, and that was where I started to play. I had hand-me-down racquets and used to hit the ball against a brick wall.
How did your talent evolve?
One of the first tournaments I played was in Essex and then in Framlingham, here in Suffolk, as we used to come to Thorpeness for our holidays. My siblings definitely spurred me on.
You often played in doubles matches with both your brother and sister. What prompted such a huge family interest in tennis?
My parents met at a tennis club in Leytonstone, east London, and they went to Wimbledon long before I came along. And so that’s why our neighbours offered them this tennis net. The initial interest came through them.
Congratulations on the launch of your autobiography, Miss Truman to Serve
The Aldeburgh Bookshop did the launch – it turned into a real party! Then I went to Paris, and then had another launch at Wimbledon. Des Lynam, who did my foreword, came along, plus Elaine Paige, who is a very keen player.
What was it like playing to the crowds of Wimbledon and your best memory of win- ning the French Open in 1959?
When I was 16, I played my first match on Centre Court against Betty Pratt. I wasn’t nervous, just delighted that I had achieved this. I beat her and I’m still the youngest British semi-finalist since Lottie Dod in 188 At 18,
I was World Number 2 and won the French Grand Slam and also reached the finals of the US nationals. I had a telegram from Churchill and enjoyed meeting him and also Frank Sinatra, but one of my favourite moments was being turned into a Madame Tussards waxwork!
What was the secret of your success?
My coach, Norman Kitovitz, was a philosopher and he believed if you are around someone who believes in you, it rubs off.
Like Emma Raducanu, you were a teen prodigy. Do you have any advice for her? I think she needs to enjoy working towards the next stage. To win a Grand Slam in the way she did was astonishing and so exciting for everyone watching. But you don’t let up.
She is finding it hard to get a consolidated coach and to approach big tournaments in her position now. I’m sure she will come back, but it might be a little while yet.
Who were and are your tennis heroes?
My heroine was always Lottie Dod because she won Wimbledon when she was only 15. Also Maureen Connelly, the American who won all four Grand Slams before she was 19.
You were revealed to be almost blind in one eye in 1962. Did it affect your game?
No, as I didn’t know any different because I had been born that way. The eye specialist at Wimbledon said it was remarkable and that he would never recommend a youngster to take up tennis if they had the sight problems I had.
You’ve been writing children’s books since 2011. What inspired that?
That started because I used to tell my four children stories in the car and it would calm them down. I found it quite therapeutic, so I wrote them down.
What do you love about living in Suffolk?
I still organise tennis at Thorpeness Country Club, but I don’t play much now as I had a couple of falls on the hard tarmac. I play golf as I feel more secure walking on grass. I used to swim in the sea all year round, but I now just paddle as they say it’s good to get your feet in cold water. I love the people in Suffolk and being outside and sociable. There is always something different to look at.
Q: What would you like your legacy to be?
I did my best.
*Miss Truman to Serve, by Christine Truman Janes, is available from bookshops and online, RRP £20

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