What a load of racquets

RACQUETS GALORE: The one in Virginia Crawford’s right hand was used by tennis ace Art Larsen, and in her left is one signed by Ken Rosewall and one worth US$500 she bought for $5.
RACQUETS GALORE: The one in Virginia Crawford’s right hand was used by tennis ace Art Larsen, and in her left is one signed by Ken Rosewall and one worth US$500 she bought for $5.

"So you own an amazing total of 466 tennis racquets," I said to Virginia Crawford.

"Is that right?"

"No it's not," she replied.

"That's what I told you a couple of days ago but now it's risen to 469."

Since our initial telephone chat three more racquets had joined the collection in her garage at Stanmore Bay. And chances are that by today there will be more.

"My husband calls me an obsessive collector," says 69-year-old Victoria. "And he's probably right."

One of her most treasured racquets was used by the legendary Art Larsen, best remembered for his United States championship victory in 1956.

He was later inducted into the international tennis hall of fame.

"He was almost as renowned for his eccentricities as for his play," says Virginia. "His nickname was Tappy because went around tapping almost everything, including opponents' heads for good luck.

"Then he used to chat to an imaginary bird perched on his shoulder, and he was also famous for his partying. Sometimes he'd arrive for an important match after no sleep because of an all-night party.

"A beautiful racquet, isn't it. Got it cheap on American eBay.

"I'd expected to pay more and was surprised that no one topped my opening bid of US$50."

Another racquet of which she's particularly proud is autographed by her all-time hero, Australian Ken Rosewall, who was repeatedly rated as the world's number one player in the early 1960s.

"This racquet was a model he favoured and I was so thrilled when he signed it."

Virginia was 14 when she became a fan of Rosewall who was ironically nicknamed Muscles because of his lack of them.

"Our home then was near Wimbledon and when he was playing I'd go there after school and ask people leaving early for their tickets.

"You see, they didn't surrender them, just show them, and I could get beside the centre court for free. That was a saving of two shillings and six pence."

She bought the collection's most valuable racquet from the Hibiscus Hospice shop at Whangaparaoa.

"Someone had presumably cleared out stuff without realising this is a grand-daddy of the famous Head Prestige line," she says.

"I got it for $5 but now I could probably get at least US$500 for it."

Hospice volunteer helpers will be glad to learn however that Virginia plans to eventually donate some racquets to the shop.

"Apart from admiring the work they do, I need the space to display others I particularly want," she says.

Virginia took up tennis again, after not playing for about 25 years, when she and husband Ian moved to Stanmore Bay 10 years ago.

She scored a bargain when she bought a racquet on TradeMe for $22.50.

That led to her getting hooked on racquets and she began collecting seriously in 2007.

Rodney Times