STALWART: Tennis coach Stuart Ware is passionate about recording and displaying Australia’s tennis history.
STALWART: Tennis coach Stuart Ware is passionate about recording and displaying Australia’s tennis history. ANNA HARTLEY

His tennis passion equates to 700 racquets and 2000 books

AS WIMBLEDON fast approaches, the sport of tennis is now on the minds of many.

However, for self-confessed 'tennis fanatic' Stuart Ware, the sport has been a lifelong passion.

The tennis coach from Walloon shows off his impressive collection of racquets with pride, knowing the intricacies and the story that lie behind each one.

His collection of tennis memorabilia dates back to the early 1920s and includes an astounding 700 tennis racquets, 15 restringing machines and more than 2000 books about the sport.

"I never wanted this as my collection," he says.

"I have saved it to try and show people what has happened in tennis throughout history.

"Having an engineering background, I can see the work that has gone into many of these hand-made, hand-painted and hand-polished racquets."

Stuart is also interested in how styles of play have changed with the development of tennis racquets and how the game has evolved in Australia.

The coach of 30 years is passionate about recording and displaying Australia's tennis history and says he hopes to open a sports history and memorabilia museum in Ipswich so his wide collection can be shared with the local community.

Aside from simply displaying the collection of racquets, Mr Ware hopes to have a library where his books can be read by visitors, as well as an interactive area where parents and children can measure their serving speed and practice their tennis skills on electronic machines.

"I would love people who already play tennis to come to the museum, but also the people outside of the tennis community," he says.

"Today we have more spectators than ever watching big events like Wimbledon or the Australian Open. However, less and less people are actually playing the sport. I want to try to use the museum to generate more interest in tennis in Ipswich."

His passion for the sport is contagious, with many traveling from as close as Ipswich and as far as the Sunshine Coast to play tennis at his club, Tall Gums Sports Centre at Walloon.

Stuart's love affair with tennis began at the tender age of five and has developed into a lifelong passion. "My first and last tennis lesson was when I was about five years old," he says. "My father handed me a Slazenger Challenge tennis racquet that weighed a ton and showed me how to hold it and that was it. It's the challenge of it I think.

"Even to this day I can't explain it, you just start hitting the ball and there's something inside of you that says 'this is fun and I need to hit it again'."

Stuart laughs as he remembers his parents calling him in well after dark while he tried to hit the ball just 'one more time'.

"Dad would be yelling 'get inside, you can't possibly see that ball!'," he says. "Every night I would go and hit and I wouldn't come inside until I had hit one more ball than the night before."

Having always loved tennis, Stuart hopes to share the sport with as many people as possible.

"Tennis is a sport you can legitimately play for a lifetime," he says. "We have players here as young as five or six and others well into their 70s and 80s."

Stuart's coaching career had somewhat of an unorthodox beginning.

What started as social matches in a backyard tennis court at his house in Karrabin quickly turned into casual coaching for his friends and family.

The coach charged a mere 50 cents per lesson, saying he simply enjoyed sharing the sport with friends and students. The demand for Stuart's training quickly rose as he became well known in the tennis community and it was then that he and his wife Kay decided to open Tall Gums Sports Centre in 1985.

The couple have been married for almost 30 years and met, of course, through tennis.

Stuart admits it takes a team to run a tennis centre and says Kay does amazing work behind the scenes running the administration at Tall Gums. "There are always two sides to a business and I have always said that without her, I would be hopeless."

Stuart has coached at an elite level, including coaching the Brazilian Davis Cup team, but says he gets the most enjoyment from training local families and community members.

"Our goal was to get tennis coaching out to areas where it is lacking, more rural areas such as Walloon, Peak Crossing and Kalbar," he says.

Stuart is still searching for old tennis racquets and memorabilia to add to his collection and welcomes any donations from members of the community.

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