Tennis ace serves up a new writing career

She was a tennis legend and a role model for a generation of school girls. Now Christine Truman Janes is serving up another career as a children's author. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH reports.

It was in 1957, at the age of just 16, that Christine Truman burst on to the tennis scene and hammered her way through to the semi-finals at Wimbledon.

She went on to win the Italian Championship and French Open in 1959 and to become the first British player to be seeded number one at Wimbledon for 20 years.

Today Christine, while still involved in the world of tennis, largely through her commentary work, looks set to ace her way to success in a new career, as a children's writer.

'I actually started writing about 35 years ago when my children were small,' said Christine, 70, who has just launched her book Dilly and Other Poems.

'My in-laws lived about 40 minutes away by car and so we spent a lot of time driving. In order to stop them fighting in the back, I used to make up stories,' she said.

'Then I started to write them down when we got home later on and found that when they were learning to read it really helped them to practise with the stories that they knew and loved.'

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Christine, who is married to former rugby player Gerald Janes, and has four children, reached the final of Wimble-don in 1961. She was favoured to win against Angela Mortimer but slipped on damp grass and suffered an injury.

She continued to play domestic tournaments and was Martina Navratilova's first opponent at Wimbledon, in 1973.

'I am surprised to be doing something so different after all this time, especially because of the way it has all happened,' she said. Christine, who lives in Aldeburgh, wrote her poems and stories for many years, and kept them all in an old blue folder. Many of the tales centred on Dilly, a loveable doll who finds herself in all sorts of situations.

'I am one of six children myself and my father always used to say to me: 'You must get those stories illustrated.' I used to feel quite proud that he thought they were good enough,' she remembered.

Every so often Christine would get them out and consider what to do with them but it was not until she showed them to her next-door-neighbour did she start to think seriously about pulling them together to make a book.

'The artist Liz Summers had been my neighbour for about 13 years and has also run a second-hand book shop,' she said.

'I thought one day that I might ask her for her opinion so I gave them to her.

'She came back to me a week later with all of them roughly illustrated — I nearly fell over!

'She said I really ought to get them published.'

Christine sent her work off to publishers and while it always came back with positive feedback, no-one initially took it up.

Liz then decided to make up a limited number of the books herself, one for each child and then one for Christine and her sister.

'The children loved them, and so did my grandchildren, and people kept asking if they could have one. Eventually Gerry said: 'Lets try again ourselves to get this published,' and so we did.'

The book has now been brought out by Leiston Press and is being snapped up by parents for their children.

As well as the tales originally written by Christine all those years ago, she has included a new one about Dilly learning to play tennis.

'It seemed good to have the tennis element in. I recently read some of the stories at Wimbledon to the members and their children, and they went down very well,' she said.

Although Christine is stunned by the speed with which her new literary career is taking off, she admits it is great fun to be volleying balls in a different direction now.

'My children think it's quite amazing to see the stories they used to hear when they were little in a book with pictures, and in many ways it feels quite emotional for me too,' she said.

'But I am really enjoying this and have started writing more stories. I would love to keep doing this now – but at the same time it is hard to believe it is happening!'

l Dilly and Other Poems is published by Leiston Press, priced �9.99.