Arthur Reymond, a 21-year-old Frenchman, is currently the No. 589 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings. His biggest dream is to become World No. 1.
But no matter how high he climbs, Reymond will always be able to tell the story of how he built a clay court in his neighbour’s backyard during the coronavirus pandemic.
“At the beginning of the quarantine, I spoke with my father about how we can play tennis and feel the ball. We tried to find solutions, and then we talked about building a tennis court at home in the garden,” Reymond said. “We knew that our neighbour had a tennis court, and then we called him and we asked if his court is good and if we could play. He said it’s like a potato field.”
When the Reymonds, who live near Toulouse, visited their neighbour, they quickly realised that the space barely resembled a tennis court, deeming it unplayable.
“When we got home my father told me that if [I wanted] we could try to build the court,” Reymond said. “But we knew it would be hard and we didn’t have the tools to build it.”
They only had some shovels and a wheelbarrow. They made do, though, ordering 18 25-kilogram bags of clay from a local club. On the first day of construction, they built one service box. Their neigbour told them it’d be impossible to finish.
“We tried anyway, and after two weeks of a lot of work we finished the court and it was a nice result,” Reymond said. “We had to clean everything, so we took off a layer of five to 10 centimetres. There were a lot of roots, big roots, we had to take out. We didn’t have a hoe to make it flat, so we had to do different things to make it flat and then clean the surface again.”
Reymond has been training with his father for about an hour a day for a total of four weeks — two blocks of two weeks on both sides of a lengthy period of rain in France — cycling through forehands, backhands, volleys, overheads and serves. It is a full-sized court, but with less space to move outside of the lines.
“We never considered not finishing it, but at one point I thought to myself, ‘You really have to like tennis to do something like this,’” Reymond recalled. “I think if I didn’t really love tennis I wouldn’t have done [it].”
Once professional tennis resumes, Reymond hopes to move closer to the Top 100. He has only played one ATP Challenger Tour event, last year in Brest, France. However, Reymond has learned from some of the world’s best, practising with Benoit Paire, Ugo Humbert and Gregoire Barrere.
“Those were great opportunities to learn a lot of things about preparation, the concentration needed, and how to be a professional,” Reymond said.
Off the court, Reymond has plenty of passions outside of tennis. He enjoys fishing, playing the guitar, and repairing old cars and motorbikes, and he has kept busy during quarantine.
“I’m lucky because I have a garden at home, which helps a lot. We were setting goals and the biggest goal was to build the court,” Reymond said. “I also repaired a car and a motorbike during this time, so time has been flying by.”
Would Reymond build a tennis court again? He’s not sure. But Reymond is happy with this one, and it’s certainly a memory he’ll keep for a long time.
“It will be funny,” Reymond said. “But [it’s] a good story.”