It’s not often a small, local tennis club boasting only three courts can set on a head coach who has beaten Wimbledon champions.
But it’s game, set and match on that score to Welbeck Tennis Club, which nestles in the attractive grounds of Welbeck Estate.
For they have appointed a man who once knocked out Bjorn Borg in the first round and Michael Stich in the second round of a seniors tournament in Tenerife, He only lost, in round three, to another ex-Wimbledon legend, Pat Cash.
“Yes, that was back in 2010 at the Sanchez-Casal tennis academy,” Tim Taylor fondly remembers. “I was only invited to play after Jeremy Bates, the former leading British player, had to drop out because his son was ill with appendicitis! A poster from the tournament now adorns one of the walls at Welbeck.”
The story is indicative of the huge array of contacts the 57-year-old Taylor has in the professional game. He has been friends with Borg ever since and continues to play in tournaments with him. And among the top players he has coached are Anna Kournikova, Tomas Berdych, who reached the Wimbledon final of 2010, Ernests Gulbis and Lucie Saforeva, who made the Wimbledon semis two years ago.
It is also indicative of his vast experience as both a player and coach. Experience that he is now putting to good use at Welbeck, where he was appointed the friendly club’s new guru three months ago -- and is enjoying every minute.
“I have loved it from the first day I walked in,” said Taylor, who has just bought a house in the village of Lea in Lincolnshire. “I was led to believe that it was just three courts in the middle of nowhere.
“But it is in a beautiful setting, and it can be a thriving club. It is not out on a limb at all. It is quite a busy club where the courts have to be reserved, and I have also found there is lots of passion among the people who play there.
“They have been let down a bit in recent times because they’ve had about six coaches in the last five years. But I fell in love with the place as soon as I went there, and I have signed a contract.”
For Taylor, the post is just the latest in a long and distinguished sporting career that actually kicked off with a spell as a professional footballer at Chesterfield and one of his home-town clubs, Sheffield Wednesday.
Injury curtailed that, so he turned to tennis. He was already playing at a high level for Yorkshire, but he found his metier abroad, spending several years in France and then 25 years in Tenerife.
Between 1980 and 1986, he played in France on what was then known as the satellite tour. He also took his coaching qualifications, including at the world-famous Roland Garros stadium in Paris, and, for a time, he was coach to the French number one, Fabrice Santoro.
On returning to Blighty, Taylor took up a position as an assistant coach at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire and then as head coach at Walthamstow Tennis Club in London.
“But I had a friend in Tenerife who said they had lots of players out there and no coaches,” Taylor recalled. “I was in Hertfordshire and it was pouring down with rain, but when I flew over to Spain, it was 30 degrees, so I thought this will do for me!”
Taylor became head coach at the Tenisur Racket Centre, and his long, fruitful stay in Tenerife saw him crowned Canary Islands champion seven times, while in 2010, he rose to number eight in the world senior rankings.
His work as a respected coach led to a link-up with Nick Bolletieri, pioneer of the tennis academy concept, and he was with him in Florida the year one of Bolletieri’s clients, Andre Agassi, won Wimbledon. Four years earlier, while at Bolletieri’s academy, he coached Kournikova as a girl aged just seven or eight -- work that earned him coaching deals with other Russians.
Now Taylor, who lists his favourite players as Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, is back home, keen to utilise all his experience, skills and talent for the benefit of others. After successful networking, he landed the job at Welbeck, plus similar roles at other clubs in the region, as well as one-to-one coaching contracts, which entail about 20 lessons per week. He’s also still playing over-55s tennis. He reached the final of the British Indoor Championship last year and is ranked number one in Yorkshire. No wonder he says “there aren’t enough hours in the day”!
Renowned as an energetic, enthusiastic and highly personable coach, he hopes to drive the potential of the 140-plus members at Welbeck, particularly the younger players and their teams at U13, U14 and U14 levels.
“There are some good prospects at the club,” he said. “But they just need tightening up and their work ethic just needs to be taken to the next level.
“I tend to teach in a different way to the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association), whose approach can be rather lenient.
“I prefer to do it the Spanish way, which is much tougher. A lot of kids thse days want the results without being prepared to put the work in.
“For example, anyone can hit a tennis ball. But I feel that movement around the court is what matters most.
“Kids want to try and play winners with every shot, rather than try to work themselves into a position to play the winner. I want to make players run a bit more and work harder, whether they like it or not. If they are not good enough, they won’t be involved in the team.
“And of course, in general, we have to make sure that things don’t just happen in tennis for two weeks of the year -- during Wimbledon. The Davis Cup win was such a big thing, but it might never happen again.”
Taylor’s passion has already rubbed off on the Welbeck club, who say they are delighted to have him on board.
Secretary Vincent McGrath said: “Tim has a wealth of experience at international level, and he is keen to share this with local people to both aid their ambition and their enjoyment.
“Our junior teams are currently experiencing a good level of success, and this us due to Tim’s considerable input and support.
“Any club would be pleased to have a coach of such international repute. He has played or worked with many of the great players that we regard as tennis icons, and we are thrilled to be alongside him at Welbeck.
“His knowledge of the game is second to none. He is also such an amiable personality to have around the club and we thoroughly enjoy working with him.”