By Mick Jensen
He might have just celebrated his 90th birthday, but Bob Riseley is still a force to be reckoned with on the tennis court.
Sprightly, fit and and eager to play, he’s on the asphalt at Hampstead Tennis Club twice a week in summer and on Saturdays he also plays on the grass at Allenton.
Over winter he gets his tennis fix three times a week at Hampstead.
Bob joined that club when he moved to the district half a century ago and through tennis he’s made many good and lasting friendships.
The tennis fraternity at Hampstead laid on an impressive afternoon tea for Bob last week to celebrate his birthday and the fact that he is the club’s oldest regular player.
Married to Molly for the last 66 years, Bob hails from Invercargill where he spent the first 40 years of his life.
“I played a bit of tennis as a lad, but it was with an old twisted racquet.
“I couldn’t afford to play when I first started work as an apprentice in a cabinet making factory and had to wait till I was in my 20s before my wife bought me my first new racquet.”
Bob shifted north to teach woodworking at the former Manual Centre in Ashburton, before landing a job teaching the same subject at Ashburton Intermediate, where he worked for 13 years before retirement.
He played his first competitive tennis match for the Hampstead club and has tasted team success on a number of occasions over the years.
“I played singles and doubles, but in later years, it’s only been doubles.
“I do like the grass courts at Allenton, but the uneven bounce can catch you out.”
Bob said he liked to play at the net and was still pretty nimble around the court because “he didn’t carry any weight”.
He was forced to take a year off from tennis in 2000 because of a health scare and a winning battle with bowel cancer.
Tennis elbow was another problem that had bothered him for a while, but the purchase of a top of the range tennis racquet with built in vibration control helped solve that issue.
“I bought that racquet 20 years ago and I’m still using it today, so it’s been a good investment,” said Bob.