Tennis ace Andrew Castle recalls school life at Millfield
The former British number one talks candidly about Millfield School, falling in love and the Wimbledon moment he'll never forget
When did you first start playing tennis?
I was eight years old and I became obsessed with tennis from day one. I found a tennis racket under the stairs and I went to the park with a friend of mine, where we played all day. I totally fell in love with it.
Had you always felt this way about tennis?
No! I always thought how boring it was! Wimbledon would always be on the television and we wouldn’t watch anything else for two weeks, but it felt more like two years. I would think, “God this is boring,” and then, sure enough, it was the sport I fell in love with.
What led you to Millfield?
I played for two years in my own age group and I didn’t lose once. That was how Millfield came along. Colin Atkinson, Headmaster at Millfield School, was an incredibly important man in my life as he offered me a full scholarship. He knew that my family had financial difficulty, but I was good at the game, so he offered me a place. I remember my mother crying when we found out, it was an incredible moment.
What was life like at Millfield?
Now, this is where I’m going to surprise you as it wasn’t as good as it should have been. I was there from 1976–79 and I wasn’t happy, but I don’t think I would have been happy anywhere. My mum and dad divorced when I was 15 and I wasn’t a very happy schoolboy. I still thank God that I went there as it was a fantastic opportunity. The facilities enabled me to play tennis and if I hadn’t gone there, how many hours would I have played a week? I don’t know.
What happened after Millfield?
I left in 1979 and I went back to Huish’s Grammar School, Taunton, where I met some of the best friends of my life. But I kept going back to Millfield every Friday night to play tennis with a coach. We did drills that were really professional and very tough. We went on to represent Somerset together, and we are still friends today.
What have been your career highs and lows?
I played in the Davis Cup for Great Britain, I played in two Olympic games and all the grand slam championships. I travelled the world and played in 50 countries. I even met my wife at the Japan Open. Do you believe in love in first sight? Well I had that and apparently, she did too! We met in a bookshop in Tokyo, so that was definitely a high. The lows: too many to mention, every sportsperson loses a lot and it is debatable whether you learn more about yourself when you win or lose, as both offer different challenges.
As you have commentated for 15 Wimbledon finals, do you have a favourite?
Yes! The Federer and Nadal final in 2008 was the best match I have ever seen. It finished at 9.40pm and, in terms of sport, it was the pinnacle for me.