MOVIE STAR OR TENNIS PLAYER? Ballina?s Paul Denning warms up for the Ballina Bowling Club New Year Tennis Open starting today.
MOVIE STAR OR TENNIS PLAYER? Ballina?s Paul Denning warms up for the Ballina Bowling Club New Year Tennis Open starting today.

By STEVE SPINKS

PAUL Denning never won a grand slam tennis tournament.

The 28-year-old, who is recovering from a shoulder reconstruction, will play his first tournament since June in the A-reserve division in the Ballina Bowling Club New Year Tennis Open starting today at the Ballina Tennis Club.

But don't think the Ballina tennis player is disappointed with his short professional career.

He still got to fulfill a dream of having a hit on centre court at Wimbledon with his boyhood idol Pat Cash.

It was early last year when Denning, who was playing the European satellite circuit, got his chance.

He was coaching part-time at the Riverside Club in London when word circulated that the makers of the romantic comedy movie Wimbledon were looking for tennis extras.

Denning and a friend were accepted for roles in the movie.

What followed was beyond Denning's expectations.

A month was spent shooting at Wimbledon and he was paid well.

Cash, the tennis choreographer for the movie, hit with Denning on centre court.

The Ballina boy also had a hit with gorgeous American movie starlet Kirsten Dunst, who he described as an average tennis player.

"It was good fun," Denning laughed.

"I haven't got the DVD yet, but when I do I'll probably wear it out pausing it when I'm on the screen."

He flirted with the idea of becoming a major movie star after his London experience, but then decided it would be too hard and he'd stick to tennis.

Denning started playing the sport when he was 13.

A self-described 'late bloomer', he was a promising junior before he turned his attention to coaching full-time.

However, at 26 he packed up and headed overseas to try to crack it as a tennis player.

"I coached around Lismore and Ballina," Denning said.

"I guess watching Pat Rafter and Wayne Arthurs do well when they were older inspired me a bit.

"I also had a few mates overseas and they said it was great fun on the circuit over there.

"So I thought 'Why not?'."

He was improving on the satellite tour when he injured his shoulder in the semi-finals of a tournament in Paris.

Denning's working visa then ran out and he was forced to return to Ballina.

But no-one can take away the experiences he had at Wimbledon.

The New Year Open will start today, with the finals on Sunday.



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