Anyone for tennis? I have to confess I was flattered when I was invited to join a Ladies League Tennis team. It all seemed so incredibly civilised. The perfect opportunity to meet and greet other women from all walks of life while we wafted gently around court, sharing the bonds of sportsmanship and love of the game. The benefits of regular coaching would be an asset to both my tennis and my waistline, and the friendly lunch after matches sounded utterly charming. But after being smacked in the face by a ferociously hit ball and then watching my opponents punch the air savagely in victory as my blood spattered all over the court, I have changed my mind. League tennis is a brutal sport and it certainly isn't played by 'ladies'. An early indication that I had made a mistake occurred during the first coaching session. Skipping gaily onto court in my pink tennis dress replete with frilly knickers and matching wristbands, I was immediately aware from the stares that I might have committed a serious fashion faux pas. My fellow team members were dressed in tight Lycra shorts and singlets that showed off muscular, tanned limbs to perfection. Hours later, I was crawling off court, my sodden pink dress clashing horribly with my sweaty, red face, and saddled with the dubious nickname of 'Fairy'. I don't think I have ever been so nervous as I was before my first match. I wanted to be violently sick. Our captain kept a conspiratorial eye on the opposition as we warmed up, muttering vital intelligence to give us encouragement. 'The small, fat one can't hit a backhand to save her life. Target her,' she commanded. I couldn't help thinking that this was precisely what the enemy was saying about me. The first two sets passed in a flash of sheer terror. Then the opposition, confident in their superiority, began to lose focus and, at last, made a mistake. Gleefully, I called 'out!' Instantly, the woman thundered up to the net, incandescent with rage and screamed (I swear I am not making this up): 'You cannot be serious!' My partner and I assured her that the ball was indeed out. If I mention the words 'tantrum' and 'toddler' in no particular order, this will give some idea of the scenes that followed. Unfortunately, the toddler in question was a mature, intelligent woman with a mouth to match. Lunch was not 'charming': it was acrimonious and no apology was offered for the objectionable behaviour on court. I have since been told that this doesn't always happen when a group of highly motivated women gets together in the name of sport, but once is enough for me. And definitely enough for my poor nose. Anyone for tennis? I don't think so.