With tennis fever on its way to Wimbledon, Balham resident and broadcaster Andrew Castle tells The Resident how he started his career as a professional tennis player and reveals what he loves about life in south London
‘I found a racket under the stairs [aged nine] when we moved to Taunton Green in Somerset. I found it deeply thrilling that I was able to make a ball do what I wanted it to,’ says the former British No. 1.
Castle was awarded a scholarship to Millfield School; an independent school in Street, Somerset, admitting that he was ‘very fortunate to get the breaks.’
‘I’m very competitive, hugely so, so it suited me down to the ground – but I had no idea I was of professional standard.’
By the time he was 17, Castle had won athletic scholarships at colleges in Florida, and later Kansas, and went alone to America. In 1986 he became a professional tennis player.
In 1989, while in Tokyo competing in The Japan Open tennis tournament, Castle met his now wife, Sophia, a Japan Airlines flight attendant and a keen tennis player herself. The couple married in 1991, and live in Balham with their two daughters Georgina, and Claudia.
The couple’s first home together was a ‘loft/warehouse’ in Wimbledon, and they lived there until their first child was born, when they started looking for a house. ‘At the time, there were lots of early and mid Victorian properties in Clapham, which was cheaper than Wimbledon,’ says Castle.
They looked at properties in Abbeville Village and Clapham Old Town, although these weren’t the affluent areas then that they are today. They moved into their contemporary, light-filled Balham home 12 years ago.
‘I can’t imagine living outside London now,’ he says. Castle is a big fan of Balham, naming The Nightingale Pub (‘I had a regrettable evening in there the other day’) and Chez Bruce (‘what a restaurant’) as two of the area’s gems. He also commends The Bedford (‘good beer, comedy’).
When Sophia was pregnant for the first time, Andrew (then 28) started to consider his ‘family duties’. Realising that he couldn’t play tennis forever and needing to provide for his family, he made the transition from player to sports commentator.
At the 1991 German Open in Berlin. There were two commentators that I knew, and they asked to come up. ‘One said, “You’ve always been a bit a lippy”, so I went up, did one set and had a blast
‘At the 1991 German Open in Berlin. There were two commentators that I knew, and they asked to come up. [One said] ‘You’ve always been a bit a lippy’, so I went up, did one set and had a blast.’
In 1992 he retired from professional tennis and joined Sue Barker co-presenting Sky TV’s tennis coverage. He admits he had been ‘fraught with uncertainty’ but the career change paid off when Sue Barker left Sky for the BBC and he became Sky’s lead tennis presenter. He later joined the BBC team himself, before moving across to ITV in the year 2000 to co-present breakfast show GMTV.
‘In the first 20 minutes of my first episode of GMTV the autocue went down,’ he reveals. ‘But I was in pretty good hands’. Comedian Jack Dee dropped off a bottle of champagne for Andrew Castle at the GMTV studios that day. The early starts were no mean feat, getting up between 3.30 and 4.30am.
‘It’s such a physical commitment to do a programme like that,’ he says. It wasn’t enough to deter him from another breakfast position though, Andrew Castle currently presents the breakfast show on Smooth Radio. Tune in from 6am to 10am, Monday to Friday.