Nick Hornby meets Bill Bryson as Spencer Vignes tells the hilarious tales of his journey through England in his 1969 Morris Minor. His aim - to play tennis on every court he came across between his childhood home of Warnham, West Sussex, and his adult one in the former Yorkshire mining town of Normanton, to a soundtrack of 70's punk and 80's rock. Inspired by the 1971 film 'The Swimmer' starring Burt Lancaster as a businessman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, spending a day swimming through the pools of his wealthy friends and neighbours in suburban Connecticut, the author had no particular route planned, but lets the nets guide him. Each time he spots a court, he stops and challenges the first person he sees to have a knock with him, be it Boris Becker or blind old Mrs Brady on her way back from bingo. Spencer's 365-mile journey took five weeks to complete.
Along the way he: played on 148 tennis courts against people of different class, colour and ability, including an 81-year old grandmother, a drug addict, a man in a wheelchair, a pregnant woman, one of England's top junior stars, the list goes on; was assaulted by a Birmingham drunk who took offence to his tennis clothes; had a falling out with the notoriously 'stuffy' All England Club over his attempts to play at Wimbledon; gatecrashed Tony and Jane Henman's back garden in Oxfordshire, and hit a serve on the court where their son Tim first learned to play; discovered Goran Ivanisevic could have Chris de Burgh in a bar room brawl, and that Leatherhead is officially the most boring town in England. The Server is the story of his trip; the people he met, the places he visited and his battle to overcome a chronic case of tennis elbow, together with thoughts on the state of the game in Britain in 2002.