Women’s doubles: The tennis twins still making a racket at 80

Twins Donie Donnelly and Barbara Mason celebrate their 80th birthday at Graves Tennis Centre
Twins Donie Donnelly and Barbara Mason celebrate their 80th birthday at Graves Tennis Centre
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Anyone for tennis? Twins Donie Donnelly and Barbara Mason are certainly up for a game – even though the sprightly sisters have celebrated their 80th birthdays.

The sport still plays a huge part in their lives after six-and-a-half decades on the court.

Tennis twins Barbara (right) and Donie aged 17 in 1953

Tennis twins Barbara (right) and Donie aged 17 in 1953

They both admit they’re not as fast as they once were but that doesn’t stop them playing every week with women of a similar age.

And the birthday girls don’t have any plans to hang up their rackets just yet.

“Oh no, we’re aiming for 90 next!” Donie says with a chuckle.

Barbara added: “And I don’t ever consider not coming!

Twins Donie Donnelly and Barbara Mason celebrate their 80th birthday at Graves Tennis Centre

Twins Donie Donnelly and Barbara Mason celebrate their 80th birthday at Graves Tennis Centre

“We both have had little spells when we’re out of it.

“I’ve had two knee replacements and that held me up for a little bit but I’m back again now.”

Remarkably, it was only seven years ago that Barbara was playing tennis five times a week and they both enjoy the game as much as ever at Graves Tennis and Leisure Centre in Norton.

The twins were born in 1936 at Nether Edge Hospital and spent most of their early childhood living on Hollythorpe Road in Meersbrook.

Donie, who is 35 minutes younger than Barbara, said: “We started to play in Meersbrook park in the ladies league matches and mixed doubles.

“We played on and off when we got married and had our families and then Barbara came to Graves when it first opened in 1991 and I joined afterwards. We’ve been here ever since.”

The twins started playing at the age of 14 after persuading their mum to shell out ten shillings – 50p in today’s money – for coaching sessions.

Donie, of Charles Ashmore Road, Meadowhead, said: “It all started after we had some coaching session from the Yorkshire tennis coach organised through Hurlfield Grammer School as it was then on Abbeydale. We learnt a lot back then which we still use today.

“We get some ladies who might not have played much before and we can help them a little bit.”

Barbara, of Union Road, Nether Edge, said: “We really appreciate it now because our mum scraped it together so both of us could go.

“We often said it’s the best 10 shillings our mum ever spent.”

The pair said they have played many memorable games – and Donie once even beat the mother of former Sheffield tennis star Roger Taylor.

“It was in the ladies doubles in the parks league,” she said.

“I played with my partner Sylvia up at Weston Park. We were away and I was about 22 or 23 at the time in the late 50s.

“I think her name was Lily and her partner Mary. We beat them and they were so shocked because they’d won that title for years. We didn’t win the competition but that game sticks in my head.”

The tennis twins, who have seven children, 12 grandchildren and two great grandchildren between them, are looking forward to attending the Nottingham Open in June for the start of the grass season in anticipation for Wimbledon.