Max Bellis in action at the Pascoes TennisNZ Seniors National Championships in Nelson. Photo: Barry Whitnall/Shuttersport.

Max endures pain to stay in the game

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Max Bellis’ body isn’t quite why it used to be.

The 85-year-old has had his left knee replaced, while the right is beginning to fail him.

However, he is prepared to endure the pain for the game he loves.

Max was one of hundreds of veteran players defying their age at the Pascoes TennisNZ Seniors National Championships held in Nelson.

The local stalwart and oldest player in the tournament played four games over the weekend, pushing his physical limits.

“I am very tired and a bit achy, but I play through all these pain barriers because unfortunately, I do still love it.”

Max competed in both doubles and singles, the latter of which is becoming more difficult for him to keep up.

“It is very noticeable playing singles, it is strictly a running game, and if you can’t run, you can’t play.”

While he struggled with his running, across the court, Max says he still hits the ball pretty well.

His first match ended in a win by default after his opponent withdrew with a pulled hamstring.

“It was a bit of a shame because it was a close game, I lost the first set 6-2, but l was getting his measure.”

Max’s second singles match was against 81-year-old top seed Gary Pike.

“He was no slug, I got one game in though. He was super fit and all over the court, I played some good shots, but they kept coming back.”

It was a similar story in the doubles as Max and his partner Bill Unwin took on national champions David Hawkes and Steve Molnar, losing 6-0, 6-0.

“They made it very hard, but we just had to keep trying and I ran my little old heart out.”

Max and Bill did manage to pick up a set in their final match of the tournament.

Max has been swinging a racquet for close to 75 years and still plays three times a week at the Stoke courts.

He has won a slew of national titles in his storied career, however, he admits he may not have many more years in him.

“I have to decide if I want to stop playing or put up with pain.”

Max is on a waiting list for an operation on his knee but believes he may be waiting a while.

“It is getting harder and harder but I’m going to hang in there as much as I can. If I have to stop tomorrow, I’d be disappointed but content that I have achieved everything I wanted to.”