WIMBLEDON legend Tim Henman showed off his skills at an Abingdon tennis centre to help a three-year-old girl suffering an incurable disease.
The tennis star came to the aid of grandmother Liz Bamber, from Bampton, near Witney, to boost undraising efforts for her grand-daughter, Lily Bamber, who suffers from Mitochon-drial Disease (MD).
Mrs Bamber, who turns 60 today, organised a tournament at White Horse Leisure and Tennis Centre, and was delighted when ‘Tiger Tim’ agreed to take part. Mrs Bamber, a tennis player and coach, played in six consecutive hours, one for each decade of her life, only taking a number of short breaks after the marathon started at 9am.
She has raised more than £11,000 for The Lily Foundation, named in memory of another sufferer, Lily Merritt, who died from the disease aged eight months.
At the end of the event yesterday, Mrs Bamber said: “I’ve been going on adren- aline – I’ve had the most fantastic day. Tim was brilliant –just incredible.
“Tennis is my love, and I cannot believe how much we have raised.”
Mrs Bamber got in touch with the star through a tennis-playing acquaintance. Mr Henman, 38, who lives in Aston Tirrold, near Didcot, with his wife Lucy and three daughters, said: “Liz has known me for most of my life.
“When I heard about today I wanted to get involved. She’s a real lover of the game, and it is a great cause.”
Mr Henman joined Mrs Bamber in an informal doubles match against two of her former pupils, Jack Rivitt, 18, from Carterton, and Christopher Gray, 17, from Faringdon. Mrs Bamber and Tim Henman won their games.
Mr Gray said: “I felt honoured to play with such a star and it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“Because Liz has coached me, I have a strong connection with the cause, and it was really nice to be involved.”
He added: “Her stamina is very impressive for a 60-year-old.”
Lily, who lives in Suffolk with her mum Michelle, 30, and her dad Jamie, 35, was diagnosed with MELAS syndrome, a form of MD, aged two. There is no known cure or treatment for MD.
The three-year-old, who turns four in February, will start school in September, but she cannot walk and wears callipers on her legs for support.
Lily’s dad, Jamie Bamber, said: “She is a very normal little girl, it is just that she cannot walk around.”
“If anything, it has made her more determined to live her life.”
At the end of the event Mr Henman donated his racquet to the cause.
To donate to the charity or find out more about buying Mr Henman’s racquet, visit Mrs Bamber’s Just Giving Page – justgiving.com/Liz-Bamber.