i've always never been travel blog

Red Clay in Nanjing

The Blue Box

Daily walk to hotel for courts

Star River Hotel

Indoor Serve practice

Growing Up

Preparing for another day of training

Thank you Coach Mark

Fitness with Matko


China Open in Beijing

Hong Kong Open

Aussie lobster - 8 pounder

Coach Ma

Sea Snake anyone?

Best Lobster Mac and Cheese ever!!!

diligent student....

Tennis in China:

Focus, Discipline, POWER, Nike, and Yonex are words that come immediately to my mind when reflecting on our tennis experience in China. The cultural approach to training in Asia for our sport is very different than what we see in the West. According to the coaches at the academy who have been in Asia for many years, variety is not a big part of development. Most game styles I have witnessed are the same, hug the baseline and hit extremely hard and flat. First strike tennis is the name of the game and points are ending within four shots. It is a very fast sport here. Clay courts are almost non-existent in China, in particular in the less fortunate provinces. The country is divided into various provinces/regions and each has its own tennis association which is similar to the United States and our USTA sections.

“Provencial” tennis typically hires retired players to coach the up and coming children and the best are offered free training and lodging at the facilities in trade for “their life” and a chance to make it professional. We have met more than one child who has stopped school in 8th grade. The system of training is not governed by one entity that promotes excitement and variety to help complete the voids in the game that will keep most from a shot at the Top levels. Although it seems that the technique has been mastered from the groundstroke and serve perspective, volleys and touch are a rarity. The private sector of training is available but very expensive and usually attracts the typical wealthy child with a bit less focus and motivation. Some of the worlds biggest tennis names have migrated to China and set up shop due to large financial incentives that the Government has offered. Sanchez-Casale, Boris Becker, and Michael Chang are just a few of the recognizable legends. Many of the players strive to play for their Provence when they get older if professional tennis doesn’t work out. It is a very proud moment to represent your home town.

We have been fortunate to work for a man named Coach Alan and his staff of ten from many different nations (Japan, Taiwan, England, Russia, France and Croatia). Alan lived in the United States and was a Director at the ITA Academy in Delray Beach and The Palmer Academy in Tampa. He has a strong reputation on the professional tour primarily with the WTA. After ITA moved to Club Med in Pt. Saint Lucie, he sold out and happily moved back to Asia. Alan has been in partnership in Guangzhou and with the Star River hotel for years. He has a relationship with the billionaire owner and in fact supplies this gentleman with three full time pros to use at his discretion for doubles any day and at any time. These ex-ATP pros are on a healthy retainer and generally only work (playing 2 hours of doubles) no more than 6-8 hours each week. Alan’s program has 3 women in the Top 100 WTA and many at the lower circuit levels as well as ITF Junior level. Ryan was definitely the youngest and least experienced but truly showed up and raised her game to compete with them all. She finished her last session today with a very impressive doubles victory defeating two ITF Grade 5 level boys 6-1,6-2 and earned 16 “Butts up” fast serves and connected with about 9 of them…Ouch!! Her partner was a female that will be attending UNLV on a full ride athletic scholarship next year.

The power training was a great change from Florida clay courts and will help diversify and advance Ryan’s tennis IQ for the years to come! While in China we were fortunate to attend two professional events, the China Open and Hong Kong Open. Our daily schedule of six walks to and from apartment and hotel, four hours of tennis, 1.5 hours fitness, two “spinny table meals and most of all the camaraderie of the Star River Team will be missed! While in GZ, the academy trained six days per week (1/2 day Saturday) and Ryan still found time to conquer her online studies and read and write. I am so proud of her commitment this trip without ever a hesitation. I think knowing this wasn’t a “way of life” every day, every week, every month and every year made it an awesome experience. Balance is the key and creating environments that encourage, motivate and educate allow a path to success.

We can’t wait until our next visit in Guangzhou while I work at the Academy again and Ryan trains with the team. Alan’s last text to me said, “It is our great pleasure and fortune to have you and Ryan visit us, you and your family are welcome here in China anytime, consider this your second home. Thank you for your effort everyday with our players.”

Needless to say, I was most excited to read those words! His sincere words were followed up with Academy t-shirts, sunglasses, Yonex racquets and one of the most unbelievable seafood dinners I have ever experienced. We went out to a restaurant that seats 10,000 people! There were at least 100 aquariums with fresh seafood choices from 10 pound Australian lobsters to a variety of fish, shrimp, crab, and even abalone. There were oysters, scallops, eel and even sea snake as options. Alan entertained Ryan and I and three of the coaches (England, Russia and Croatia) while enjoying a feast that was unimaginable.

Today, our last day, Coach called me to his room at 7am for tea before practice and presented me with an offer to coach in Indonesia for three months early next year (mid Jan-mid April). An offer that will be difficult to refuse. I have a lot to think about!

To be continued….

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