Playing with tennis professionals
From professional table tennis player to orchestra and choir conductor — Tairua resident Rita Pacizan has taken a somewhat unconventional career path in life.
At 40 she took up tennis and now works part-time coaching adult tennis sessions in Whangamata¯ .
As if her resume wasn’t already impressively varied enough, she can add “beating a former world tennis champion” to her achievements, after returning from the Tennis Senior World Championships where she was in a team representing New Zealand in Germany.
“In the mixed doubles I actually beat a former world number one, which was amazing. It was a funny match — the first set was lost in 20 minutes and I said ‘let’s change something dramatically’, which we did, and that put them off so much that we won the second set.
“In the team competition there were 17 teams in our age group and originally we were seeded right at the bottom and ended up number 12.
“If we won one match we would have been very happy, but in the end we won many more.”
Rita says playing against the world number 2 seed in the singles was “a pretty interesting experience”.
“You get a sort of Master Class. Because you have so much up against you, the crowd is so behind you and you are so relaxed because you have nothing to lose. So you end up playing your best tennis. It was good in that way.”
“The most amazing win was our first round doubles match against Mary Davis and Erica Smith (USA) who were the No 1 doubles pair in the world (in their age group) a few years back. We lost the first set 6-1 and then switched formation and won. I really enjoyed playing with partners from other countries — Kelly Stobbe from Canada and Magnus Metsanurn from Estonia.”
The World Championships were on clay courts in Ulm in her native Germany, and Rita says it was an incredible cultural experience to meet and play against the best players from other nations at such a professionally run event.
She returned home even more enthused about coaching for Whangamata¯ Tennis and Squash, where she meets other residents and coaches them each Friday 4pm-6pm.
“I left Auckland when house prices went through the roof two and a half years ago,” she says, “I thought ‘I only have to go there 30 times a year, so I might as well live somewhere nicer and go for the good life’. There are some interesting people on the Coromandel.”
Rita trained in tennis coaching while living in Australia for four years before returning to New Zealand. She says her parents couldn’t afford for her to take up tennis when she was young, but her skills in other sports put her in good stead.
“I’ve been a professional table tennis player, so I have hand eye coordination and just needed to learn the technique for tennis.”
■ Rita coaches 4pm-6pm for $20 (two hours) or $15 (one hour) through Whangamata¯ Tennis and Squash Club at 500 Rutherford Rd, Whangamata¯.
Tairua resident Rita Pacizan took up tennis at 40 and has played on the international circuit.