Playing with ten­nis pro­fes­sion­als

Coastal News - - News - By ALI­SON SMITH news@coastal­news.co.nz

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¯.

PHOTO / ALI­SON SMITH

Tairua res­i­dent Rita Pa­cizan took up ten­nis at 40 and has played on the in­ter­na­tional cir­cuit.

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