I learnt how to play tennis in just one lesson from a professional coach at Mandarin Oriental KL
It's always fun to send the couch potato to try out new workouts. Case in point: My testimonials for every #FitnessFriday episode thus far (except the Sound Bath episode). This time, however, I had a little more enthusiasm. Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur has opened a Peter Burwash Tennis Centre as an addition to their Fitness & Wellness services for guests, members and the whole KL community. And to test it — and the skills of this Peter Burwash International's appointed coach — my mission was to learn the basics of playing tennis in one lesson.
I met with Angel Gyorgievski, a tennis professional with more than 15 years of coaching experience, at the front desk of The Fitness & Wellness Centre. He had a sunny disposition as bright as the blazing sun outside as he led me to the tennis courts. It was 10.30am. Question to self: Why didn't you pick an earlier time slot? Like 8am when the sun isn't showing off. Although I'd have to say it's a nice spacious court with sweeping views of the surrounding skyscrapers. Angel continued to ask me if I've done any similar sports (badminton) or work out regularly (once in two weeks?) to gauge my fitness level. As Peter Burwash International runs tennis programs for five-star resorts as well as train celebrities, I asked who were some of the famous people he's worked with. He roughly recalled a name that turned out to be Cara Delevingne. "She was on holiday," he said. Well, looks like Cara and I are going to be tennis equals.
First lesson: Holding the racket and holding the ball. Easy enough. This is a starting position before serving the tennis ball. Minus the ball and it's a starting position for when you're preparing to receive the ball from your opponent.
Second lesson: The serving position. Keeping the hand holding the ball still, you have to lift the racket and hold it over your head.
Then, it's time to toss the ball in the air and hit it. This is the part, which as Angel told me, that most people would be afraid of it hitting their face in the event they miss. Thank goodness I didn't. And it felt weird to have succeeded. Even weirder that Angel showered me with praise for it. "Wow, that's amazing! How are you so good?" he exclaimed. Actually, his method of motivating his 'students' is really nice — I'm just used to the HIIT-style of instructors lying saying "Come on!", "You can do it!" and "Just 30 more seconds!". Then again, I'm really incapable of HIIT workouts. Maybe I am talented in tennis.
We did a few more rounds of serving the ball before moving on to the next lesson. Receiving the ball. There are two ways of gripping the racket. The first is with just one hand and in a pose called backswing. The racket needs to be held slightly behind your back and at a position near parallel with your waist. The rest is all about timing. The other important thing to note is to do the finishing pose — the racket must be swung all the way till over your shoulder — after each hit.
Next lesson: The two-handed backhand grip. First, this is how you hold the racket. And pesonally, it feels more uncomfortable and less reassuring that I'd be able to hit the ball in this position.
Legs apart and the side of your body facing the net. Knees slightly bent. Posture is important in tennis. Here I am looking 10 shades darker from the sun and 30 minutes into the lesson — but ready for what's to come.
Angel first tried it out by throwing balls at me from a short distance within the same side of the court. I got some, I missed some. Again, my issue was not doing the finishing pose. A simpleton, I rejoiced the minute the ball made contact with the racket's netting and frequently forgot to continue swinging the racket pass my head. While I felt ashamed at constantly making this mistake, Angel was encouraging. We had short breaks at the side (and under an umbrella, thankfully) in between each lesson to towel down and take quick sips of water (all provided during the lesson).
Once I've 'mastered' all the basic poses and grips, and showed I was able to receive most of the balls — all within a distance of a rough two meters between me and Angel — it was time to put them 'skills' to the test. It was time for a real match between mentor and student for the last ten minutes. I struggled to receive and serve the first few times but I soon got the hang of it and the thrill of being able to exchange the tennis ball around twenty times in one go was exhilirating. It also caused me to work up quite a sweat from running from one side of the court to the other just to receive the ball — and the heat, of course.
And with that, the one-hour lesson was over. Mission accomplished. Sure, I'm no tennis professional on my way to becoming the next Serena Williams (feel free to laugh out loud here) but I'm definitely game to play. I'm amazed I got to accomplish that much in an hour but then again, Angel's directions were direct and easy to follow. In fact, I was hooked right after and have been itching to get on the courts again. Let's go for a match, Cara.
About Peter Burwash International
Peter Burwash International (PBI) is the world's premier tennis management company with over 40 years of experience in the industry, offering programs, coaching, tournaments and more for tennis enthusiasts as well as five-star resorts, hotels and tennis clubs worldwide. Mandarin Oriental KL is the first in Malaysia to tie up with PBI to offer world-class tennis services for both the adults and kids — or even better, for families to spend quality time together as a whole.