Aug 16, 2017
This has been a year in which some of the most celebrated and famous tennis players rolled back the years and demonstrated just why they are so good, and have been for the better part of fifteen years. Rodger Federer won firstly in Australia and then at Wimbledon for his eighteenth and nineteenth grand slam titles respectively, and Rafael Nadal claimed his tenth French Open crown in between these feats. For both players these are truly remarkable achievements. Almost equally remarkable was Venus Williams’s run at Wimbledon which came so very close to producing its own fairy tale ending.
In Suzhou too tennis has seen something of an upsurge in recent years. Perhaps some of this stems from the fact that a Master’s event is held in both Shanghai and Beijing towards the end of each calendar year. Another potential reason for the growing popularity of tennis is that Chinese players are improving on the international stage, with Li Na the most illustrious name to date based on her grand slam achievements during her career. With more international residents also coming to the city, the emergence of a sport that is often played “back home” can also help it to gain visibility.
A decade ago, tennis opportunities in Suzhou were pretty limited. I can recall the university campuses having some courts, and I believe that these were probably rentable by the hour in light of the fact that billiards tables and football pitches were. Some sports complexes also had indoor courts which could be rented for set durations of time. Today tennis courts, still appear in these settings, but many residential apartments also have courts. Some even have squash courts as well and swimming pools too. Fairly obviously, the advantage of living in a complex that provides these facilities to its residents is one of the appeals of living in the locality.
However, the catch in Suzhou, and this applies to almost all sporting endeavours, is the weather. The summer can be incredibly hot and humid. Not only is sunburn and heatstroke a risk, but so too is dehydration. In the winter months it can really rain, which in a city referred to as the ‘Venice of the East’ is to be expected. It can also get fairly cold, and as most tennis courts are hard courts, they get slippery fairly easily. The alternative for those who enjoy the sport, or don’t have facilities on the doorstep is simply to go to one of the indoor complexes. Games are less at the mercy of the weather, although some elements, such as heat in the summer may still feature.
Perhaps the one thing Suzhou lacks at present with regards to this sport is a really active tennis club or league. There are training providers, such as East Coast Sports, who offer a range of fun and well-priced programmes to students of all ages throughout SIP and Suzhou, including adults. That said, there is still nothing really social or semi-competitive for adult players beyond classes and coaching. It would be very nice to have something available to more experienced and competitive international players. Hopefully in the not too distant future there will be.
About the Column
Gareth Morris is a university language teacher. He is also a part-time doctoral student. Gareth first moved to China in 2005 and, after spending a couple of years back in the UK studying for his PGCE and Masters, has now returned to the city he calls home. During his time in China Gareth has travelled extensively. His travels have taken him from Beijing and Xian to Kunming and Haikou. He has also spent time in Hong Kong and Macao. In addition to this, Gareth has lived in a number of countries across Europe, North and Central America and Asia. Closer to home, Gareth has enjoyed visiting numerous localities within Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui. His Livingsu column will explore local places of interest found within walking distance of Metro line 1.