Tennis Coach Rihards Emulins on Teaching HK How to Play Great Tennis
September 22, 2023
Latvian tennis player and coach Rihards Emulins has enjoyed a career coaching the youth of his native Baltic country for more than a decade and competing on the international stage.
Seeking a break from Latvia with an urge to export his love for tennis and coaching the thrilling sport, Rihards emigrated to Hong Kong in spring 2022 to join TennisAsia, a tennis coaching and programme management company, to coach the promising players of the city.
Since May 2022, Rihards has coached tennis classes at the Ladies Recreation Club (LRC) in Mid-Levels, improving members’ fitness, backhands, serves, and mindset. We invited Rihards to speak with The Beat Asia about his journey from Latvia to Hong Kong, coaching passionate tennis players in the city.
How did your tennis journey begin in Europe?
I am from Latvia, where not many people in Asia know where it is [laughs]! Because I began playing tennis from a young age, I travelled a lot for competitions and training. I played competitively in Latvia and Europe and achieved the ATP Ranking. When I moved to Scotland to study for my master's degree at the University of Stirling, I [joined] university sports competitions.
When I was young, I never thought I would be a tennis coach. Returning to Latvia from Scotland, I coached the nation’s best juniors aged 12 to 18 years old, as well as professionals in the country.
After coaching in Latvia for 10 years and doing the same thing all over again every day, [I decided] I needed a change.
Why did you decide to leave Latvia and come to Hong Kong to coach tennis?
I knew two brothers from Latvia, Matiss and Mikelis Libietis, who were both working in Hong Kong at the Ladies Recreation Club, representing TennisAsia. They have since gone back to Latvia, but they made me think, what’s going on there in Hong Kong?
I got in touch with the bosses of TennisAsia, [Andy Brothers and Jason Sankey], and spoke to them about coming to Hong Kong to coach tennis. My wife liked the idea, and our daughter is young enough that it wouldn’t disrupt her life, so we moved in spring 2022.
How would you describe tennis coaching and the level of the sport in Hong Kong?
It's still tennis, it’s still a ball, we have the same courts and we’re on the same page. It’s just hotter and more humid [laughs]!
The difference [between Hong Kong and Latvia] is that I previously worked mostly with juniors and tennis players wanting to become professional. At the LRC, people are serious about tennis, but their goal is probably not to be on the Grand Slam! It’s more like tennis as a lifestyle for them.
Why did you write your coaching book, Boost Your Tennis Game?
You can only coach max eight hours a day, as it's exhausting. I have always wanted to help as many people as possible [improve] their game. I began creating video courses to supplement my in-person coaching, but it was a slow start to gain traction.
I decided to put it on the paper first. My book covers all the main aspects of tennis - technique, fitness, strategy, and mindset.
What attracted you to work with TennisAsia?
TennisAsia is an on-call coaching management company [that works] with members and public clubs to set up and run tennis coaching systems and programmes. We are one of the biggest companies in Hong Kong for coaching. It’s very smooth to work with them.
Where do you see tennis progress in Hong Kong in the future?
Hong Kong is 20 times smaller than Latvia, but has four times more people. Hong Kong is crazy with the level of tennis. The best players in Latvia are slightly better than Hong Kong’s finest. But there are many players in Hong Kong, so the average standard is maybe even higher in Hong Kong.
At the LRC, court times for the members club are set, and we have a fixed schedule of when we can play and coach. At the public and government courts in Hong Kong, it is tougher. It’s a hustle for coaches to book time to play. There will never be enough courts of the millions who play here. Hong Kong’s strength is its depth, we will never run out of players.
To explore more of Rihard’s work in Hong Kong, book lessons with him, or purchase his book, check out his Instagram page here.
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