I was relieved when I heard Queenstown teenager Louise Oxnevad had earned a prestigious tennis scholarship to a college in the United States.
It made me feel slightly better about getting my butt kicked by her on the tennis court when she was just 14 years old. Okay, maybe she beat me quite a few times when she was 13 as well.
We started hitting regularly when she was 12 after her mother Felicity called me one day to ask if I would.
I was always keen to play so it was never a problem and I was flattered Felicity considered me a decent enough player to be a worthwhile hitting partner for Louise. I knew even then she was pretty ambitious about her tennis.
Louise was in the Queenstown Tennis Academy, which is for a handful of elite young players with potential and a work ethic.
We’d regularly hit on Friday after Louise had finished school – and eventually she’d always ask to play a set. Louise loved match play, always wanted to compete.
And every time I’d tell her: “Lou – if you beat me you can’t tell anyone.”
She’d always just laugh.
Early on, I had her measure and would win but it was no pushover.
By the time she was 13 we were splitting sets and they were always pretty tight. I’d be playing my guts out and having to power down bigger serves which to be honest was the only reason I’d win half the time.
Before long, she was beating me – make that killing me – regularly and I was getting a lot more out of it than she was.
Then I remember one day during an exhausting match, her father Tony said to me: “It’s so great that you hit with her.”
After gasping to get some air into my lungs and see off what felt like a pending heart attack, I told him she really needed to find a better hitting partner because she was wasting her time with me.
Since then it’s been exciting to hear of her progress, playing tournaments overseas, climbing up the under-18 world rankings and qualifying for the Australian Open grand slam juniors.
Now she’s off on a lucrative scholarship to the United States and a world of possibilities.
It’s great to see a young local kid with a top attitude and surrounded by the right kind of people, advice and expertise achieving their goals.
It’s taken plenty of hard work and determination on her part to get to this point as well as a very supportive family and dedicated coaching from local Queenstown Tennis Academy pro coach Lan Bale. A lot of elements have
Louise admitted to me this week there have been many tough times but she’s never wavered – and is expecting more of the same when fulltime study and training begin in the US.
As she said, the hard work’s only just beginning.
Good on you Lou, all the best – and thanks for being my hitting partner there for a while.