A Tennis Love Story
As the month of love comes to a close, we're sharing a tennis love story between one of Raleigh's own teaching pros and one of our recreational players.
How they met
Malik Daniel, a tennis professional for over 20 years, and Adna Rubio, a tennis novice, met on the tennis courts at Raleigh Racquet Club (RRC) on a warm September day during a Try Tennis class.
Over the next few months, they would spend hours on the court — one teaching tennis and the other learning. Without really realizing it, they were also getting to know each other. When the Try Tennis classes came to an end, Malik asked Adna out for ice cream. And the rest, as they say, is history.
“It was ‘love-all’ at first sight,” says Adna.
March 2021 will be one year since COVID took over and had such a big impact on so many of our lives. Adna and Malik feel that they can’t tell their story without mentioning it. In early March of last year, Malik, Adna, and a few of their tennis friends decided to go out for drinks and dinner for St. Patrick’s Day in Downtown Raleigh. Little did they realize that it would become one of their last outings before everything shut down. That night, they walked along Fayetteville Street, visited a few spots, danced at others, and finished the night with pizza. The whole time they talked tennis and, by the end of the night, seared into their brains, and their hearts, was one of the loveliest nights they'd had gathered with friends.
“That is the thing about tennis – calling it just a sport is doing it an injustice. Tennis offers educational, mental, and physical health benefits; it becomes a chance to network and socialize and meet people from all walks of life. But best of all, if you’re really lucky, you get to meet the love of your life,” says Adna reminiscing about that night.
The proposal was sweet and intimate, special to Malik and Adna. As background, Adna comes from a big family, who are very important to her. Everything her family does is large, fun, and boisterous. But Malik knew Adna felt some moments in life should be private and peaceful, shared in the moment, by the persons affected – and that included engagements.
Malik knew in planning the engagement that it was meant to be a moment shared between him and Adna first, and then their family and loved ones later. So one random Friday evening, Malik picked up Adna for a quiet dinner at her brother’s house. Looking back, Adna had no clue what was happening – to the point that while she waited for him to arrive she thought of going outside to fiddle with her rose bushes. As she was preparing to walk out to the patio, Malik walked in said hello, and said he needed to talk to her. Then, like a gentleman, he got down on one knee and proposed. But Malik didn’t stop there – knowing how important family is to Adna, they headed to her brother’s and shared the good news. To her surprise, her entire family was gathered there to celebrate the engagement. Adna says it is, and will always be, one of the happiest moments of her life.
Two years later, she and Malik are days away from their wedding, scheduled for next month on March 20, 2021. They are so excited to share their love and special day with family and friends.
Tennis is essential
Tennis is such an essential part of both Malik and Adna’s lives. Malik is not only a top teaching tennis professional at RRC but he plays competitively at the 5.0 level. He manages tournaments for all age groups out of RRC and is heavily involved in community-leading efforts such as Tennis for Life NC.
But, according to Adna’s first-hand experience, Malik's true success is in making non-tennis players or beginners, much like Adna, into tennis converts — obsessed and hungry for more!
“Malik has a true ability to make tennis accessible, fun, and competitive all at the same time. He takes a vested interest in a player’s development and spends the time providing them with the next steps for continued improvement, including clinics, league contacts and signup, and equipment stores. Malik also makes time to introduce Try Tennis graduates to other tennis players, ensuring they meet peers to continue to play tennis with and also make friends,” said Adna about her fiance.
As for Adna, she is still very much a beginner, but learning tennis was a life-changing experience for her. Not only did she meet the love of her life, but tennis has become her second love. Many of the people she took Try Tennis classes with are now her best friends. They take clinics together, play competitively, and socialize on and off the court. Malik attends many of their matches, not only as a cheerleader, but he also provides feedback and support, encouraging Adna and her teammates to continue to strive for more and improve.
Malik and Adna don’t play together now, but Adna aspires to play at his level one day. With Malik’s support and teaching, they both believe she will one day, too! For now, they still enjoy their roles as teacher and student, and look forward to many more days of tennis!
Tennis as a way of life
Adna has learned to appreciate tennis as a great way to be healthy and get exercise while the competitive-side of the game gets her heart racing. Off the court, she has been blessed with meeting some of the greatest people on earth from all walks of life. She and her friends attend each other’s matches for support and they had ongoing lunch and dinner plans (pre-COVID).
For Malik, the game of tennis has provided him with a lifelong career. He's never been bored or tired of being on the court teaching. But tennis is not just any job. Malik says that he gains great pleasure from both teaching and playing competitively. Teaching requires that he focus on each player, helping them understand the game and become better players, all while having fun. As a player, even after all these years, he gets excited just to get out, play, and continue to improve his game.
So what is it about tennis?
Malik and Adna agree that their love for tennis stems from it being a great equalizer — anyone at any age and level can play tennis regardless of gender, athleticism, or profession.
“You can also play tennis as a team sport, with doubles, or solo, in singles,” says Adna, “Tennis is a game you can play for life.”