RTA Try Play Spotlight: Vanessa Manuel


Vanessa picked up her first tennis racquet, a Billie Jean King wooden racquet, when she was around 11 years old. Vanessa and her family were living in Germany at the time and she and the neighborhood kids played, or rather, according to Vanessa, “hit the ball back and forth in an unstructured format.” None of them had received any tennis lessons, but they had loads of fun drop-feeding the ball and trying to get it over the net to the other person.


Fast forward over 35 years. During the fall of 2016, and at age 49, Vanessa signed up for her first tennis lesson as a way of getting herself off the couch. She had always had a passion for tennis and enjoyed playing with friends, but she didn’t know how to serve or properly hit the ball.


After some initial tennis instruction, Vanessa was ready for the next step in her tennis development — learning how to play tennis in a match format. Vanessa searched online for match play instruction opportunities and found the Try Play program on the Raleigh Tennis Association website. She signed up for two 6-week sessions of Try Play between October and December 2017.


So what was her favorite part of the Try Play experience? The people, of course!


“The folks on the tennis court, instructors and participants, want to be there and they want to share their love of the sport by teaching or playing.”


Her favorite memory from Try Play is receiving lessons while it was cold and snowing. The students, herself included, enjoyed the weekly lessons so much and were so addicted to being on the court learning how to play tennis that, after a light snow started during one particular lesson, no one wanted to leave. They continued playing with gloves on while it snowed! Now that is dedication!


After completing the Try Play program, Vanessa continued taking tennis lessons through the Millbrook Tennis Center. She also gained additional play experience by participating in Raleigh’s tennis ladder program and playing on a few USTA League teams. She also served as captain for two teams. When she started playing USTA, her NTRP rating was 2.5. She’s now up to a 3.0 and feels confident enough to play at the 3.5 level. Way to go, Vanessa!


Vanessa has also participated in a few local tennis tournaments. She didn’t bring home any trophies but that wasn’t her goal: “it was the experience and fun-factor that were my main goals.”


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