KUCHING: There’s life and career in tennis after the Malaysia Games (Sukma) and former national and professional player Mohd Assri Merzuki can present a strong testimony of this.
After quitting the national team and competitive tennis in 2017, Assri took up coaching in Thailand.
He spent a year with the British International School on Phuket Island as an assistant high performance coach and another year with the Oceanic Sports Hotel as head coach before returning to Malaysia.
The 25-year-old, who hails from Semariang, is now attached with the Tennis Town Academy in Kuala Lumpur as a coach, coaching at all levels – mini tennis, development, high performance and adult tennis.
He had to return to Malaysia as he needed to take care of his mother and two younger sisters after his father passed away in over two years ago.
Assri has attained the Academy Professional certification in RPT (Registry of Tennis Professionals).
“I enjoy coaching and sometimes I even stay on the court for 10 hours a day conducting lessons.
“I am giving myself five to 10 years to gain more coaching experience and hope that I can come back to Sarawak one day to contribute back to the state,” he told thesundaypost.
Assri studied at SK Merpati Jepang and SMK St Joseph.
He bagged three gold medals in men’s singles, men’s doubles and team event in Sukma Perlis in 2014.
Assri was with the national squad for 10 years, representing Malaysia in the Davis Cup in 2010, 2012 to 2016.
His highest ATP singles ranking was No. 1333 in November 2014, ATP doubles No. 795 in February 2012 and ITF junior ranking was 202.
He also won the team bronze medal at Singapore SEA Games in 2015.
Assri had the opportunity to play the doubles main draw with Pablo Busta in the ATP 250 in Kuala Lumpur in 2014.
At the same time he also had the chance to spar with three-time Grand Slam winner Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, former world number three David Ferrer of Spain and Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the 2014 US Open runner-up.
He has some practical advice to aspiring youngsters who wish to pursue a career in tennis.
“When you take up tennis, make sure you work very hard and go for your passion at the same time don’t neglect your studies.
“Make sure there is a balance between tennis and academic as it is a perfect combo that will pave the way to a good future,” he said.
Local players who excel also stand the chance of securing tennis scholarships to study in universities locally and abroad, he reminded.
“I would like to thank my late father who was always the one to believe in me the most and although he could not support me financially, he was constantly pushing me to do well in tennis.
“Thanks also goes to Sarawak Lawn Tennis Association president Dato Patrick Liew Chin Joon who discovered my talent when my late father worked as a caretaker at PTBS and he identified sponsors like Datuk Amar Hamed Sepawi and Datu Len Talif Salleh, former Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud to fund my training in Romania and the US, and Lea Sports Centre for the sports jerseys and equipment, and the Merdeka Palace Hotel & Suites on my foods dietary.”
He also credit Liew for offering tremendous help during his journey to become a professional player.
“If not for him, I would not have been whom I am today.”
Looking ahead, Assri wants to see Sarawak tennis attain greater heights, develop a new generation of high-calibre players and maintain Sarawak’s status as the nation’s tennis sports powerhouse.