Matt Martin was at the U.S. Open four years ago when he bumped into an old doubles partner.
Martin, a former top-ranked junior player in B.C., had success on the court with his partner. They’d won a provincial championship in 2004 together before Martin accepted a scholarship to an NCAA Division 1 college and his partner turned pro.
So when he saw Vernon’s Vasek Pospisil, currently ranked 126th in the world, at the Grand Slam, Martin couldn’t resist reminding him how they both got started.
“I was like, ‘Yo, you’re a Wimbledon champ but you never officially broke up with me. What’s going on?’” Martin joked. “I really follow the Canadian players because I used to go on trips with those guys. Canadian tennis has really taken some really good steps.”
Martin’s new job is to continue growing the game at the Nelson Tennis Club. He and his wife Marie moved to the city last summer, and last week he opened the club’s season as its pro coach.
The 29-year-old White Rock, B.C., native brings an impressive pedigree to the job. He was the top under-16 B.C. player in 2003, and No. 1 again in U18 for 2005. Martin won two gold medals at the 2003 Western Canada Games and a bronze at the 2005 Canada Summer Games.
When he went south of the border to play at Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., Martin was named the South Atlantic Conference’s freshman of the year in 2007, the college’s MVP in 2007, 2008 and 2010 and the NCAA’s Div 1 tennis team captain in 2010.
All of which is to say he’s pretty good at tennis.
“When I first came up here, everyone was like, ‘wow, this guy’s pretty legit’” said Martin, who prefers the low-key atmosphere at the courts tucked in next to the Granite Pointe golf course to those in the Lower Mainland.
“This is an epic view for a tennis club. It’s been a really good vibe and I think there’s a ton of potential in Nelson and the Kootenays. We’ll be out in Trail and Creston and Nakusp and there’s tennis players out there. They just need someone to come in with some enthusiasm, a little bit of expertise.”
Martin has been playing tennis since he was 12. He’d played other sports, but his mother was a tennis player and the sport stuck. “Ever since then it’s been hard to put the racket down,” he said.
After he graduated from college in 2010 with a business degree, Martin went to work in banking. But a desk job bored him, so the Martins went travelling. They lived in Melbourne, Australia, for two years where Martin coached tennis, then back through the U.S. and into South America before settling in Nelson.
Coaching, Martin discovered, was a way back into the sport that’s carried him through most of his life.
“Teaching for me, sure, I obviously want you to get better, that’s the goal,” he said. “But I at the same time I want you to have that kind of passion a little bit and understand that this is a lifelong sport.
“This is fun, it’s good exercise, so that’s what I bring to the lesson a little bit, which I think people find exciting.
“It’s not just sitting there [hitting] balls. It’s talking tennis, getting excited. Getting a good workout is huge for me. I think people want to get a good sweat. I don’t make it easy.”