Luxizi Meng is standing on the bright green tennis court and holding her racket. The ball approaches. She bends her knees and swoosh! She hits the ball with a fluid motion and it bounces over the net. Her opponent sighs and says she is tired. Just a few more exercises and you’ll be done, says Meng.
Meng, a new tennis coach at Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University, has many successes to her name. She was a member of the China national tennis team and a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division One Student Athelete in the US. She played in competitions at the international level and toured the US.
Now she uses her talents to coach a new group of players to improve their skills at XJTLU’s Physical Education Center.
Excel on the job
Beijing-born Meng has been playing tennis since he was seven. Growing up, she demonstrated her skills in numerous competitions, including the International Tennis Federation (ITF) World Tennis Tour Juniors.
In 2014, at the age of 16, she joined the China national team and received the highest sports award in China in 2016.
She was ranked 450th on the World Tennis Tour Juniors Rankings. As a teenager, I wanted nothing more than to become a professional tennis player, she says.
Meng quickly rose through the world rankings and caught the attention of US-based coaches.
I started getting emails from American universities asking if I wanted to play for their team on a full scholarship, she says. Before going to university, my life was all about tennis, but I was also interested in graphic design. So I decided to study advertising while playing tennis.
Her starting point was at the University of Texas at Arlington. She then transferred to California State University, Fullerton (Cal State Fullerton).
In addition to excelling on the field, Meng received a bachelor’s degree in advertising and communications from Cal State Fullerton in 2019 and a master’s degree in sports management from California State University, Long Beach in 2021.
She says her best moment with Cal State Fullerton was at the 2018 Big West Conference in Hawaii.
It was tough playing against Division One teams. The players are at the top of the league in the US. Many of them will become professional tennis players after graduation.
Every victory, no matter how small, was earned. You can feel the tension in the air throughout the game. But we did our best and played as a team.
We made it to the final and finished second. It was the best record of our university!
Meng playing in NCAA Division 1 Big West Conference Tournament in 2018
The power of role models
Meng says her former coach at Cal State Fullerton, Dianne Matias, has been a big influence on her. Matias won the 2016 Women’s Tennis Big West Conference Coach of the Year.
Dianne is a tennis pro with a high world ranking and leads by example.
In year four, I sometimes had to wake up at five in the morning to work out. When I got to the court she was already there. The workouts were exhausting but worth it. I improved so much back then.
She cares about her players and wants the best for them. She’s like family to me and we’re still in touch, says Meng. Now that I am a coach myself, I can appreciate her leadership, character and style of coaching even more.
She sets high standards for herself and her players. As a head coach, she never stops practicing and always makes sure she is at her best. This is also what I’m working towards.
Meng’s favorite tennis player is Li Na, the first Chinese woman to win the World Tennis Association (WTA) tour title in 2004 and two Grand Slam singles titles in 2011 and 2014.
I first met her when I was training for the national team. I was very nervous and excited! The second time I saw her play tennis in Paris, France.
I admire Li Na because she knows what she wants and goes for it. She is very determined not only in her tennis career but also in other aspects of her life such as female leadership and charity work.
Meng will play in NCAA Division 1 Big West Conference Tournament in 2019
Share the knowledge
Prior to joining XJTLU, Meng worked as an assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton and national team manager at China Golf Association.
In 2021, when I was looking for coaching opportunities, a friend of mine in the US recommended XJTLU.
I was immediately interested because I could coach in English and Chinese. XJTLU was a good fit as it is a university where my international background and bilingual skills would be appreciated.
Meng says her first impression of XJTLU is one of diversity.
Most of the teachers and staff have studied abroad and students have many extracurricular activities to participate in.
The working environment at XJTLU is very welcoming. My colleagues are fun to be around. We are about the same age and we all have sports experience, so we have a lot to talk about.
I think Suzhou is a beautiful city. My colleagues and I have visited many places such as Tianping Mountain. The landscape in Suzhou is very different from Beijing.
Meng says she enjoys coaching and wants to start her own tennis club one day.
I am so grateful for what tennis has given me. It taught me self-discipline, perseverance, team spirit and much more. It is an indispensable part of my life. I want to share my passion for tennis and the strategies and techniques I’ve learned.
By Xinmin Han
Edited by Patricia Pieterse
Photos courtesy of Luxizi Meng
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