sep 1

"You Are Not in America Anymore"
by: Phil Naessens

Teaching tennis here in Corfu has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and also has been the most challenging. One of these challenges is getting equipment, such as racquets, balls, shoes, etc. In this article I'll describe some of these challenges.

Upon my arrival in Corfu, I was given 100 Euro (about 125USD) to buy enough tennis balls (72) to fill up my teaching basket and have a few cans left for 'playing' lessons. I figured with 100 euro I could maybe buy 30 cans of balls easily. Boy, was I wrong. I finally found the store, saw that the price of a single can of balls was 7.50 euro, and almost had a heart attack. I figured, ok, I'd just try and buy a case of 24 and get the price reduced. I talked to the store clerk/racquet stringer/local expert and he said, "No, the price is still the same whether you buy 1 or 100 cans". My response was the 'typical' response Americans use when living abroad: "Back in the states I can buy 50 cans for 100 euro", which, his reply was, "You not in America anymore"! Ouch!

While at the store, still in shock and 120 euro lighter (20 cans, he took pity on me and gave me a 'deal'), I looked at the racquets and prices were definitely not what I was used too. An example: a Wilson 5.2 tennis racquet can be had, over the Internet for roughly 100 USD. Here, in Corfu, this discontinued racquet goes for 280 euro UNSTRUNG. The junior version of this same racquet (26 inches) costs 220 euro strung. I asked about 'demos' and the clerk/racquet stringer/local expert said, "What's that?" No problem, now I know, I thought to myself. I saw 3 Wilson junior racquets (25,23,21 inches respectively) and was delighted (?) that I only had to pay 45 euro for each one!

Still in the store, armed with 20 cans of balls and 3 junior racquets, I noticed the stringing machine, an electronic, digital Technifiber model. The sign above said 'same machine as used at Roland Garros', home of the French Open. Looking at the prices of the string and starting to finally realize that I wasn't in Sports Authority anymore, I asked if this price included stringing the racquet. No, that's extra. 40 euro for Prince Tournament Nylon is a little steep for me, regardless of the machine. Considering the fact that you can buy a whole reel of this string in the USA (enough for 20 racquets) for about the same price as 1-package costs here, I took a pass and moved on.

The shoe department was where I headed next. This store has a large selection of tennis specific shoes and the prices were out of this world, or at least the world I used to know. The prices of socks were also much, much higher then what I was used to. I was starting to realize why the local people don't play tennis very much, and I needed to find a way to do something about it.

Finally, I gathered enough energy to leave the store when I remembered I needed some overgrips. I'm now completely prepared that these will not be 3 for 5 bucks like I'm used to back home. I said to the clerk, " may I have 2 overgrips please", meaning 2 packages. The guy, and I'm not kidding, opened up the package, took 2 out, and said "I'll give you a deal. "10 euro please". No, I'm definitely not in America anymore.

So, I bought 20 cans of balls for 120 euro, 3 junior racquets for 135 euro, 6 overgrips for 30 euro for a grand total of 285 euro. In the USA, these same things would've cost a third of the cost, which is a good indication of why you don't see too many Greek players playing on TV. I want to change all of that.

Making tennis affordable is my top priority as far as the local people of Corfu are concerned. Lower lesson prices, good prices from companies like www.megaage.com, donations of racquets and balls from tourists and locals have helped immensely. The next step is to find corporate sponsors to really make an impact and maybe, just maybe, the next great tennis champion will be from Corfu!!

Yes, teaching tennis in Corfu has been a rewarding experience and one I'll treasure forever. I may not be in America, as the store clerk said, but maybe, just maybe, a little of America can visit Corfu!

Phil Naessens is the Director of Tennis/Head Tennis Professional at the Corfu Holiday Palace in Corfu, Greece. For information regarding the many programs for tourists and locals, contact Phil at pnaessenstennis@hotmail.com.