Namibia, Africa, where Ria Rörich was born, is a far cry from Chicago, Illinois. So how did she end up in The Windy City? After hopping from place to place over the course of roughly 20 years, she finally landed in Chicago in 2008. It was there that the 51-year-old became a member of Midtown Athletic Club.
According to Rörich, who stated that Midtown’s tennis facility is in “amazing condition,” no other club in Chicago has such a wide variety of indoor courts. Plus, with the extensive amount of programs the club offers — TRX, yoga and a gym facility, just to name a few — Rörich saw a lot of possibility for her tennis game.
As did Vasiliy Guryanov, the junior competitive tennis program director at Midtown. “I met Ria through the club,” he said. “She’s one of the most committed adult tennis players. I saw her at the club on a daily basis. Before we got officially introduced, I noticed that she was spending quite a bit of time on the court, and she was playing with competitive players. She really stood out to me as someone who was interested in getting better in the game.”
Guryanov and Rörich first met in the pro shop when Rörich was seeking help with her tennis racquet. Soon after, Rörich began to take private lessons from Guryanov, starting with half-an-hour lessons every two weeks. “Right away she stood out as someone who is very committed to the game, someone who is very committed to improving the game, and since we started working together and her game has been improving, she’s just so excited about it,” said Guryanov.
After joining a tennis travel league, Rörich competed in the Mercedes-Benz sponsored mixed doubles tournament in September 2013, winning the competition with her partner, Troy Steele.
It’s the tangible improvements that make Rörich say she doesn’t want to stop — improvements that have come through working with Guryanov. “He is very experienced and knowledgeable,” she explained.
In fact, Guryanov, who is often too busy with the junior tennis program to teach adults, made more time for Rörich’s lessons. “It’s very difficult for me to find time for adults, but with Ria it’s something that I came to her and said, ‘Ria, I see the progress you’ve been making — let’s up this. Let’s go for one hour,’” he recalled. “She said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Rörich is not planning to stop tennis anytime soon. The sport and her time at Midtown have taught her not only skills on the court, but ones that can be applied off it as well. “[The tennis program at Midtown has taught me] how to deal with people and intense situations,” she said.
For Guryanov, he sees tennis as a vehicle in life for building relationships. While teaching youth clients about tennis’ value takes a lot of mentoring, Guryanov said with Rörich it’s different. “She understands that’s it’s going to take work, on her time,” he said. “She understands that the change, the improvement, is going to come gradually, but she has to work at it. She looks for those incremental changes. Every time she comes out she wants to get a little bit better.”
By Heather Hartmann