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Beyerle leaves with heavy heart

German exchange student Mara Beyerle turned heads, dominating her male opponents in Wairarapa interclub tennis. CHRIS COGDALE spoke to the talented teenager before she returns to her homeland.

Mara Beyerle first picked up a tennis racquet as a four-year-old while at kindergarten in her home town Niederhochstadt near Frankfurt.

Initially, it was just like little kids playing with balls on a tennis court, but it didn’t take long before Beyerle’s potential was recognised.

“When I was six or seven, I started having actual coaching. I was in a team with other six-year-olds, and we won the state competition — that’s when I really started to play more competitively and play tournaments,” Beyerle said.

Since then, tennis has become a massive part of the 17-year-old’s life. She currently holds a national ranking of 89 for girls under-18 and a senior women’s ranking of 431 in tennis-mad Germany.

“It’s such a big sport, and because we have 83 million people, there are a lot of people who compete.”

Like most youngsters, Beyerle tried her hand at other sports, namely handball, a hugely popular Olympic sport played throughout Europe, but in the end, tennis won out.

“I started [handball] when I was quite young, like six, but once I was about 12, I had to decide tennis or handball because both sports would have been too much for me,

“It was tennis because I preferred playing it at the time, and I’m very happy I made that decision because I enjoy tennis so much.”

Of course, as with most aspiring players, Beyerle gained motivation from her idols she looked up to in Swiss Roger Federer, but in particular three-time Grand Slam winner Australian Ash Barty.

“I think she was such a great player not only on court but off court as well, and her tennis was amazing. I was so sad when she stopped playing, but she’s definitely an idol.”

Beyerle now plays all year round and on courts quite different from what she experienced in her time in New Zealand.

“In the summer season, we almost only play on clay and then during the winter season, the indoor courts are usually carpet which is very different.”

In October 2022, Beyerle arrived in Greytown for the start of a six-month student exchange at Kuranui College.

Naturally, experiencing tennis in another country was on the agenda, so she hooked up with Wairarapa Tennis stalwart Matt Spooner and his Carterton club, and she made an immediate impact.

Beyerle and Spooner combined to win the Shirley Corlett Trophy for the pre-Christmas segment of regional one men’s interclub. She then played for Carterton, runners-up in the Gawith Shield major interclub competition, and went through the entire interclub season unbeaten in singles, mostly playing against men.

“At the beginning, it was really interesting, but I really enjoy playing against men or with them because the style of play is so different and especially when we play doubles, there’s just so much more going on at the net, and people like to serve and volley. The men have been so nice to me, and they’ve shown a lot of interest not just in tennis but in my life here,” she said.

“It’s just always a nice atmosphere, especially with the barbecue after interclub matches, yeah it’s different, but it’s a good different.”

Beyerle was also full of praise for Spooner, who helped her throughout her stay.

“Every Tuesday, we would have team practice and just hit together, and I really enjoy playing doubles with him because he’s such a good doubles player. It’s great playing with him, but I haven’t really played against him, but he would be difficult to play.

“Some people told me they tried to talk to Matt and find out how to beat me, which is such a nice compliment to get.”

Spooner also rates the young German highly, saying her work ethic was a step above the locals, and she has a strong will to win.

Beyerle completed her competitive tennis in New Zealand last weekend, representing Wairarapa and going unbeaten in singles and mixed doubles [with Rudo Erasmus] in the Lower North Island Hexangular Tournament in Wellington.

Although Wairarapa finished sixth and last in their return to the tournament after a four-year hiatus, Beyerle reckoned it was an enjoyable two days that she won’t forget.

“I definitely had a great time because I played very well, and I was very happy with how I played.

“I really enjoyed playing together as a team, and the people I had previously played against at interclub, and we were just supporting each other and having a good time even though the results didn’t go our way, but we had such a good time. I would love to come back and do that again.”

On her future, Beyerle is uncertain about what direction to take and where tennis sits with her career options.

“I’ve thought about maybe playing college tennis, and that might be a good idea because I have some friends who are currently doing it and have talked to me about it and what are the advantages and disadvantages.

“It’s obviously not an easy decision, but I’m also not 100 per cent sure what I want to study. One time I wanted to study medicine which would be very difficult to combine with going to the United States and playing tennis there, but I’m lucky I still have two more years to decide because I finish school when I’m 19, so at the moment I’m keeping my options open.”

One certainty, though, is that the affable Beyerle has loved her time in New Zealand and will be back.

“Everybody has been so nice. I have so many amazing memories, not just tennis, but school and friends and I’m so sad that I have to leave in less than two weeks, and it’s going to be very difficult to say goodbye to everyone, but I’m planning to come back that’s for sure.” interclub competition, and went through the entire interclub season unbeaten in singles, mostly playing against men.

“At the beginning, it was really interesting, but I really enjoy playing against men or with them because the style of play is so different and especially when we play doubles, there’s just so much more going on at the net, and people like to serve and volley. The men have been so nice to me, and they’ve shown a lot of interest not just in tennis but in my life here,” she said.

“It’s just always a nice atmosphere, especially with the barbecue after interclub matches, yeah it’s different, but it’s a good different.”

Beyerle was also full of praise for Spooner, who helped her throughout her stay.

“Every Tuesday, we would have team practice and just hit together, and I really enjoy playing doubles with him because he’s such a good doubles player. It’s great playing with him, but I haven’t really played against him, but he would be difficult to play.

“Some people told me they tried to talk to Matt and find out how to beat me, which is such a nice compliment to get.”

Spooner also rates the young German highly, saying her work ethic was a step above the locals, and she has a strong will to win.

Beyerle completed her competitive tennis in New Zealand last weekend, representing Wairarapa and going unbeaten in singles and mixed doubles [with Rudo Erasmus] in the Lower North Island Hexangular Tournament in Wellington.

Although Wairarapa finished sixth and last in their return to the tournament after a four-year hiatus, Beyerle reckoned it was an enjoyable two days that she won’t forget.

“I definitely had a great time because I played very well, and I was very happy with how I played.

“I really enjoyed playing together as a team, and the people I had previously played against at interclub, and we were just supporting each other and having a good time even though the results didn’t go our way, but we had such a good time. I would love to come back and do that again.”

On her future, Beyerle is uncertain about what direction to take and where tennis sits with her career options.

“I’ve thought about maybe playing college tennis, and that might be a good idea because I have some friends who are currently doing it and have talked to me about it and what are the advantages and disadvantages.

“It’s obviously not an easy decision, but I’m also not 100 per cent sure what I want to study. One time I wanted to study medicine which would be very difficult to combine with going to the United States and playing tennis there, but I’m lucky I still have two more years to decide because I finish school when I’m 19, so at the moment I’m keeping my options open.”

One certainty, though, is that the affable Beyerle has loved her time in New Zealand and will be back.

“Everybody has been so nice. I have so many amazing memories, not just tennis, but school and friends and I’m so sad that I have to leave in less than two weeks, and it’s going to be very difficult to say goodbye to everyone, but I’m planning to come back that’s for sure.”

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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