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Not your normal Seymour tennis player

Hendrik Gutwirth has a fascinating past - and it added up to a big success recently.

CHALPAT SONTI May 30, 2014 3:47am

Hendrik Gutwirth in action at Melbourne Park during his successful 30-39 men's singles campaign at the Australasian Police and Emergency Services Games.


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As sporting stories go, they don’t come much more intriguing — or international — than that of Hendrik Gutwirth.

A paramedic by day, the Seymour resident moonlights as a tennis player in his spare time.

But most local tennis players can’t claim a link to Grand Slam winner Gaston Gaudio or top-10 regular David Nalbandian.

Or have trained the likes of the world’s best veteran player or a Socceroos goalkeeper.

Even then, it is a case of what might have been.

The 31-year-old’s story actually begins in Sydney, his birthplace.

His family left there when he was four, heading to Hong Kong.

There they stayed for 10 years, with young Hendrik taking up tennis and swimming, before another move, this time to Argentina.

That’s when he started taking his sport seriously, around the age of 17 or 18.

‘‘I was training professionally, trying to crack the (tennis) tour,’’ Gutwirth said.

‘‘The beauty in Argentina was when you did physical preparation I was doing it with the coach of (Nalbandian and Gaudio), I was training seven hours a day.

‘‘I was playing inter-club tennis but it was also inter-country in South America and I wanted to take it to another level.

‘‘After a year of training I had immense improvement and realised I had potential.’’

That was around the turn of the century, and Gutwirth played in tournaments in South America and Asia, in futures and satellite events.

He was trying to get ATP points to get a ranking.

‘‘I was in the pre-qualifying rounds (to make the qualifying rounds of tournaments) and I had two wildcard opportunities so all I had to do was win that game to get (ATP) points.

‘‘I remember the first one I was playing this guy from France and a lot of people didn’t believe I could do it.

‘‘I ended up in a winning position but then I choked.

‘‘The other opportunity I had, I was ill. If I had got an ATP point I would have got a ranking.’’

Gutwirth then returned to his homeland to give it another go but hit a hurdle immediately when he discovered he was too old to get into the Victorian Institute of Sport.

‘‘I didn’t quite make it in tennis, so I ended up studying sport science, majoring in disability and tennis.’’

Gutwirth then earned a masters degree in exercise science and became an accredited exercise physiologist.

He ended up training Glenn Busby, a Melburnian who has reached a number one world ranking in the 55+ age group in tennis and himself a former trainer of the likes of Mark Philippoussis.

Richard Fromberg and Wayne Arthurs are other names familiar to tennis fans.

‘‘Because I couldn’t play the sport at that level, I wanted to give something back,’’ Gutwirth said.

‘‘I trained some of the juniors who came from the high-performance academy and I also ended up training Michael Theo.’’

Theo, formerly known as Michael Theoklitos, was a goalkeeper with soccer side Melbourne Victory, who later played professionally in England and has made Socceroos squads.

He now plays for A-League champions Brisbane Roar.

Gutwirth also trained triathletes and the section one tennis team from Scotch College before moving into the disability care sector.

He also had a paper on CPR rescuer fatigue published in a leading paramedic journal, and thought about doing a PhD.

But then came another career change.

‘‘I had always thought about becoming a paramedic and I contemplated it after doing my first degree but I didn’t feel I was ready,’’ he said.

‘‘One day I went to a CPR refresher and I met with a paramedic. He was sharing a couple of things about the course and a spark kind of reignited in me.

‘‘I thought ‘I’m going to do it’ and here I am.’’

After a stint at Camberwell, Gutwirth moved to Seymour.

‘‘At first I wasn’t keen on a change to the country because I had moved around so much and wanted to settle down but I’ve found Seymour absolutely fantastic.’’

He has continued playing tennis, for Broadford in section one of the Whittlesea association, where the team won back-to-back titles.

There have been other successes, too, but nothing quite like at Melbourne Park last month, where he won the 30-39 age group singles at the Australasian Police and Emergency Services Games.

Gutwirth won his four round-robin matches but his semi-final ended up being postponed a day.

He then almost missed it as coming from Seymour he got stuck in traffic on Hoddle St and arrived five minutes late.

‘‘I only had a couple of minutes to warm up and then I was 4-1 down in the first set but I came back and won the tiebreak 7-0.’’

The final was a breeze, Gutwirth defeating Josh Arnold of NSW 6-0. He did also pick up a groin injury which curtailed his ambitions in the mixed and men’s doubles.

After all that travelling, Gutwirth is happy to be in Seymour, and he’d like to share some of his sport science and tennis knowledge.

‘‘I’d like to do some hit-ups with kids, strength and conditioning training and injury prevention work, things like that,’’ he said.

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