Iverson Guan playing tennis back home in Beijing, China.

Iverson Guan may be relatively new to Winnipeg and Tennis Manitoba, but he’s no stranger to the sport of tennis.

Guan, 24, was recently named Tennis Manitoba’s new Tournament Manager. Guan is originally from Beijing, China, but made the move to Winnipeg in 2015 to enroll in the University of Manitoba’s Recreation Management and Community Development program that he recently finished. Guan, who’s been coaching tennis in Winnipeg for the past two years, said he’s looking forward to taking on a bigger role with Tennis Manitoba.

“The first priority of the job is to get more people involved in tennis,” said Guan on what he hopes to accomplish as Tournament Manager.

“I was in the tennis class at the University of Manitoba and we do have lots of students that are into tennis, but they don’t really know how to get involved with tournaments. We’d like to get more students to come out and play at our events.”

Guan’s been playing tennis for seven years, and he credits the now retired Chinese professional tennis player Li Na for getting him interested in the sport. Li Na won her first Grand Slam in 2011 at the French Open and later won the Australian Open in 2014. Guan said tennis became much more popular in China after Li Na’s success on the court. But Guan wants Manitobans to know that they can do more than watch pros like Li Na on TV, they can actually get involved in the sport themselves.

“We have different levels and want to encourage players to play and to try to develop tennis as a lifelong sport for everyone,” Guan said.

Guan may have been inspired by Li Na to get into tennis, but it was a different pro athlete that inspired him to change his name. Guan’s first name is technically Xinwei, but he said Chinese names are difficult to pronounce in English, so he wanted to go by something easier — Iverson. Guan also has a passion for basketball and with former Philadelphia 76ers legend Allen Iverson being his all-time favourite player, he decided to adopt the name.

“I remember he said he plays every game like it’s his last,” said Guan on why Iverson is his favourite player. “I try to follow that whether I’m playing basketball, tennis, or with anything in life.”