Always speedy on the tennis court, Manitoba’s Sean Bailey has been on the move the last couple of years: he taught English in France, worked as a tennis coach in the Maldives and in Finland, got engaged, and found time to play some tournaments. Now Bailey is preparing to return to France where he’ll reside in Strasbourg and work for Tennispro, a French company which sells tennis racquets, apparel, shoes, bags, strings, court equipment, and more.

He’ll be involved in customer service, translating product descriptions on the Tennispro website from French to English, and marketing. Tennispro operates mostly in France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. But the company is looking to expand beyond Europe.

“They told me they’re getting calls from all around the world – people are ordering their products,” Bailey said in an interview at Winnipeg Winter Club (he’s in the city until his job with Tennispro starts sometime within the next three months).  

Bailey is well acquainted with France: after an outstanding tennis career at Austin Peay State University capped by a conference title in his senior year in 2013 and then a year of studies at Western Kentucky University (Master’s degree in communications), he moved to the Rhone-Alps to teach English for seven to eight months. Bailey played some high-level tennis events during his stay in the country, earning one tournament title.

The 25-year-old said the clay courts in France suit his playing style.

“It’s probably my best surface,” said Bailey. “I’ve had some pretty good results on it. I really like my topspin. Especially if it’s a hot day and I play on a faster clay, my topspin really jumps and is much more effective. My kick serve too.”

From October of 2015 to November of 2016, Bailey worked as a full-time tennis coach on the Aland Islands, a Swedish speaking part of Finland.

“I had to do some tennis lessons all in Swedish,” Bailey said. “My Swedish got to a decent level.”

Prior to his time in Finland, Bailey worked as a tennis coach at a resort in the Maldives, a South Asian island country. He was there for just six weeks but got a chance to meet 18-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer and his family when they went to the resort for holidays after the 2015 US Open.

“I heard one day that he (Federer) wanted to play tennis with his daughters,” Bailey recalled. “It was on another island, the tennis courts, so I took him and his daughters to this tennis court and I fed balls to his daughters and he did too. It was me on one half of the court and Federer on the other half. I fed him some balls too. He was super easy to talk to. It was an unforgettable experience.”

Through all his travels, Bailey has kept up his tennis game.

“I haven’t stopped playing tennis,” he said. “Even in Finland, I played some tournaments in Finland. I won one – I beat the No. 12 in Finland.”

Bailey started his tennis at age 11 with a lesson from Peter Otto.

“I took a lesson with Pete and just loved it,” Bailey remembered. “I lived in Kildonan so I went to the Kildonan Tennis Club. I just got hooked right away. I was playing a lot of soccer at that point. Within a year I quit soccer because I liked tennis so much.”

In 2009 at age 17, Bailey teamed up with Chad Lacap to win a bronze medal for Team Manitoba in boys’ doubles at the Canada Summer Games in PEI. Also that year Bailey joined the tennis team at Austin Peay State University, an NCAA Division-I school in Tennessee (former Manitoban Mark Klysner was the assistant tennis coach at Austin Peay at the time).

Bailey was named second-team All-Conference as a freshman before winning first-team All-Conference honours the next three years. He was selected as the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) Men’s Player of the Year and Austin Peay’s Most Outstanding Male Athlete for the 2011-12 school year.

Bailey won a prestigious conference award when he was named recipient of the Steve Hamilton Sportsmanship Award for the 2012-13 academic year. Double-majoring in French and corporate communications, Bailey held a 3.95 grade-point average. In 2012-13 he was president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council after serving as vice-president the previous school year.

In four years at Austin Peay, Bailey compiled a 68-24 record on the court. His Governors team won its first OVC Tournament Championship since 1974 in Bailey’s senior year in 2013. The title earned Austin Peay its first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament Championship.

Bailey described a typical week at Austin Peay: start classes at 9 am, practice with the tennis team from 2-4:30 pm, work on conditioning every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:30 am, and workout with weights every Tuesday and Thursday for an hour after practice.

“It was the best shape I’ve ever been in, when you’re working out that much,” said Bailey, a graduate of Miles Macdonell Collegiate who won the provincial high school volleyball title with his Buckeyes team in Grade 12.

Bailey has been hitting balls at Winnipeg Winter Club as he awaits his new job to start in France. He still works on his game from time to time with Otto, head pro at WWC and Kildonan Tennis Club as well as a long-time coach of Bailey.

“I was trying to get a one-hander (backhand) last year and he was still giving me some tips,” said Bailey. “Now where I’m at is I try to play as much as I can because I love it. Every once in a while I’ll take a lesson with Pete or I have a coach in France I take lessons from still. I still want to learn. I still want to get better.”