In spite of the summer heat, Johanna Morrison sometimes unwinds from work by playing tennis on Dubai's courts. The marketing executive for DABO & CO, a public relations firm, talks about why she gave up a career where she once trained alongside tennis star Maria Sharapova to keep the sport her off-hours passion.
You moved to the UAE only about four months ago. What were you doing before?
I was working for the professional football club Melbourne Heart FC in Australia. I was a personal assistant for the head coach, and corporate events manager. I would organise corporate events and post-match functions. It was a shared role, very similar to this role I'm in now in that it was extremely diverse and never a dull moment.
To blow off steam you sometimes play tennis. How long have you been playing?
I started when I was five. But I've had shoulder and wrist-reconstruction surgery, and that's kind of stopped me from playing [professionally]. I did rehab for 12 months post-surgery, and have never really recovered fully.
You're only 22 and have already played the sport on courts in more than 40 countries. Where was your favourite place to play?
My favourite court I ever played was the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne before the night session during the Australian Open. I played an exhibition match. I was against this girl I had never played and beat her 6-0, 6-0. I was 13.
Where do you like to play locally?
At the Armani Hotel Dubai at Burj Khalifa. It's absolutely gorgeous. I was playing with a friend a couple of months ago, and I was facing the Burj Khalifa. I looked up. The ball came right beside me, because I was looking at the building.
It's more than 40C outside. When do you play?
Either early morning, or late-night. I prefer to train earlier in the morning. You gotta beat the heat.
Ever play with your colleagues?
I haven't, but a few girls here want to play some doubles. I'll have to get them on the court. It would be a good team-working exercise.
Who were some of the top players you trained with during your heyday? And did you ever beat them?
I've trained with Maria Sharapova, Nicole Vaidisova and Jelena Jankovic. To be honest, what I remember is that it was never like I was getting beaten easily when I was younger. As I was getting to 16 and 17, and was injured all the time, I saw a shift and wasn't playing as much as them. My shoulder wasn't good. When I was around 13 or 15, those were my better years.
Do you ever miss those days now when you're playing before or after work?
The thing I miss the most about tennis isn't the competing but the training, hard work and pushing myself to the limit.