If we told you that someone won the world’s major tennis tournaments – the Australian, the French, the US Open and Wimbledon – 17 times, could you name her? Doubles specialist Gigi Fernandez did all that along with two Olympic gold medals in 1992 and 1996 representing the United States. The Puerto Rican-born Fernandez and her doubles partner Natasha Zvereva won 17 of the Grand Slams together, and they are considered to be one of the greatest doubles partnerships of all time.
Gigi Fernandez will be in Wilmington on Friday, May 6th to take part in the Rodney Street Tennis & Tutoring Association’s annual fundraiser. She will be a special guest at the Spring Benefit and is also conducting an already sold-out clinic for competitive adult players. Just in time for the summer tennis season, TSD caught up with Gigi to ask about her visit to Delaware and just what made her so successful at tennis.
Town Square Delaware: Delaware is proud to host you as a visitor for the second time in less than a year. What brought you to Wilmington last summer, and what can we look forward to with your visit here in May?
Gigi Fernandez: Last summer I was proud to be a part of the Rodney Street Tennis & Tutoring Association’s community outreach program and tennis play day with Chase. There were probably 80 children on the Rodney Street courts that day, and they were all very excited to learn about the game of tennis. That’s what its all about for me – inspiring young kids to enjoy the game.
I am looking forward to coming to Delaware again to support RSTTA and to conduct a Master Doubles with Gigi clinic at Greenville Country Club.
I enjoy traveling the country sharing my 2 passions, tennis and giving back. I have been incredibly blessed by tennis, and any time I have an opportunity to support a tennis foundation, I take advantage of it. I try to combine these opportunities with my current life’s goal “sharing my knowledge of doubles.” Delaware and the organizers of this event have gone above and beyond in making me feel welcomed and I can’t wait to get to Delaware on May 6th.
TSD: You will be here to help support youth tennis through the Rodney Street Tennis & Tutoring Association program. Do you think the sport is growing fast enough among kids in underserved communities?
GF: There are many organizations like RSTTA nationwide. The National Junior and Tennis League (NJTL) provides tennis and education opportunities at the grassroots level to over 500 underserved communities nationwide. We can always do more and each person’s help and support goes a long way.
TSD: Who introduced you to tennis? And was there anybody in Puerto Rico who was a suitable hitting partner?
GF: I learned to play at age 3 hitting against a backboard in my family’s racket club. I was always the best junior in my division but there was plenty of practice from boys and when I was a teenager from adults.
TSD: You had four partners throughout your reign as the world’s top female Doubles player. How did you and your partners win so many titles? What was the key to your success?
GF: I can write a book about this subject! But the bottom line to being a great doubles player is being a good communicator.
Beyond that, court positioning – being in the right place at the right time – is really important. And playing high-percentage tennis, and leaving the low percentage shots open, is key to success. Great doubles strategiests can often outplay people with better forehands and better serves.
TSD: Your name may be as widely known now as it was when you reached the World #1 spot in Doubles because you’ve done a lot to grow the game. Tell us about your Master Doubles With Gigi clinics and what participants can gain from that opportunity.
GF: I conduct Master Doubles with Gigi clinics throughout the country to support my mission of sharing my knowledge of doubles. It is important in life to have a goal or a mission. Something that drives you to wake up every morning and go to work. Other than my kids, which are my #1priority always, this is my passion. It’s an opportunity for tennis players of all levels to learn from a true doubles expert and to get into the mind of a grand slam champion all while having a blast!