I have had the pleasure of both playing and watching two of Hampshire Hills' top 4.0 female tennis players. Meet Juana Luneau and Lisa Linder who as partners have made quite an impressive mark in both New England as well as the national tennis community. They first met at Hampshire Hills and have represented our club in such an outstanding way I thought it was time we highlight their story. Not only are they involved as USTA players, Lisa and Juana have captained numerous teams, supported the women's tennis program for years and continue to encourage players at all levels to get on the courts and enjoy fun competitive play. I recently sat down with them to learn a bit more about their remarkable history together.
-When did you first start playing together?
"Our first official match was a tournament on 1/26/18. We won the Westboro Fast4 Round Robin."
-What is your record as doubles partners?
"52-5, including USTA matches, tournaments, districts."
-What do you enjoy most about playing and competing in tennis?
"Just trying to figure out what to do with each opponent, what they have. We have enjoyed the friendships made through tennis."
-What do you least like about competitive tennis?
"That some take the game too seriously. Oh and when people don't bring good food to the matches. Cuz it's all about the food and the clothes, lol."
-How did you qualify for Nationals?
"We qualified for Nationals by having the most points of 4.0 women players in New England – who played tournaments. So you have to get out there and play tournaments to get qualified. Then the tournament directors or USTA contacts you to see if you're interested in representing New England."
-Tell me about the competition and match structure at Nationals which were held this year at Academia Sanchez-Casal in Naples, Florida.
"We thought the competition was pretty good. These ladies were the "best" from their areas, all across the US. It was a 4 game set. If you split, play the third set to 4 as well."
-Did you play teams from all around the country?
"Yes, Washington, Texas, Georgia, and Maryland."
-How did you do?
Not too bad, actually. Played a total of six matches, 4-2. Definitely different playing outside, hot and Florida humid. Most of the ladies were nice but a couple of them thought they were going on the challenger circuit.
-Who are your tennis heroes/heroines and why?
Lisa: "I like Federer because he is the epitome of a classy guy. You hardly ever see him lose his cool. Nadal for never giving up, his humbleness, and of course being the "King of Clay". Karolina Pliskova because she is so reserved on court. You don't know what the girl is thinking even when she's down. Also her consistency and powerful flat forehand. Then there's Venus and Serena Williams. I think about all of their peers who have long gone by the wayside and these two still chugging along. I do think it's about time maybe to think about retiring. These ladies alone have changed the game of tennis. Women had to start hitting the gym, getting stronger, and coming up with better serves. The Williams sisters were THE ones to beat and be like."
-What piece of advice would you give to someone just staring out in tennis at Hampshire Hills?
Don't take it so seriously. Of course we all like to be competitive, but at the end of the day remember, 'if you're not on TV, you suck.' That's a little something to remember a friend once said – and it's true. Just HAVE FUN. Be grateful that you have the opportunity to meet some great people and get some exercise. There will come a day, when you won't be able to.
-Hampshire Hills offers cardio tennis, clinics and league play. Can you think of any additional opportunities the tennis program could offer to players?
To have more pros on board, providing fun stuff during the summer. Keep the players engaged and excited about both competitive and non-competitive tennis. Years ago, we had a lot more happening on the calendar, socials, member-guest round robins, mixers, etc. We have a lot of talented players as well as new to the game members that want to be part of something within the Hampshire Hills tennis community. Leslie Sawyer is trying to do that (which is just awesome) – and with players of different / all levels, she is encouraging collaboration so that we can all learn from each other. Also, something that we see other tennis clubs doing and would benefit from at HH is the tennis department more in tune with the players, perhaps after the USTA matches the pros could rotate in giving the playing team a sort of recap of what they saw that was good/bad, what we need to work on.
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