Emily Bazelon Interviews Her Old Tennis Nemesis, 39-Year-Old Pro Lisa Raymond

The stadium scene.
April 10 2013 7:15 AM

The Best Tennis Player I Ever Saw

Catching up with 39-year-old pro Lisa Raymond, who destroyed me on the court when I was 12 and she was 9.

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LISA: If you’re a pro, if you dread it, you shouldn’t be doing this. You want to be serving. You want the ball. One of my best friends was like that growing up. I remember watching her and she was panic stricken. She could not get it done.

EMILY: I sympathize. Lately I’ve been trying to get better at playing doubles. What do you look for in a doubles partner?

LISA: You pick a good partner. There has to be chemistry. It sounds stupid, but it’s true. You want to get along with the person. You want to like them. Your games want to mesh well.

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EMILY: Do you look for tall partners?

LISA: That helps. Laura is tall, powerful, young, and she brings unbelievable energy to the practice and the match court, which is a lot of fun for me. Probably the best match for me is someone with bigger shots. Then I can take over at net, they can be at the baseline, setting me up.

EMILY: For a long time you played with Rennae Stubbs, and then Samantha Stosur, who are your age.

LISA: I like consistency.

EMILY:  What’s it like to have a partner who is so much younger? Do you talk to her a lot on the court?

Laura Robson and Lisa Raymond posing after the doubles final at the Sony Open.
Laura Robson and Lisa Raymond after the Sony Open doubles final in March in Key Biscayne, Fla.

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

LISA: Laura is a lot more mature than 19. She just has a very good tennis mind, especially for a 19-year-old. Her shot selection is pretty good. She knows where she is, she moves pretty well on the doubles court, she knows where to be. She has a lot of respect for me, for my advice on the court, and she brings a lot as well—a new energy that’s fun and fearless. It’s nice for me to be excited again.

EMILY: Does it feel a little bit like you’re mentoring her?

LISA: A little bit. We’ll see what happens. She’s teaching me about music, and I’m trying to play some doubles.

EMILY: Do you know how long you’ll keep playing?

LISA: I don’t know. When I feel like I can’t compete to win the Grand Slams, if I don’t feel I can play at that level, I’ll walk away. But if I can stay healthy, and feel I can do well, then I still have some goals.

EMILY: Like what? What’s the record for the most tournament wins for women’s doubles?

LISA: Oh, I don’t know. Navratilova had 100 and something, some ridiculous amount. [Martina Navratilova played doubles until she was almost 50, amassing 177 titles and 31 Grand Slams.] The goals I have, I’d love to win another Slam. I won the Open the year before last. I’d like to win another one and get back to No. 1 in the world in doubles. [She’s currently ranked No. 11.] I have 79 titles—I’d love to get one more.

Lisa Raymond and Mike Bryan Displaying their bronze medals.
Lisa Raymond and Mike Bryan hold up their bronze medals during a ceremony after the 2012 London Olympics mixed doubles tennis tournament.

Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

EMILY: That sounds attainable!

LISA: We’ll see how it goes with Laura.

EMILY: What about when you’re ready to stop playing pro—do you think you’ll go into coaching? Talking to you I think you’d be a good coach.

LISA: I don’t think so—there’s too much traveling. I think I’ll attach myself to something at home. I live in Media, outside Philadelphia.

EMILY: Wait, isn’t that where you grew up?

LISA: Right, it’s very close. My family, everyone, we’re still in the area. Maybe I’ll stay attached to tennis somehow, like at a club or a camp. Or I wouldn’t mind doing something totally different. Maybe I’ll open a bakery.

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