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At Nationals, Cowan hears cheers from another former pro

October 25, 2013 02:30 PM
Both Polo Cowan and his wife, Elly Hakami-Cowan, are former touring professionals.

By J. Fred Sidhu, special to USTA.com

Polo Cowan of Tiburon, Calif., played on the men’s professional tennis tour in the mid-1980s and is now a USPTA Certified Professional with more than 30 years of teaching experience.

This weekend, the 50-year-old is playing in the USTA League Adult 40 & Over 4.5 National Championships as a member of the USTA Northern California Section men’s team, which represents the Tiburon Peninsula Club, where he serves as junior tennis coordinator.

Even though Cowan was ranked as high as No. 315 in the world, he is not the highest-ranked tennis player in his family. Accompanying Cowan to Indian Wells is his wife, Elly Hakami-Cowan, a former WTA touring professional, who was once ranked as high as No. 32 in the world.

Hakami-Cowan won the US Open girls’ singles title in 1986 and played professionally on the Women’s Tennis Association tour, where she captured one career singles title and reached the third round of the US Open in 1987.

During her time on tour, Hakami-Cowan competed against some of the top players in women’s professional tennis including Martina Navratilova, Gabriela Sabatini, Mary Joe Fernandez, Pam Shriver, Jana Novotna and Hana Mandlikova.   

In 1990, she suffered a back injury that hindered her career, and she eventually retired in 1997. “It was an amazing experience,” Hakami-Cowan said “I got to meet people from all over the world and travel the world. I miss it.”

The couple married in 2002, and Hakami-Cowan keeps busy these days raising their two children, Polo, 10, and Sonya, 8, and teaching tennis every now and then. She also enjoys watching her husband play at tennis events such as the USTA League National Championships.

“Knowing the ins and outs of tennis, she definitely gives me tidbits here and there. ‘Toss the ball higher,’ that’s one of the things she tells me all the time,” Polo said with a smile.

Hakami-Cowan shared some of her tennis experience with the team as she reminded them to relax, play slowly and breathe to help them get over some of their pre-match nervousness.

“It’s mostly the basics and just to be reminded of them,” Hakami-Cowan said. “Just being here and understanding what it takes to prepare for matches and understanding the competition side of it.”

This is the first time Hakami-Cowan has been in Indian Wells since 1997, when she played doubles in a women’s professional tournament. Watching her husband playing in a USTA League National Championship this weekend may have sparked her interest to return yet again.

“It’s great to be back and to see how tennis is just thriving and popular. What a great job the USTA has done to promote these leagues,” Hakami-Cowan said. “I haven’t been part of the leagues, but you may see me out here in a year or two if I can get myself in shape. I look forward to it.”

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