USTA.com: How did you get into the game of tennis?
Joan Freitas: Well, I was working out with a friend and she wanted to try it – before we took up tennis we had tried all sorts of other classes. We came through the parks system, had our first lessons. From there, the whole group of people in the class formed a team. Through the years, some had to move up based on ability. I stayed down with those who couldn’t and we formed our own team.
USTA.com: So you were an adult when you first started?
JF: Yes, 14 years or so ago – I was a late bloomer, for sure.
USTA.com: Interesting – so when you started 14 years ago, that was the first time you picked up a racquet, ever? You were never exposed to the game as a kid?
JF: No, not at all. Tennis was only for the wealthy during the time when I was a child. I lived in a plantation camp on the island of Maui – we saw the tennis courts and we saw the people playing but it belonged to the supervisors; I was never involved.
USTA.com: Have you lived in Hawaii your whole life?
USTA.com: Did you play other sports growing up?
JF: I did a little bit of softball when I was in the eighth grade, but that was about it.
USTA.com: What’s your practice schedule like?
JF: What we do is – because we don’t have regular practice sessions – my team members sign up for the USTA-sponsored lessons and that’s how the game is taught. We’ll go out on Tuesday and Thursday nights, paying the $40 or so fee for six weeks and we do the drills and play.
USTA.com: Without formalized practice, do you think your team is at a disadvantage?
JF: You know, its hard with everyone’s work schedule. We don’t belong to clubs – we’re public park folks.
USTA.com: Who is your favorite tennis player?
JF: For the men, I would say Rafael Nadal. For the women, I have two: Serena & Venus Williams. Love the way they play.
USTA.com: What is your favorite surface to play on?
JF: Well, we get to play on only hard courts here in Hawaii. Hard courts.
USTA.com: What is your favorite tennis tournament and why?
JF: I would say the US Open just because it is on our soil!
USTA.com: What is your favorite professional sports team, if any?
JF: I really don’t have any.
USTA.com: What is the best part of your tennis game?
JF: I believe my backhand.
USTA.com: Is that the stroke you work on the most?
JF: Actually, it was always kind of subpar. I went to the back boards and hit backhands whenever I could until it became a natural thing.
USTA.com: If you could choose any doubles partner, who would it be?
JF: That's hard to say... I Guess I would choose Serena with her serve and ball placement.
USTA.com: How did you start captaining?
JF: When some of our team member’s wanted more challenge, they wanted to move up to 3.5. Not all of the team was at that level of play. When they left, that left the team with no captain so I volunteered and have been doing it since.
USTA.com: Why do you enjoy being a captain?
JF: The cooperation and support of my team members. They are always there if I need them to play. Win or lose they are always cheerful and happy. It doesn’t matter if we are on the top, middle or bottom - they are always there the next week giving their all.
USTA.com: In what ways do you mentor struggling players?
JF: I try to give them positive stroking – like I tell them that they can do it, have fun and relax. You know, take away the stress and just play.
USTA.com: What is the best aspect of playing USTA League tennis?
JF: Organization. Everything goes well because the people in charge plan well.
USTA.com: If you could attend one Grand Slam tournament, what would it be and why?
JF: Either Wimbledon or the French Open just because they are played on different surfaces. I often wonder how the ball bounces on grass!
USTA.com: How long do you foresee yourself playing tennis?
JF: As long as I can stay healthy and move! (Laughs) I know its going to be harder because some of the seniors will have to play 40-year-olds with the new League structuring. I think it’ll be a challenge finding players who will want to play singles at that age.