By David Novich, USTA.com
TUCSON , Ariz. – You’d think that Claudia Wilkins would be a bit weary coming in six months pregnant to the 2009 USTA League 3.5 Adult National Championships.
But just watch this woman play for a few minutes at the Jim Reffkin Tennis Center in Tucson, and you’ll see that this two-time mom and Florida women’s team member is one of the hardest hitters in the competition.
“Of all the teams we have played so far, she is the best player I’ve seen,” said Gaye Hirata, captain of the Hawaii women’s team. “Don’t let the pregnancy fool you. She has awesome strokes -- forehand, backhand -- it doesn’t matter.”
After playing all season, the mother of two boys, ages five and six, found out she was pregnant during the playoffs at Key Biscayne in May. She said her teammates were happy with the news, and she got the go ahead to keep playing from her doctor.
“The doctor told me if I had been playing and not stopped, I could keep on playing,” said Wilkins. “The baby was fine.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean that she’s taking any chances. Every three to four weeks, she gets checked out by the doctor. And during matches, she makes sure to eat and drink regularly.
“You need more nutrients because it’s not only you,” Wilkins said. “You have to take care of the baby.”
That baby, named Andres, has become an honorary member of the team. And so far, he seems to be helping.
Yesterday, Wilkins and her doubles partner Ana Mato easily defeated Cecily Cheung and Andrea Neal of Hawaii, 6-0, 6-1. Earlier in the day, Wilkins and her partner lost in a close tiebreaker to the Eastern Women, Ayako Minatodani and Le Yang, 6-3, 3-6, 1-0.
“I feel awesome,” said Wilkins. “I’m still one of the players, just with a bigger belly.”