Wendell Pierce: A Passion for the game
May 17, 2018
Oakland-born Wendell Pierce lived his passion, tennis. It was a lucky Christmas day for him when, at 15, his sister received a tennis racquet that year. He found the sport interesting and was looking to join a sports team at school. It just so happened that the team practiced close to his home.
Wendell joined the Castlemont High School team in 1970, playing #2 Singles in 1971 and #1 singles the next year. He played at #3 for the Merritt College team both in 1973 and 1974. Wendell’s college career continued at Cal State Hayward including such milestones as earning NCAA Division 2 All American status in doubles and finishing #1 in the Far Western Conference both years. Wendell played in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division 2 in doubles with partner Doug Ditmer. In 1976, he won the Far Western Conference tournament for the #4 singles line, and was a runner-up for the #2 line in doubles with Jeff Jue. ADVERTISEMENT In 1977, he won that same tournament for the #2 in singles and the #1 line in doubles with Doug Ditmer.
By 1981, Wendell began playing on a larger stage being ranked #20 in the Men’s Open in Northern California. In 1990, he was ranked #2 in USPTA National 35 ranking and was also Player of the Year for the USPTA in singles and runner-up for doubles. He won the USTA Men’s 40 National Grass Court Championship in 1995. That same year, Wendell was a finalist in the Men’s 40 National Indoor Singles and Doubles Championship and ranked #7 in the nation. He continued to rack up the accolades including reaching #1 nationally in Men’s 45 in 2000 and #2 in Men’s 50 singles in 2004 and 2005. Wendell has accumulated an impressive 6 Gold Balls, 10 Silver Balls, and 14 Bronze Balls in his career.
Wendell worked for a decade at Plaza Tennis and Sports Shop starting in 1974. He then spent two years in Europe playing in Germany and France. Returning to the U.S., Wendell joined Chabot Canyon Racquet Club as the Head Tennis Pro in 1988. In 1991, he began working as the Boys’ and Girls’ Tennis Coach at College Prep.
Wendell met a crisis in his tennis career in 2006 when he ruptured a ligament in his wrist a month before playing in the Fred Perry Cup. He was on the national team and won, but his wrist didn’t heal. The doctors diagnosed him with Slack Wrist Syndrome. That wrist needed to be fused. For a lesser player, this may mean the end to tennis. But that’s not Wendell. He worked hard to switch hands. He had to start as a beginner, learning strokes, practicing footwork and honing a new spatial awareness. According to Wendell, it took nearly four years to be able to volley. He was ranked #52 nationally in 2016 and #36 in 2017. Wendell is a living example for pure passion for tennis making his mark as a player at all levels, as a coach and as an iconic recovery story.