Middle States

An Unexpected Introduction to Tennis

Kumiko Lancet’s first introduction to tennis was a bit unexpected. 


“I remember it was 1972, and I had just moved to Pittsburgh,” she said. “Where I came from in Japan, tennis was a high society sport. So when I was invited to play for the first time, I didn’t have anything I needed.”


No tennis shoes.


No tennis clothes.


No tennis racquet.


“And no idea what was going on,” she said with a laugh.


Nevertheless, Kumiko began to play.


Kumiko’s journey from her hometown in Japan to Pittsburgh had plenty of stops in between. But it was her time studying chemistry at the University of Chicago that introduced her to her husband, which led to a move to Pittsburgh and the start of their family.


That also led to her introduction to the sport she plays so often today.

“I was invited to a newcomers club and started to play tennis in 1976, and became very interested very quickly,” she said. “I improved fast and was invited to play on more and more teams. I loved to play and still love it to this day.”


As her skill level improved, Kumiko’s relationships expanded. Kumiko says nearly all of her friends come from meeting on the tennis courts in one way or another, and she credits the tennis community in Pittsburgh for introducing her to so many.


Some of her most memorable on-court accomplishments came in 1985 when she won a number of large senior tournaments, ending the season No. 1 in the women’s 35s category in the Allegheny Mountain District.


These days, Kumiko is one of the most involved USTA tennis players in the entire Pittsburgh area. She plays on numerous USTA League teams, hits frequently with friends and competes through interdistrict play.


She now finds herself competing on various teams against younger players. One of her teammates, Kelle Cunningham, is the USTA Allegheny Mountain Tennis Service Representative.


“She’s full of energy and is a ton of fun,” Cunningham said. “Everyone loves being around her and playing with her.”


Much of that comes down to Kumiko’s attitude on the court. Kumiko refuses to argue or to take herself too seriously. She said tennis is supposed to be fun, and she wants to take advantage of every moment on the court.


After growing up without tennis, she can’t imagine life without it in the U.S.


In her younger days, Kumiko spent many years homesick, missing her family in Japan. Now an American citizen and years building a community of tennis friends, she never takes anything for granted. 


”With tennis, I’m just so happy to have a chance to play and to learn the game,” she said. “I don’t want to fight out there. I don’t want to argue. Everyone knows I am just so happy to be out here.”


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