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Northern California

Q&A with Hiko and Mariko Fritz-Krockow, NorCal Mother-Daughter Doubles Duo



Mariko (left) & Hiko (right) Fritz-Krockow

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we are highlighting members of our community and sharing their unique perspectives on the importance of recognizing AAPI Heritage Month, diversity in tennis, and a reflection on their personal tennis stories.

 

Meet USTA players Hiko and Mariko Fritz-Krockow, a mother-daughter doubles duo who recently finished second in the Pacific Coast Seniors and Family Championships in May 2022. Tennis has always been a family sport for the Fritz-Krockows, with Hiko and her husband playing and passing that love on to their children. Today, it’s mainly Hiko and Mariko who keep that tennis bond alive, and they share below what the sport means to them.

Q: When did each of you start playing tennis and how did you get introduced to the game?

Hiko: My father was a professor at Nara University in Japan and he played on the tennis courts there. I have great memories of hitting with him while I was pregnant with Mariko. He loved tennis. When he wasn’t in his office, his students were told to look for him at the tennis courts. 

 

Mariko: The story that I’ve been told is that when my parents met, they were both swimmers and wanted to find a sport they could play together. They decided on tennis and I grew up sitting on the sidelines while they played, making sandcastles in the clay or building things by stacking paper cones. One day they handed me a racket and told me to swing. Apparently, on my first day, my father told me that he’d get me ice cream if I hit the ball over the fence. I did. It also explains a lot about my playing style. 

 

Q: When did you move to the US from Japan/other countries? What was that transition like for you?

Mariko: I first moved to the US when I was four years old, so I don’t remember too much of that transition. But when I was 13 we moved to Japan, and we lived there until I was about 17. Those are pretty important junior tennis years, so I was deeply immersed in the tennis world there. Moving back to the US and almost immediately starting the college recruiting process was a bit of a transition for me. First of all, as a Japanese teenager, I had a lot of freedom of movement as the trains took me everywhere. Having to rely on people driving me places was a bit of a culture shock to me. Having spent my teen years outside of the US also put me very out of touch with your typical American teenager. Let’s just say I had no idea what anyone was talking about when it came to pop culture. When I went to college, I didn’t understand or have any experience with parties. What I did understand was tennis. Tennis was a constant, and it still is.

 

Q: How many times have you and your mom played together, whether in a tournament or in leagues? 

Mariko: Around 2005, my mother and I entered the National Grass Courts Mother-Daughter tournament and won gold balls. Soon after, I hung up my racquet for more than 10 years. In 2018, I was only playing very sporadically and my mother asked me, jokingly if I wanted to enter the Pacific Coast Seniors Mother-Daughter tournament in Berkeley, CA. To her great surprise, I said “yes.” That one tournament, in which we lost in the finals, was so much fun for me that I started playing again. We won the tournament in 2019, and we just played the tournament again in May 2022 and finished second. 

 

Q: How does it feel to be connected by being both mother-daughter and tennis players?

Mariko: I love it! It’s kind of what we do together and it's an excuse to spend time together. My mother lives in Colorado, while I live in California, so we’ll meet up at tournaments. When we call each other, we talk about things like our days, what’s going on with my kids, and what’s going on with our tennis.

 

Q: Do you have a favorite tennis memory together?

Hiko: In Japan, Mariko was selected to join the National Tennis Team and I got to watch and truly enjoy her playing. When she went to college, I remember going to watch her. There was one match in particular while she was at UCLA that I remember. They were playing Stanford and Mariko was playing so well. It was a wonderful day.

 

Mariko: I don’t know if I can choose one favorite memory. I remember being very little and her feeding me balls. I remember being about 10 years old and someone asking my mother what college I played for and her proudly telling that person I was 10. I was proud that she was proud. I remember her coming to college matches and cheering loudly (and also shaking her head in her hands in dismay). I remember playing National Grass Courts together and being super happy of winning with her. 

 

Q: In honor of AAPI Month, why do you think it’s important to have a diverse representation within the tennis community?

Mariko: I think diverse representation is important for both those being represented, but also everyone else. When you see someone who looks like you and/or comes from a similar background, there is a sense of recognition of yourself. Like “Look! They can do this so I can do it too! It’s not weird or strange or unusual.” You gain an incredible amount of self-confidence and courage. Also, it breaks down stereotypes. Someone might look at an Asian girl or woman and think, “They can’t possibly hit that ball very hard.” Or, “They aren’t going to stand up for themselves,” and are then proven wrong. That’s hopefully one less person with a racial or cultural stereotype that can take that lesson out into their everyday life.

 

Q: Who has been an AAPI role model or inspiration for you?

Hiko: Michael Chang was such an incredible fighter. He was always seen as a short person (despite being 5’9, which isn’t even that short) and yet he was one of the best. He showed me that even someone who is physically small could win on the tennis court. 

 

Mariko: Ai Sugiyama was a great inspiration to me. I had the pleasure of knowing her while I trained in Japan. She taught me that you could and should aim to be a tough fighter on the court while being a kind and gracious person off the court.

 

Q: What tennis activities are you currently involved in? (Leagues, tournaments, coaching, etc.)

Hiko: After being absent from tennis for two years due to an injury, I’m getting back into it. I think this is the beginning of the next chapter in my tennis life and I’m very excited about it. 

 

Mariko: I love playing tournaments and aim to play a few Level 1 national tournaments a year. I love meeting women from across the country and different age groups. There is a great sense of camaraderie, as well as a competitive atmosphere. I also love playing intersectionals! I’m also currently teaching my children who are seven and five years old.

 

Q: What are some of your tennis accomplishments? (Tournament titles, awards, coaching certifications, etc.)

Hiko: I’m PTR certified and coached for 25 years. From 2007 to 2017, I ran a tennis company in the Washington DC area that organized tennis events, tournaments, and clinics. I also spent many years as a tennis mother to my two children. 

 

Mariko: During my junior years I competed on the Junior ITF tour and had the great privilege of traveling around the world playing tennis tournaments. I attended both UCLA and UVA on full athletic scholarships and played some pro tournaments. I then went to grad school and hung up my racquet for a few years but came back because I missed competing. I got my PTR certification and started playing tournaments againactually because of my mother! In 2021, I won a singles gold ball at the 35s National Hard Courts and a silver ball in 35s doubles. I’m hoping to start a gold ball collection! 

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