Cal Tennis alum and WTA pro Raquel Atawo chats World Team Tennis, increase of minority women tennis players – California Golden Blogs

During the two-three week lull between the end of Wimbledon and the start of the ATP Masters 1000/WTA Premier events (Rogers Cup in Montreal/Toronto and Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati) ahead of the US Open, pro tennis players in the USA often take a break from the tour to join forces to play in an unique format – a mixed-gender competition known as “TeamTennis” in the World TeamTennis (WTT) league. On the Philadelphia Freedoms squad (one of the WTT OG that inspired Elton Johns to write this song) and currently in 1st place in the 6 team WTT team, this year is Cal Women’s Tennis alum Raquel Atawo (formerly Kops-Jones before she married fellow Cal alum and Track and Field alum Toby Atawo). Raquel starred for the Golden Bears from 2000 to 2004, including being the top ranked singles player in 2004; she graduated with a degree in American Studies.

In between her busy schedule on the tour, Raquel has also done some volunteering coaching for UC Davis. I was able to briefly chat with Raquel right before their contest against the Washington Kastles last Friday.

For the uninitiated of World TeamTennis (which does not currently have a team in the California Bay Area), each match is played by two sides that competes in 5 sets (first to 5 games) – men’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles; the order of play is decided by the two coaches ahead of the match. The scoring is no-advantage, which has recently been adopted recently by College Tennis to cut short on game times. WTT also does not have the let rule, meaning that there are times that a pivotal game is decided by a serve that nicked the netcord and drops in for an “ace”.

The atmosphere for WTT, which often take places inside an indoor arena is akin to that of a basketball match. You have music blaring, fans dancing, sometimes even cheerleaders on the sidelines in between the typical quiet tennis action. It is a fun but also intimate setting for fans to see professional tennis players in action from up close. All kids 16 years and younger can get autographs from both teams at the end of each match.

As a WTT fan since I went to a few Washington Kastles matches 8-9 years ago when I was in graduate school, I opt to volunteer for the local Philadelphia Freedoms this season. Freedoms are owned by tennis legend Billy Jean King who used to also own WTT before selling the majority stock to the league to other owners. Billy Jean made an effort to introduce herself at one of the matches that I worked at, which was pretty cool, but we shall see if she actually remembers my name. That’s probably sufficient background for this interview.

Raquel Atawo: “There are more and more minorities coming through [tennis]. You will see more and more stars in the next 10-15 years. [Fans] have already see emerging stars like Naomi Osaka, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys. They are already here now, but they will get even more exposure with success. There are more opportunities now for them in tennis, and it’s good to see.”

Raquel Atawo: “There is no question about it that [going to college for tennis] is worthwhile. You are going to get a lot of matches. You are going to get a good team [to bond with together]. Hopefully a good coach who will help you throughout the four years to really develop your game. And on top of that, you are getting an education. So if you are lucky that you can get a scholarship, you have to go [to school]!”