Gigi Fernandez from Puerto Rico almost needs no formal introduction. She is considered to be one of the best doubles players of all time. She is a Hall of Famer, winner of 17 Grand Slam doubles titles with various partners and 2 Olympic Gold Medals with Mary Joe Fernandez. In 2000 Gigi was named Puerto Rican Athlete of the Century.
In 2011, she started coaching recreational players. Gigi is the founder and creator of Gigi Fernandez Tennis. Gigi now spends her time coaching adult players how to excel at doubles. She travels the country doing clinics and camps and host The Gigi Method Tennis Camps for enthusiasts that want more in-depth instruction from Gigi.
TCB: Hi, Gigi, on Wikipedia we learn that you started playing tennis at age six. Who got you into it?
GF: My older brothers played and we would go to the club after school for them to take lessons. I used to hit against the wall starting at 3 years old and asked for lessons for all my birthdays. Finally, when I turned 7, I got my first lesson. My first pro was Luis Ayala, a former pro from Chile.
TCB: Who or what motivated you to keep going in tennis, through college, and on to the pro tour?
GF: I knew early on that I had a special talent. In Puerto Rico, tennis was not that big so I didn’t play that much as a junior. But because the PRTA was part of the USTA, I could play summer nationals. I got recruited to play in college and went to Clemson on a scholarship, where for the first time in my life I had to play tennis every day. The improvement was astronomical, and I made the finals of the NCAA. I then took the fall of my sophomore year off and after that I was ranked 85 in the world, so I turned pro. Both of my parents always believed in me and encouraged me to keep playing. They never pushed me, but they definitely supported me financially and emotionally until I was successful enough to stand on my own.
THE GIGI METHOD
LICENSING PROGRAM FOR CLUBS TO OFFER A HIGHER LEVEL OF INSTRUCTION
TCB: You spent 14 years on the WTA pro tour with phenomenal success. Looking back, how would you describe your time there? What were some of the highlights?
GF: My experience on tour was phenomenal. I mean, who gets to travel the world, playing the sport they love and make a good living out of it! Those were definitely special times in my life. My favorite period was the summer of ‘92 where I won The French, Wimbledon, The US Open and my first Olympic Gold medal all in a 4 month period.
I started teaching because I felt that I had too much knowledge about the game to keep it all in my head and I felt the need to give back to the sport that gave me so much. That was in 2012 and I have now been sharing my knowledge of tennis for a decade. I have coached Grand Slam Champions, college teams, high school teams, 3 year old’s, 80 year old, and everything in between but I really found that I loved working with adults most so that is what Gigi Fernandez Tennis is focused on.
TCB: After the tour, what made you go into teaching tennis?
GF: I spent a lot of time when I retired searching for something else to be passionate about. I really wanted to find a new identity and be something other than Gigi Fernandez the tennis player. Try as I may, I was never able to shake that identity, so I decided to embrace it. I went back to tennis from the other side, as Director of Tennis at a facility. I learned the social side of tennis, which I never experienced in my life.
TCB: You are working as Gigi Fernandez Tennis since 2011. Tell us a little about it. What do you like most about it?
GF: I love that GFT gives me the flexibility to make my own schedule. I can work at home while my kids are at school and still be a mom. I am able to travel occasionally to clubs, where I conduct Gigi Method clinics and also take people on boutique travel experiences to Grand Slams and special events like the Laver Cup. I love being on the court teaching, so I look for opportunities to do that when possible. I am lucky that I have an online platform to share my knowledge and a lot of tennis obsessed fans that want to learn from me.
TCB: What brings Gigi Fernandez joy in life? What makes you get up in the morning looking forward to that day?
GF: I am a mom, first and foremost, so what makes me the happiest is being that. Supporting my kids in their various athletic endeavors is a lot of fun! On the business side, I love creating. I love building new products, creating program, updating the website and connecting with my followers on email and social media.
TCB: What are your biggest challenges for Gigi Fernandez Tennis?
GF: My biggest challenge right now is people not traveling because of COVID. I also have a licensing program where clubs can use my name and likeness to license The Gigi Method so they can offer a better clinic experience for their adults and juniors who play at their club. The pros are trained by me and receive weekly access to The Gigi Method curriculum.
Sometimes it’s hard to convince Club Directors to invest in my program because they think “it’s just tennis drills”. However, I feel that if Les Mills can build an empire based on sharing fitness programs, which initiated with the “Body Pump” program at athletic clubs, then Gigi Fernandez can have a successful licensing program where clubs offer a higher level of instruction to their members and students. I have just launched this program and I think it’s the best way I can share my knowledge with as many people as possible.
TCB: Have you played pickleball? How do you like that sport? Do you see yourself teaching it?
GF: I love pickleball. I played once and was instantly hooked. I was asked to play in the US Open in the Pro/Senior division, so I am getting ready for that. There are not a lot of pickleball courts in Tampa so I don’t see myself teaching it yet, but you never know what the future holds!
TCB: What is your tennis racquet of choice?
GF: I play with the Head Gravity.
TCB: Thank you, Gigi.
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