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SEC 40/40: Reflections with Lisa Raymond, U.S. Open Champ

1628 days ago
Sean Cartell | SEC Digital Network
Photo: SEC Digital Network

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Former University of Florida tennis great Lisa Raymond is fresh off the 10th professional Grand Slam title of her career, as she and partner Liezel Huber captured the 2011 U.S. Open Women's Doubles Championship on Sept. 11, 2011.

Raymond, the 1992 and 1993 NCAA Singles Champion who was inducted into the UF Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003, had previously collected nine professional Grand Slam championships since wrapping up one of the most successful collegiate career in history, winning the women's doubles title at the 2006 French Open, the 2001 & 2005 U.S. Opens, the 2001 Wimbledon Championships and the 2000 Australian Open. Raymond's mix doubles titles came at the 2003 French Open, the 1996 and 2002 U.S. Open and the 1999 Wimbledon Championships.

Most recently, Raymond was in June named to the U.S. Olympic Team, her second such Olympic berth after also earning a spot on the 2004 U.S. Team.

The SEC Digital Network caught up with Raymond back in September for her reflections on her professional tennis career and her playing days at the University of Florida.

What did it mean to you to win your latest U.S. Open doubles title?

"It was probably one of the sweetest victories of my career, given the fact that I am 38 and in the latter part of my career. It has been six years since I won a Grand Slam and it has been a bumpy road these past few years. I'm glad I was able to get back out there and show people that I was capable of that. Winning that 10th Grand Slam on Sept. 11, representing my country on such a somber day, that will probably stay with me."

How influential were your days playing tennis at the University of Florida on your career?

"There's no doubt that those two years spent at UF helped mold me and helped me grow up, not only to be the tennis player that I am today but also the person that I am. I wouldn't trade those two years for anything. I continued to work with my coach Andy Brandi for a couple of years after I left school there. He had a huge influence in my career. Even now, when I am in Japan or China or anywhere in the United States walking through an airport, I hear 'Go Gators.' It's an awesome camaraderie to be a part of this, which is something so much bigger than you, for a lifetime."

What were some of your favorite memories at the University of Florida?

"There are just so many. Winning our first national team title - we did that out at Stanford - was amazing and even bigger than winning the individual title because you do that with your closest friends. We were a part of a university and brought the title home to them. Being out there and playing with all six courts going and screaming 'Go Gators' with all the girls on the team, there were just so many great memories."

What did it mean to you to be inducted into the University of Florida's Athletics Hall of Fame?

"It was huge to be a part of something so much bigger than me. Some of those names from amazing swimmers to football players to athletes of all sports that I will be remembered with is quite an accomplishment. It was a wonderful, wonderful night and one that I hold dear to me."

What are some of the big differences between playing college and professional tennis?

"Certainly the difference in the level of tennis is extreme. Coming out of college, I won the NCAAs and thought that the transition would be easier. I did well to start, but I ended up getting knocked down a little bit. In college, it's a team sport and you're playing for a team. Now, it's individual and you have to be tough and emotionally ready for the grind, day in and day out. When you do well, it's an absolutely amazing career. It has given me so much; I'm very grateful for the career that I've had."

As you mentioned, it has been six years since you last won a Grand Slam. How were you able to continue persevering and reach that championship level again?

"I had continued to have faith in my ability and myself. About a year-and-a-half ago, I recommitted myself to my fitness and I'm in some of the greatest shape of my entire life. The game has changed so much, I'm so much fitter than I was in years past. I feel like I just found myself again out there on the court. I'm finally with a partner who I work well together with and I think we have the same goals. We are both pretty much in the latter parts of our careers and we want the same things out of our career."

What is next for you in the tennis world?

"The immediate goal would be to finish the year well, make the championships and make a good run at the end of the year. My short-term goal is to be able to play in the Olympics. Something that I've not accomplished is an Olympic medal. I'd like to be able to complete that and put an Olympic medal in my trophy case."

Once your playing career is over, what would you like your legacy in the tennis world to be?

"I think my longevity; the fact that in my singles career I was ranked in the top 30 for most all of my career. I was an all court player and I competed well, and represented the sport and the University of Florida."

What has been the key to your long and successful career?

"Knock on wood, I have been very lucky with injuries and I have stayed healthy. I have been really smart with my schedule. Playing doubles certainly helps because there is not so much very wear and tear on the body. You have to have a good perspective on life and a life outside of tennis. That's very important and something that I have always had."