Olga Leal, 46, of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, is currently the captain of a 4.0 Adult team and has been a league captain since she started playing tennis 11 years ago. She has taken four different teams to the National Championships and two of her daughters, Daniela, 19, and Maria Fernanda, 18, will be playing on her 4.0 team this season. Her husband, Roberto, is also a USTA League captain of a 4.0 Adult team. She has another daughter, Anne Kelly, 10, who was born shortly after Leal concluded her first season of USTA League play, in which she won the sectional finals while six and a half months pregnant.
Leal has been selected as the USTA League Captain of the Month for April. Click here to visit the USTA League Captain of the Month on Facebook and click here for the Captain of the Month homepage.
USTA.com: How much are you looking forward to playing USTA League tennis with your daughters this season?
Olga Leal: I am very proud of my daughters!! Taking them to tournaments is very different than playing tennis with them. And now I get to play with them as partners and sometimes play against them. Also, what motivates me is that I can see what I have taught them about respecting people in a team as there are people of different ages in these games. I was delighted to see how they work as a team and as individuals.
USTA.com: How long have you been playing tennis and how did you start? Why do you love playing?
Olga Leal: This year will be 11 years. I started at 35 years old without knowing anything. I love the combination of mind, attitude and skill. I like to strategize. What strikes me in all sports is that I've seen the mental combination that is needed as well as the skill of knowing if it is a forehand or a backhand stroke. Analyzing your opponent and having a good performance on the court is what makes a good strategic game and I love it.
USTA.com: What teams do you/have you captained? How did you first decide to become a captain?
Olga Leal: I became captain the first year I started playing tennis. I’ve been playing tennis since 2000, almost 11 years. I have been a captain for five or six years and I have taken four teams to the National Championships. I've been captain of a 2.5 team in Guaynabo, PR in my first year; a 3.0 team in Garden Hills mansions; a 3.5 team in Guaynabo, PR; and finally for a 4.0 this year again in Torrimar.
The highest level I reached was 4.0. I have reached Nationals in 2.5, 3.5 and 4.0. My 2.5 Guaynabo team in 2000 (we played in Palm Springs); my Tennis Center 3.5 team in 2006 (we played in Arizona) and my 4.0 team from Guaynabo in 2008 (we played in Arizona). All three reached but did not win Nationals.
USTA.com: How did you feel when you found out you were selected as Captain of the Month?
Olga Leal: It was a surprise for me. You feel good when you are nominated. What caught my attention was that someone, without me knowing it, was excited about my work and effort. I thought that was something. I like to know I can wake up that enthusiasm in a person.
An anecdote, my first year in a team and they put me in as captain, and before the league season started I realized I was pregnant. I played throughout the league season and reach sectionals while six and a half months pregnant and played the final and won. And my doubles partner was a lady who was 69. The final match lasted about three hours.
USTA.com: Who is your favorite tennis player?
Olga Leal: Agassi
USTA.com: What is your favorite surface to play on?
Olga Leal: Hard court
USTA.com: What kind of racquet do you use?
Olga Leal: Prince Shark, I think that is old school…(laughs)
USTA.com: What is your favorite tennis tournament and why?
Olga Leal: Wimbledon because I like the environment, the formality and the protocol that you can see in this tournament.
USTA.com: What is your favorite professional sports team, if any?
Olga Leal: Soccer, "El America".
USTA.com: What is the best part of your tennis game?
Olga Leal: Forehand and the competitive attitude.
USTA.com: If you could choose any doubles partner, who would it be?
Olga Leal: Either of my two daughters. They play tennis all the time. Or Justine Henin.
USTA.com: How did you start captaining?
Olga Leal: I started playing one summer and a coach saw me and asked me if I would like to be part of a team and to bring some friends. I brought so many friends that we formed a team.
USTA.com: Why do you enjoy being a captain?
Olga Leal: I like to be around good, responsible and disciplined people. I like to motivate people and show them that with discipline and good attitude they can reach a very high level.
USTA.com: What is the best aspect of playing USTA League tennis?
Olga Leal: That everything is regulated. They have workshops and a number of annual tournaments where you can play with a lot of people. They keep you informed through magazines as well; it is a place where you can grow.
USTA.com: If you could attend one Grand Slam tournament, what would it be and why?
Olga Leal: Wimbledon. I’d love to visit that formal environment and the protocol, also because it recruits the best tennis players.