Raul Garcia, 46, of Tampa, Fla., is currently the captain of a 3.5 men’s team and a 6.0 mixed doubles team and just started playing tennis three years ago. His wife, Christine, has been an avid tennis player for 15 years and convinced him to take up the sport after they moved home to the U.S. after several years living abroad and traveling to tennis tournaments everywhere from Acapulco to Shanghai and Thailand. After noticing that there might not be a men’s 3.0 league team or a 6.0 mixed doubles team in his area back in 2009, Garcia decided to take the initiative, become a team captain and recruit players to keep it alive for all those who did want to play at those levels.
He has been named March’s USTA League Captain of the Month. Click here to visit the USTA Captain of the Month on Facebook.
USTA.com: How long have you been playing tennis and how did you start? Why do you love playing?
Raul Garcia: I started playing in 2007 here in Tampa, playing on a men’s 3.0 team and a mixed doubles 6.0 team. My wife, Christine, has been playing tennis for about 15 years and I guess we did it to have more time together. She had mentioned to me that maybe I should start playing. I just enjoy playing it now; I can’t pinpoint just one thing I love about tennis. I like the competitive element and the social aspect of it. I feel good after I play tennis and it just a sport you can play at any age.
I grew up in Yonkers, N.Y. and once I got married we moved to Long Island and have been in Florida since 2004. But prior to that, we lived in Costa Rica for five years and in the Philippines for a few years before coming back to the U.S. My wife started playing tennis in Costa Rica, before then neither of us played tennis at all. Over the years, I have been to a lot of tennis matches overseas. We went to the Acapulco Open and the players stay at the same hotel that the stadium is at and you have breakfast with them. We went to Shanghai when we lived in Asia for the ATP Championships, we went to a few tournaments out in Thailand and over the years, I just really enjoyed watching tennis and started playing when I got back to the U.S.
I also used to go to the US Open, it was because it was nearby when I lived in New York and we would get tickets every once in awhile.
USTA.com: What teams do you/.have you captained? How did you first decide to become a captain?
Raul Garcia: I captain a 3.5 men’s team and a 7.0 mixed doubles team right now. I started captaining back in 2009. Basically there was going to be no league around here for men’s 3.0 if someone did not step up and I just decided at one point it wouldn’t be fair for other people if someone didn’t try to keep it going. At 3.0 when I first came into USTA Leagues, there were just a few players around here and you really had to find teams to play on. When I thought it was disappearing, I thought I could get people involved and I did the same with 6.0 mixed doubles.
USTA.com: Why do you enjoy being a captain?
Raul Garcia: It does not seem to be a burden for me. I like to get all the people together to play, I enjoy scheduling practices and watching people play and enjoy themselves. We all enjoy the same sport and we have a good time together. We are competitive and if we do well, that is just added fun. We went to Daytona to play regionals twice and as a player I went twice before that. It is fun to get to the next level and just improve your skills.
USTA.com: Have you ever been to the National Championships?
Raul Garcia: No, but my wife has been twice. She has gone on 3.5 and 4.0 women’s teams and mixed doubles.
USTA.com: Did you know you were nominated for Captain of the Month? How did you feel when you found out you won?
Raul Garcia: Not at all, I had no clue. When I got a phone call, I was sure it was a joke at first. I was very surprised they nominated me, but I am glad they did.
USTA.com: Who is your favorite tennis player?
Raul Garcia: Rafael Nadal. He plays hard and has great top spin.
USTA.com: What kind of racquet do you use?
Raul Garcia: Babolat.
USTA.com: What is your favorite surface to play on?
Raul Garcia: Clay. It’s easier on the legs.
USTA.com: If you could choose any doubles partner, who would it be?
Raul Garcia: Serena Williams.
USTA.com: What is your favorite tennis tournament and why?
Raul Garcia: I go every year to the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. A group of us go down there, it is convenient and easy to get to and it is a really great event for us. It is small enough that you see all the players close up, the weather is great and you have a good time.
USTA.com: What are your favorite professional sports teams?
Raul Garcia: I like all sports. My favorite teams are the Giants, Knicks and Yankees from New York because I grew up there and I also like the Miami Heat down here.
USTA.com: What is the best part of your tennis game?
Raul Garcia: Net play.
USTA.com: What is the best aspect of playing USTA League tennis?
Raul Garcia: Competition and always challenging yourself to improve.
USTA.com: If you could attend one Grand Slam tournament, what would it be and why?
Raul Garcia: French Open. I have always enjoyed watching it on TV and being there would be even better.