Masanori Kobayashi, 41, is the captain of a 3.5 men’s team, a 4.0 men’s team and 7.0 and 8.0 mixed teams in Arlington Heights, Ill., and he has also captained a 6.5 combo team. He also competes on the 8.0 mixed team with his wife, Kaori, who also plays on a women’s 4.0 team.
Kobayashi is originally from Toyokawa, Japan, which is about 200 miles from Tokyo, and last month, after the devastating earthquake hit his home country, organized a Japan Earthquake Relief Tennis Match in Arlington Heights to raise money for the earthquake victims.
The Japan Earthquake Relief Tennis Match was held at the Forest View Racquet and Fitness Club, which donated the court time, on Saturday, April 23, and featured mixed doubles matches with over 60 USTA League players turning out to support Kobayashi and a great cause.
Wilson donated match balls and items for a silent auction, which included two autographed racquets from Kei Nishikori and one from Justine Henin, and the total proceeds from entry fees, the silent auction, raffle tickets and donations was $4,270. The Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Chicago (JCCC) Foundation also matched $2,000 of funds in advance to make the total money raised $6,270, which was all donated to the JCCC Foundation Earthquake Relief Fundraiser Program and will reach the earthquake victims through the Japanese Red Cross.
Kobayashi has been named the USTA League Captain of the Month for May. Click here for the Captain of the Month homepage, and click here to nominate someone for the next USTA League Captain of the Month.
USTA.com: Were any of your family or friends affected by the earthquake?
Masanori Kobayashi: My family and my teammates’ families were not directly affected, but, of course, all of Japan was shaken pretty hard. Toyokawa is about 250 miles from where the earthquake hit.
USTA.com: How did the Japan Earthquake Relief Tennis Match come together?
Masanori Kobayashi: I thought I would go ahead and set up an event quickly. At the end of April, between the league seasons, I asked the manager at Forest View Racquet and Fitness Club about an event, and then she offered us court time. We play our home league matches over there, and she offered us the court time of four hours and six courts available for the event. The particular date worked for everyone. And once I knew the date, I set up the format and created flyers and other things. I didn’t know how many people would show up, but I sent the information out through several friends and recruited players from their teams.
Since I am a league captain, I know many other players and other captains, of course, so I went ahead and sent out the information to everyone.
It was great that Wilson donated the match balls and auction items. They offered us some great things, and it worked out really well for us. They gave us autographed racquets and other items and raffle prizes. We didn’t know whose racquet or how many we would receive, but Wilson gave us three of them, two signed by Kei Nishikori and one signed by Justine Henin.
So many people participated in this event. I want to thank everybody for being part of this. I think this honor is for everyone.
USTA.com: How pleased were you with the results and the great turnout?
Masanori Kobayashi: Once I decided on a date and format, I contacted other captains and they recruited players from their teams. Because it was a mixed doubles event, it was more friendly matches, although it was still competitive. Everyone enjoyed themselves a lot and the matches.
A Japanese organization, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago (JCCC) Foundation, it offered us matching funds, but the deadline was a week earlier than the event, so we sent money in advance to make sure we got our funds matched.
USTA.com: How long have you been playing tennis, and how did you start? How/when did you first decide to become a captain?
Masanori Kobayashi: I started playing about five years ago. I joined a group of Japanese players in a suburb of Chicago. I was very much a beginner at that time. We played every weekend.
I was playing recreational tennis but wanted to play some tournaments. I found out about the USTA League play, so I got a few other players interested and set up the league matches first four years ago. I first started playing on a 3.5 men’s team and a 7.0 mixed team.
I was playing golf, but once I started playing tennis, I really stopped playing golf, and now I play tennis every week.
USTA.com: What teams do you/.have you captained? Why do you enjoy being a captain?
Masanori Kobayashi: I have been a captain for four years in USTA League. This summer season will be my fourth year. I do men’s 3.5 and 4.0 teams and also mixed doubles 7.0 and 8.0 teams. In the past, I also captained a women’s team, a 6.5 combo team.
The people are enjoying it, so I keep doing it. Once I started as a captain, I liked it. I like strategizing and organizing everything, as well as the other people.
USTA.com: Have you ever been to the National Championships?
Masanori Kobayashi: No, but I went to state championships last year with my 3.5 men’s team. I also went with the 6.5 combo team in the past.
USTA.com: Did you know you were nominated for Captain of the Month? How did you feel when you found out you won and that another captain (Elaine Decho-Fishman) nominated you?
Masanori Kobayashi: I was obviously surprised. I have known Elaine for a long time through the league matches, and I have played against her husband. She recruited a lot of players from her team and her husband’s team for the event. It is a nice surprise to hear about being Captain of the Month.
USTA.com: What is the best aspect of playing USTA League tennis?
Masanori Kobayashi: If you play with the same people all the time, you know each other’s games too well. In a USTA League, you get to play a lot of different people and improve your skills by doing so.
USTA.com: Who is your favorite tennis player?
Masanori Kobayashi: Roger Federer.
USTA.com: What is your favorite tennis tournament and why?
Masanori Kobayashi: Wimbledon. It is a very unique grasscourt tournament and has so much tradition and history that is very different.
USTA.com: What is the best part of your tennis game?
Masanori Kobayashi: My backhand happens to be the best now. It was a weakness a few years ago.