TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gigi Fernández was a fixture on the tennis circuit in the 80s and ’90s. She won two Olympic gold medals and 17 major doubles titles with four different partners.
She was one of the greatest doubles players ever and was elected to the Tennis Hall of Fame in 2010.
These days, you might find her on a pickleball court. Two years ago, a friend asked her to give it a try. At first, she was skeptical.
“I was like really? I’m not playing pickleball.”
Fast forward to today, and Fernández is a ranked pickleball player. She is No. 9 in the world in the senior pro division. She competes in eight or nine tournaments each year.
“Tennis is my passion and my life and my business. It’s given me everything I have, but pickleball is my hobby, so I love pickleball,” Fernández said.
The 58-year-old is not surprised by the skyrocketing popularity of pickleball.
“It’s a great workout,” she said. “People think because the court is small you don’t work out, but actually in a one-hour tennis match, you’re hitting the ball 11 minutes and in a one-hour (pickleball) match, you’re hitting the ball 22 minutes.”
And with stars like Tom Brady and Lebron James investing in major league pickleball, the best pickleball players are making money at the sport.
“I think it’s going to keep exploding because I think there was a study that just came out that 34 million people played pickleball last year. That’s more than tennis or golf. That’s a big number,” Fernández added.
To be clear, Fernández continues to have a major role in the game of tennis, hosting clinics and camps and coaching players.