Fernandez, Mary Joe (1971—)

views updated

Fernandez, Mary Joe (1971—)

American tennis player. Born on August 19, 1971, in the Dominican Republic; daughter of José Fernandez and Silvia Fernandez; graduated from Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, Miami, Florida.

Born in the Dominican Republic in 1971, Mary Joe Fernandez was raised in Miami, Florida, where her family settled when she was six months old. She began playing tennis at the age of three, frequently tagging along to her older sister's lessons. To keep her out of trouble, her father would bring along a bucket of balls that she could hit against the wall. Within two years, Fernandez was good enough for lessons of her own. She won a number of titles as a pre-teen and at 13 won her first professional tournament, competing as an amateur. At age 14, Fernandez considered turning pro and playing the professional circuit full time, but she concluded that school was more important. "I just decided that if I was going to go to school, I was going to do it right," she told an interviewer for Sports Illustrated in 1991. "And I wasn't ready to sacrifice being with my friends." For the next three-and-a-half years, she worked her tennis events, including four Grand Slam tournaments, around her high school classes, gaining valuable experiences and preventing the burn-out to which so many young players fall victim.

During her first full-time year on the women's pro circuit, Fernandez won 40 out of 50 singles matches and two tournaments, including her first professional tournament championship in the Tokyo Indoors. In 1990, her singles ranking was fourth in the world and her earnings topped $1 million, but she also suffered a number of injuries, including a knee sprain, a hamstring tear, and tendinitis in her shoulder. Overcoming her setbacks with a strength-training coach, she reached the high point of her career in 1992, when she and doubles partner Gigi Fernandez (no relation) won the gold medal for the United States at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, defeating Spain's own Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez . She also took home a bronze medal in Olympic singles competition. Fernandez then moved more into doubles play, frequently partnering with former opponent Sanchez Vicario.

sources:

Johnson, Anne Janette. Great Women in Sports. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink, 1998.

About this article

Fernandez, Mary Joe (1971—)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article

NEARBY TERMS

Fernandez, Mary Joe (1971—)