An Interview with Amy Frazier
It hasn't been a good year for Amy Frazier, the best tennis player ever to come out of Michigan. Now 31 and a 15-year veteran of the tour, her ranking is at 61, and her match record after 16 events is 23-15. Now 23-16: she lost today to upcoming Nadia Petrova 6-4 6-0. But she was in the top 20 for quite a few years of her career, and is known for her hard-hitting style. At Eastbourne this year, when she took Capriati to three sets, Capriati came in afterwards knowing she'd had a near escape and said "She was making insane shots."
If you don't remember Frazier, she's the pasty-white player who, in her visor and short-sleeved shirt, looks like a backroom poker player. Maybe that's appropriate: she wants to be a math teacher when she stops playing. It's an unusual aspiration for a tennis player, particularly when you consider that Frazier has been firmly committed to the idea throughout her tennis career, which has so far netted her $2.8 million in career earnings (minus coaching fees, travel expenses, agents' fees, and taxes, of course). It's even odder when you realize that she left high school in her senior year to turn pro, so this passionate desire is coupled with the certain knowledge that she will have to go back to finish school and then do four years of college and whatever other training is needed.
"I know I will have to work hard," she says, adding that "although I love math I'm not a natural."
"Are you a natural athlete?" I ask. She shakes her head. "No." So we're talking about a player who has had to work hard and fight against her own limitations to make herself skilled enough to be a professional tennis player, and is prepared to work equally hard for a second career that won't pay anything like as well. Yet having that firm goal in mind, she says, frees her to enjoy playing now.
But it suddenly becomes clear that she is not indulging herself with some kind of fantasy escape from her current life: "Every female in my family is a teacher," she says, adding that when she tells them she wants to teach junior high school, they all groan. It's a tough age.
Her own interest in teaching math, though, is primarily because of the teaching she had at that age. "My math teacher was spectacular," she says. "I love math because of my teachers. They made it fascinating." Looking around now, she says, it's obvious to her how important the basics are.
Curiously, though, her interest in math does not extend to wanting to revamp the rankings system. It has hurt her ranking this year that she's only played 16 events, but as she points out, she had an ankle injury in the spring that kept her out for a while. Had that not happened, she figures she'd have played more like 20 events and her ranking would be higher.
"The system doesn't make much difference," she says. "You still have to play and win matches. And if you do that, your ranking goes up." She does agree that like everyone she is playing more because of the current ranking system. Her goals, though, aren't expressed in rankings, unlike a lot of players. "I want to improve my game and my results." She doesn't know how long she'll be able to keep playing but she loves it, and the one thing that will cause her to hang up her racquet is the constant traveling.
Perhaps because the veterans we tend to see most of -- especially Martina Navratilova but also this week 30-year-old Lisa Raymond, who is insistent that the tennis calendar needs to be shortened and condensed -- tend to have strong opinions about how the tennis world should change, it's a little surprising to find that Frazier doesn't. Asked how tennis has changed in the course of her career, she says, "The tour has grown dramatically and the depth has improved. It's great because every match is always a tough match."
"Is that what you love?" I ask. "Competing?"
"I do love competing."
"Would you find it less fun to have a lot of easy matches?"
"I don't know. I've never had a lot of easy matches," she says. "Any time I win a match, I'm thrilled. And that's been true through my entire career."
there wasnt no mention about her being tired or anything like that,
i believe still has some more yrs in her........
of course if she doesnt start improving her results,
she'll start to have a hard time getting into Tier II's by DA,
and there arent that many WC's to give around,
i dont think she is on the silver exempt list this yr,
but if Amanda and Conchita are still there, why not her