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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
It’s my understanding that Elly Hakami was on the pro-tour very briefly. And she achieved a world ranking of 36 during 1986, her first year on the tour, then retired either in 1986 or 1987.

During the summer of 1981, I played quite a bit of recreational tennis at the Blythdale Public Courts in Mill Valley, in Marin County, California, and I became friends with George Zahorsky at the courts. George won the Northern California section of the Men’s “A” amateur division over the next few months, but that’s another Remembrance.

Sometime shortly after we got to be friends, George mentioned to me that a girl of 12 or 13 from nearby Tiburon, California, hit her ground strokes harder than he did, and that the girl’s father paid him to rally with her from time to time. Her name was Elly Hakami. A month or so later, George took me along -- to an inside court in Mill Valley, or Larkspur or Strawberry or someplace near Mill Valley – for a practice session with Elly which George had scheduled with Mr. Hakami. When we got there, George introduced me to Mr. Hakami and to Elly, and I just sat down with Mr. Hakami and watched. Sure enough Elly hit the ball harder than George, a lot harder (but she was a lot less consistent). In fact I’d never seen a woman hit the ball that hard and keep it in the court.

My impression was that Elly was not only a phenomenon physically but was also mentally mature way beyond her years. Mr. Hakami, an Iranian who spoke with a strong accent, seemed understandably very protective of his young daughter, but also seemed to be far less committed than Elly was to her pursuing a professional tennis career. So Elly seemed to be dealing with her father’s reaction to my very presence at the practice session as well as with George’s consistent returns. I sensed that my presence might have created an uncomfortable situation for both of them, the session not being public like a tournament but not being completely private either. I also sensed that George may not have explained to Mr. Hakami that the friend he was bringing to the practice session was not a professional player or teaching pro.

In any case, after the session I bid goodbye to the Hakamis and never had an opportunity to talk with Elly again. I followed her amateur career distantly, because I moved away from Marin County in 1981. I may have seen her in an amateur tournament or two in Marin in 1981 to 1982, or I may have just dreamed it. I know it wasn’t until the 1990’s that I heard Elly had turned professional in 1986 as well as achieved a world-ranking in the 30’s for a time that year.

Now, I’ve literally forgotten the names of almost all the guys I ever watched and played against in and around San Antonio in the middle 1950’s, a few of whom grew up to became successful professional players. I’ve forgotten because I was 13 and 14 years old at the time. Fortunately I was 39 in 1981, and I'll never forget my momentary acquaintance with truly extraordinary tennis in the person of Elly Hakami that summer.
 

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Do remember Elly. She came on strong and appeared poised for some decent things. Unfortunately, her progress stalled. Not having ever seen her play, I don't know if it was an issue with her game or mental toughness. Based on her early progress, I think much more was expected from her.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanx for this reply, Jem. If appreciated this post as prose writing, you might also like a related remembrance -- having to do with George Zahorsky -- at Blasts From the Past on MensTennisForums.com.

I've long periods of not paying attention to ANY tennis, but over the years noticing how tennis fathers sometime dominate their daughters, I've felt Elly was a victim (rather than a benefactor, or are there really benefactors?) of a father who probably didn't even care for his daughter wearing tennis clothes. An exteme case, yes?, now that there are top-ranked Israeli and Muslim women playing doubles together, but 1981 was a LONG time ago. I wonder if Iran or the United States has changed less in the intervening 27 years. :) Thanx, again, for your reply. I realize the reply-to-read ratio is small, but I intend to put up other Remembrances -- both here and at the men's place -- until I start getting complaints. I'm still writing them, and I've never published them any place before. Only prob from my standpoint is that I get so emotional remembering tennis, I have a hard time getting them right.
 

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Elly was quite the deal in the Summer of '87, she won a tourney in Aptos and made the quarterfinals in San Diego and L.A. I think she beat MJ Fernandez at one point. Tennis Magazine did a great profile on the condition of the younger generation of American female players at the end of '87 and Hakami was listed, along with MJ Fernandez as one of the few bright spots in an otherwise cloudy forecast, as they were the only two who had winning records for 1987 (others mentioned in the article were: Rehe, Gurney, Werdel, Spence, and Sloane). I could be wrong, but I think that fitness was an issue with Hakami. She wound up playing til the mid-'90's but never got past the 30's in the rankings I think. She also predated Seles in playing with two-hands off of both sides.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanx very much Pam. As it happens I'm a great fan of Monica Seles, but until you mentioned Elly's two-sided power game I didn't connect my admiration for Elly in 1981 with being so knocked-out by Monica's game a decade later. Don't get your laptop wet, you hear?
 

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I remember Hakami, too, even mentioning her on another thread a few months ago. A bad pun comes to mind but I'll share it anyway: Elly had "unrequited love" with tennis. haha Lots of talent but as someone aptly said "progression stalled". It happens to a lot of players with Top 20 potential. Nice story, btw. Thanks.
 
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