By Steve Pratt, special to USTA.com, used with permission
(October 17, 2014) Taking in the excitement and fun at the 2014 USTA Junior Team Tennis National Championships was USTA Northern California section’s coach, Wayne Ferreira, smiling and relaxed in a hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses.
Tennis fans from a generation ago should recognize the name: a two-time Grand Slam semifinalist, Ferreira saw his share of competitive tennis in his 16 seasons as a pro between 1989 and 2005. The South Africa native, now 43 years of age, was once the No. 6 player in the world.
“I’ve been out of the game for a while now,” said Ferreira, who won just under $10 million in prize money in his career. “The young kids don’t remember me, but some of their parents do.”
These days, he leaves the court work to his charges out of the Claremont Hotel Club & Spa in Berkeley, Calif. Among the nine players on the Advanced division squad is Ferreira’s 15-year-old son, Marcus, who plays singles and mixed doubles. On the first day of Nationals, Ferreira’s kids notched wins in two round-robin flight matches, beating the Midwest section team from Chicago, and then downing the Middle States section wild card team out of Hershey, Pa., later in the day.
The Claremont team is in its first year of existence as a Junior Team Tennis program, so making it all the way to Nationals came as a surprise to Ferreira and the other parents from the team.
“It’s all new to us, but it’s been fun,” said Ferreira., who grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and has resided in Lafayette, Calif., for the past 12 years.
Ferreira retired from the professional tour with 15 career ATP singles titles and another 11 in doubles, along with a silver medal in doubles at the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona. Additionally, Ferreira competed as part of South Africa’s Davis Cup squad, which gave him some top-flight experience in playing team tennis.
“In tennis you don’t get many chances to play on a team – tennis is a very individual sport,” said Ferreira. “For a lot of these kids, it’s their first time outside of [Northern California], so it’s a real experience for them to be able to travel and to play different people.”
Marcus Ferreira is a freshman at De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., and will play on the boys’ varsity tennis team in the spring. He has aspirations of attending Harvard or Stanford someday. Two years ago, the younger Ferreira decided to give up his other activities, like skiing, swimming and soccer, and instead began to concentrate his full attention upon tennis. Marcus’s newfound commitment inspired his father to team up with Claremont Club’s Director of Tennis, Rosie Bareis, and the pair have since formed a high performance academy out of the club.
Martyn Colllins, whose son, Karl, plays on the team, endorses Wayne Ferreira as a strong leader.
“Wayne has been great for the kids and really takes the time to share some of his stories and experiences of playing on the pro tour,” said Collins. “Even the parents enjoy hearing the stories of his career.”
Ferreira made the Australian Open semifinals 11 years apart – in 1992, and again in 2003 – and advanced as far as the quarterfinals at both Wimbledon (1994) and the US Open (1992). As a junior player, Ferreira was ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles and won the boys’ doubles title at the 1989 US Open, teaming up with fellow South African Grant Stafford. A fun note is that he is one of the few players on Earth who owns a winning record against 17-time major winner Roger Federer.
“He’s just about the last one left on the tour who I played. I got him a couple of times at the beginning of his career, but a win’s a win,” said Ferreira. “There’s no column [in] there saying when it was.”
Ferreira set a second career in motion right here in the U.S. before his retirement from tennis in 2005, settling down on the west coast. He founded and owns EcoloBlue, an environmental and renewable resources corporation based in Lafayette, Calif., that focuses on making water out of the humidity in the air.
Managing these new roles, life after the pro game has been fun for the coach: “I’ve had a lot of good memories.”