An Olympian holds court

She calls it “The Gigi Method,” and tennis players got an on-court tutorial in early August at the Nahant Tennis Club with former two-time Olympic gold medalist and 17-time major winner in doubles tennis Gigi Fernández.

“It was an awesome day from start to finish,” said Andrea Gogolos, who is on the Board of Directors at the Nahant Tennis Club. “It’s so incredible to have someone who reached the pinnacle of their sport come in and teach you a whole new way to play tennis.”

In international competition, Fernández represented the United States and won gold medals in doubles play alongside Mary Jo Fernández in 1992 and 1996.

“Winning the Olympic gold medal is a life-changing experience, and nothing matches that,” said Fernández. “Not many people remember or relate to the 17 Grand Slam victories, but everyone remembers who won the gold medal. No one can ever take that away from you.”

Fernández now spends her time coaching adult players how to excel at doubles. She travels the country doing clinics and camps and hosts The Gigi Method Tennis Camps for enthusiasts who want more in-depth instruction from Fernández. 

Her patented approach includes six steps: positioning, court coverage, the serve, the return, shot selection and competition. 

Fernandez ran through skills-building lessons at the Tennis Club grouped around positioning and coverage at the net to avoid passing shots, how to eliminate middle confusion, secrets and benefits of the stagger formation, movement patterns at the net for optimal poaching, and how to beat the lobbers. 

Fernández is considered to be one of the greatest doubles players of all time. She is an International Tennis Hall of Famer and the winner of 17 Grand Slam doubles titles with various partners along with two Olympic gold medals. 

“It was incredibly informative and interesting, because her method and strategy are so different from what a lot of us have been taught about doubles play,” said Gogolos. “We really learned a lot, and it’s making me want to take part in more of her clinics in the future.”

The event was also a big day for the Nahant Tennis Club, a small nonprofit that resides on the grounds of Nahant Country Club. Nahant has a special connection to the game of tennis, having been the site of the first-ever tennis match, when Jim Dwight and Fred Sears faced off on Dr. William Appleton’s lawn in 1874. 

“We’re a small club and we don’t have the big membership or hallowed grounds that some other bigger clubs have,” said Gogolos. “To be able to have an event like this and work with an international tennis star is just incredible and we’re very fortunate.”

Fernández was named in 2002 Puerto Rican Athlete of the Century. In October 2014, espnW voted Gigi Fernández the 10th-most-influential Hispanic athlete in history. The big-serving and hard-hitting native of San Juan, Puerto Rico was the first female athlete from her country to become a professional in any sport.

Fernández was fiery, tenacious, exuberant, and displayed her emotions on the court freely en route to 17 major doubles titles with four different partners. Fourteen of those titles were shared with Natasha Zverera, who complimented her spirited partner perfectly. While the duo weren’t complete opposites, Zvereva’s all-court game balanced her partner’s aggressive mantra. Whereas Fernández was fire, Zvereva was ice.

Appropriately, the pair entered the Hall of Fame together in 2010.