One of Tennis’ Greatest
Local Rick Leach is passing his love of the sport on to a new generation of athletes.- By Somer Flaherty
There is no doubt that Rick Leach is in an elite group with some of tennis’ greatest players. During his professional career, he would stretch to make incredible volleys, and his quick footwork and returns made it seem as if he often knew where the ball was going before the server did.
The Laguna Beach High School grad has traveled the world and claimed some of the most prestigious tennis titles along the way—including Southern Section Division 3-A team titles and singles champion titles while in high school; NCAA doubles titles while at USC; the Wimbledon and Australian Open titles; and in 1990, he was ranked No. 1 individually among doubles players. We caught up with Rick, who is now a teaching pro at the Newport Beach Tennis Club, coaching all levels—including kids (who may someday be lucky enough to follow in his footsteps). Rick still says some of his best memories are playing with teammates at Laguna Beach High School.
LBM: Your father coached the USC’s men’s tennis team, your sister-in-law is tennis great Lindsay Davenport, and your brother John was an all-American tennis player in college. What was it like growing up in a tennis family?
RL: I have really fond memories, especially some great father-son tournaments. My father really taught me that tennis is a lifetime sport and to respect the game.
LBM: For adults who are not sure about taking up the sport, what would you say?
RL: Tennis is so rewarding. You can just go out there and get great exercise playing. That exercise will lead to sleeping better and eating better.
LBM: Any advice for young kids starting out in the sport?
RL: Enjoy the game. If you are going to reach your full potential in the sport, you have to have a passion for it.
LBM: Advice for quick improvement?
RL: Have the proper grip. You can practice until you are blue in the face, but there are just certain ways you have to hold the racket to really improve.
LBM: Any local courts you recommend?
RL: Laguna Beach High School has some terrific courts people forget about.
LBM: What should people look for when buying a tennis racket?
RL: Grip size and the weight of the racket.
LBM: You are now coaching players. What is that like?
RL: Teaching the sport is really rewarding for me. I really take pride in introducing people to tennis.
LBM: How many times per week should a player be practicing to get results?
RL: Two times per week to stay the same and at least three times to get better.
Game, Set, Match
Hit the courts with the right gear to win.
“Tennis is a unique sport,” says Wimbledon champ Rick Leach. “It doesn’t take a lot of money or a lot of stuff to play.” Whether you’re nationally ranked or just stepping on a court for the first time, the right shoes—for quick cuts and fast footwork—and lightweight sunglasses with UV protection and great peripheral views are just a few of the key components. LBM