Bringing the Fun of Soft Tennis to as Many People as Possible Seseragi Club
It has been 16 years since the Seseragi Club was established. The club, founded by a group of soft tennis enthusiasts, now has a membership of about 60. The outstanding results that this powerful club has achieved include winning its third national club championship in 2011.
Members of the club practice in a cheerful and lively atmosphere, often together with junior and senior high school students. They are planning to cooperate in teaching in soft tennis lessons intended for elementary school pupils.
Satoshi Utsuki, the leader of the club, says: "The cooperation of a number of people has made the Seseragi Club what it is today. I think that what we can do as the members of this club is to teach many soft tennis players in elementary, junior high and senior high schools about the fun of the sport."
The members of the club who compete at the national level are contributing to the popularization of soft tennis in Yokohama, including the development of junior players.
Life Filled with Tennis Experience Akihiko Yamada
Akihiko Yamada picked up a tennis racket for the first time in his life 84 years ago when he was a first grader in junior high school. Now, at the age of 96, he still plays tennis as an active player. Mr. Yamada, who won the Australian Open title in the Veteran category in 2001 and was a semifinalist in both singles and doubles at the US Open in the Super Senior category in 2006, says: "I have played tennis in Yokohama for a long time, and my best memory is when the Yamate courts were still clay. Even now, I vividly remember playing with senior players who gave us a lot of support and dependable fellow players with whom I sometimes had to compete as rivals. Together with these teammates, I took part in the Inter 5 Cities Athletic Meet eight times as a representative player and won many tournaments including the Kanagawa Prefecture Championship and Kanto Championship, all of which are among my good memories. I go to citizens' tournaments to watch tennis matches once in a while, and I would like to pay tribute to the players of a wide range of ages as well as to their excellent skills."
Coaching Players to Compete on the World Stage
What Made Her Decide to Turn Pro and Best Memories in Professional Career
I started to play tennis when I was seven, and one of my teammates of the club I joined happened to be Ai Sugiyama. It was natural for every member of the club to dream of becoming a professional tennis player and competing at an international level. I turned pro at the age of 18 and retired when I was 27. During my professional career, I made all my dreams come true, which are playing in the Grand Slam (the four major tennis tournaments) and winning the All-Japan Tennis Championship to become the best player in Japan.
The greatest asset to me is that I was able to find something to which I could devote all my youth and have a dream of reaching the world's top level competing in the international tennis tour.
Challenges as a Coach
I formed Team YUKA, with the hope that I would encourage younger players to turn pro and compete on the world stage. The ultimate goal is to develop world-class tennis players, but everything they learn in the process will definitely help them whatever they do in later stages of their lives. So the most important thing that I want my players to know is that it is great to gain the ability to work hard and find something they can do with enthusiasm. I want to see my players keep practicing hard and, hopefully, some of them turn pro as a result.
Message for Those Interested in Taking Up Tennis
Yokohama has the largest population of tennis lovers in this country. They range from recreational enthusiasts to players looking to become professional. Tennis is an age- and gender-free sport, which also involves learning the joy of competition. To children who are interested in sports but not sure what to take up, I can proudly recommend tennis. In Yokohama, there are some tennis schools for beginners. I hope that many people give tennis a try.
Tennis Pro Yuka Yoshida
Professional tennis player born in Yokohama.
During her professional career, Ms. Yoshida participated in the Federation Cup, the women's premier international team tennis event, as a member of Japan's national team. At the All-Japan Tennis Championship, she clinched the singles title once and the doubles title twice. Her career high rankings were No. 52 in singles and No. 51 in doubles.
Since retiring from the professional tour, Ms. Yoshida has been doing tennis commentary on TV while at the same time studying environmental issues at college.
Ms. Yoshida founded a tennis academy, Team YUKA, in 2010, and she has served as its representative since then, devoting a lot of effort to developing young players.