Nearing the End, Huber Doesn't Want to Call This One Her Last
By: Nicholas McCarvel
Liezel Huber doesn't want to say that she's leaving the Family Cirlce Cup - or eventually leaving professional tennis. The doubles specialist would much more prefer to call it a "transitional phase" of her career, a working woman taking on new kinds of, well, work.
"It's more than likely this will be my last Family Circle Cup," said Huber, who makes up half of No. 1 seeded doubles team in Charleston this year. "But, if I look at it in that way, then I'll probably be very sad and not performing my best. I think of it more as a transition phase: If I'm here next year, great! And if I'm not, then it means I've moved on to other things. I feel like I'm incorporating other things in my life right now because I'm ready for them."
Those "other things" are quite demanding, keeping the 36-year-old Huber, a Houston resident, on her toes at all times - even when she's off the tennis court.
Last fall she and her husband Tony adopted a little boy and the wife and mother also helps manage the family's Huber Tennis Ranch, based just outside of Houston and home to both junior and adult programs.
Huber also works as an ambassador for USANA, the WTA's health and supplement sponsor and is a humanitarian and a public speaker.
"I wear different hats," Huber said during an interview in the tournament clubhouse. "Everything that I do is to give back. That's my main goal."
But for almost two decades her main goal on the pro tennis tour has been to win matches - something she's been overly successful at. The American owns an astonishing 53 career doubles titles, including the 2010 Family Circle Cup alongside Russian veteran Nadia Petrova.
But Huber says that her fondest memory of the Family Circle Cup isn't that win itself, but rather her first trip to the tournament in 1993 when she competed in the Pro-Am as a 16-year-old, trying to qualify for the main draw.
"When my sponsors asked me how it went, I was too embarrassed to tell them that I didn't get in," said Huber, who owns five doubles Grand Slam titles and two in mixed doubles. "That's the memory that sticks out."
She made another memory earlier in the week before coming to Charleston as she was invited as a tennis instructor along with fellow veteran Jill Craybas to the White House Egg Roll.
"I got to meet the entire first family. It made me realize how blessed I was to be a part of this country," said Huber. Huber, who grew up in South Africa, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2007 and played on both the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Oylmpic teams.
"Besides meeting my husband and my baby, meeting the first family would be at the top of my list," said Huber, who is playing this week with Andrea Hlavackova, their first-ever pairing. "Meeting someone who wants to give back - because ultimately, they're in a service position - is one of the highlights of my life... it's going to be my Christmas card! No words to describe."
Huber had kind words to describe a luncheon she hosted alongside tournament emcee Andrew Krasny with a few dozen local women.
"For me, the very important lesson that I want to be spreading is that you have to be healthy to be happy," Huber said of the event. "Eleanor [Adams, tournament manager] came and thanked me at the end, saying that it was the best luncheon they've had. That made my day. I think Eleanor does a fantastic job with this tournament."
It's a tournament that has been home in more ways than one in her 12 appearances here.
"For us it's really special: we come here every year in our motor home and Eleanor let's us park on site. We bring a dog or two and shower in the clubhouse. It's been home for us. This year, we've rented a house because of our baby."
And while it's almost certain this will be her last year in Charleston, Huber doesn't mind leaving the door open, even by just a tennis-ball sized crack.
"I'm just focusing on the next stage. You might see me here next year and you might not."