TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gigi Fernández was a fixture on the tennis circuit back in the 80’s and 90’s. One of the best doubles players ever, she won two Olympic gold medals.
These days you might find her on a pickleball court. Two years ago, a friend asked her to give it a try. At first she was skeptical.
“I was like really? I’m not playing pickle ball.”
Fast forward to today, and Fernández is a ranked pickleball player. She is No. 9 in the world in the senior pro division. She competes in eight or nine tournaments each year.
“Tennis is my passion and my life and my business. It’s given me everything I have but pickleball is my hobby so I love pickleball,” Fernández said.
The 58-year-old is not surprised by the skyrocketing popularity of pickleball.
“It’s a great workout,” she said. “People think because the court is small you don’t work out but actually in a one hour tennis match you’re hitting the ball 11 minutes and in a one hour match, you’re hitting the ball 22 minutes.”
And with stars like Tom Brady and Lebron James investing in major league pickleball, the best pickleball players are making money at the sport.
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“I think it’s going to keep exploding because I think there was a study that just came out that 34 million people played pickle ball last year. That’s more than tennis or golf. That’s a big number,” Fernández added.