Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva: 1 + 1 = 14

Wins and Losses: 14 grand slam doubles titles together in just five years. After a big loss, they might dance and wrestle and splash in the water like kids. After a big win, they might gleefully rip off their tops, reveal the first sports bra to the world.

Natasha: I imagine Natasha reading Anna Karenina, Tolstoy’s late 19th century plunge into the meaning of Russia, the meaning of life: “Happy families (or doubles teams) are all alike; every unhappy family (or doubles team) is unhappy in its own way.”[i] Natasha the first athlete to demand that Russia let her keep a portion of her earnings. The year was 1989. Was it Perestroika, Glasnost, Gorbachev? Or was it a courageous young woman named Natasha, and many like her, who helped moved history along?  

Gigi: She jokes she’s the slacker in her Puerto Rican family of doctors, lawyers, artists . . . When she was nine years old, her father hit tennis balls at her from service line to service line. Gigi defended herself, gradually developing the quickest reflexes and best volleying skills in the women’s game. No doubles championships without that. In the face of immense social pressure about what a young women should do or be, Gigi became the first female professional athlete in Puerto Rico, the first and only Puerto Rican to win two Olympic Gold Medals.

The Partnership: In their joint Hall of Fame Induction speech, Natasha thanked Gigi for “mentally opening her up,” as if something in Gigi’s fiery personality helped Natasha plumb new depths of joyous creativity and spontaneity that matched both her philosophy of life and her ability to hit any shot with any spin from anywhere on the court. Add to Natasha’s creativity and consistency an aggressive, competitive player like Gigi who is always moving/poaching/faking and looking to pounce on any weak shot from the other side. Those KGB agents would have never had a chance.[ii]


[i] The famous opening line (with my additions) of Tolstoy’s novel.

[ii] From an email from Gigi Fernandez: “We started playing [together] in 1992. Just 3 years prior, before the “wall came down,” this would not have been possible since Russian tennis players were constantly followed by KGB operatives and were only allowed to play with other Russians. 

About the Artist:

Born in the French Pyrenees, Miki de Goodaboom moved to Goettingen, Germany at age 19 to study mathematics and physics. After graduating, she worked for many years in German industry as a mathematician and consultant until she moved to Spain, Andalucia, where she lives now. A self-taught artist, Miki kept creating more and more art until it finally became her full-time profession. She most enjoys painting sport themes since she loves movement and the challenge of reducing it to 2 dimensions on paper or canvas. If you check out her countless “Sport Art” paintings and posters on her website, you will see almost 300 images from the entire world of sport. But as you can see from her website, she loves to paint almost anything she encounters in the world.

For free posts every Thursday in your email featuring original art from around the world and creative new perspectives and prose, follow Tennis Players as Works of Art below:

Happy to announce that this blog has been named one of Feedspot’s top tennis blogs, websites & influencers of 2023.

7 replies on “Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva: 1 + 1 = 14”

Leave a Reply