Tennis coach Maya Uno, 26, hails from Osaka. She began playing tennis at around the age of 10, played professionally for five years and then started a career as a coach. Follow her on Instagram at @uno_maaya to find links to her branding projects and YouTube videos.

1. What do you like about tennis? I like that it can be played with anyone and for any amount of time. It’s not a gendered sport or a sport for young people, it’s for everyone — and it’s a lifelong sport.

2. Which do you prefer when playing, singles or doubles? I prefer doubles.

3. Why is that? Playing doubles feels more like a game. You never know how the game will turn out, it depends on your strategy. I’ve been paired with many people in doubles tennis and I really like the challenge of strategizing and overcoming your opponents.

4. How did you come to start playing tennis? When I was younger, I tried a couple of different activities. My younger sister actually started playing before me and that’s what got me into it. Usually, a younger sibling will be influenced by an older sibling but for us it was the other way around.

5. Which athlete, tennis player or other, do you admire most? I’d say Serbian tennis player Ana Ivanovic, she was a former No. 1 in 2008.

6. Who do you think is the greatest Japanese tennis player? I’d say Shuzo Matsuoka, the former Wimbledon quarter-finalist. You know, I saw him up close once when he was working as a TV personality. He has such an aura about him. Even after his active career as a tennis player (he’s retired now), he still has this air of glamour. And he’s good-looking, too!

7. He’s a good spokesperson for the sport, then. You’ve represented the sport in the media as well, what do you talk about when you’re interviewed? I just try to spread the joy and wonder of tennis to as many people as possible. I also do this through events and clinics.

8. You teach clinics? Yes, all ages and levels. I particularly enjoy teaching children. I think that’s because I used to play when I was a child and know what they’re going through.

9. What did you feel you accomplished during your time as a competitive tennis player? That’s a difficult question. There are kids who started playing the sport because of me. It’s a small thing, but I hope that I have been able to have a positive influence on people in that way. It makes me happy to know that I’ve been able to get someone to start playing, or even just enjoy watching it.

10. Do you give lessons to people who don’t speak Japanese? Yes. I don’t speak much English myself, but it really is quite easy to get across what I want to say through actions and hands-on coaching.

11. As a pro tennis player, what do you think of tennis star Naomi Osaka? The expectations on her are very high because the amount of money moving around her (sponsorships and so on) is huge. I’m very interested in how her attitude and behavior play out in the future. Of course, I’m interested in the results of her matches, but I’m also interested in what she does on and off the court.

12. How has Naomi Osaka influenced the world of tennis? For better or worse, a player who can become the talk of the town just because she tweets is incredible. I think she is the only player in the world of women’s tennis who has such an impact. There are issues that only Naomi Osaka can raise with a single tweet.

13. Is that a good thing for tennis as a whole? To me it seems like a big deal, yes. If she can send out some kind of message — whether it’s about Black Lives Matter or women in sports or mental health — and if things move in a better direction because she does so, then I think the world of tennis will only benefit from that.

14. Is there a message you’d like to get out there? In tennis, coaching isn’t allowed during a match. It’s like a martial art in that sense, where you fight one-on-one for hours. And it can be lonely.

I’d like to receive coaching during the match, maybe even talk to my coach every time I change courts. If there’s one message I could put out there, it would be that.

15. Is this loneliness a common thing among tennis players? Yeah. It’s a hard sport and can be stressful, which is why you see players throwing and breaking their rackets, and sometimes talking out of turn. I think being able to deal with it can be a tennis player’s strong point, but it would be nice to have the same kind of coaching system as with other sports.

16. How do you relieve your stress? I think my routines are typical of a tennis player, actually. I bounce the ball a certain number of times before serving and I’ll also sing in my head. Off the court, I can always relax at a nice cafe or the beach.

17. What is the best way to relieve stress if you’ve just started playing tennis? Deep breathing. Some people get overwhelmed and will hold their breath during a match, but I tell them to remember to exhale properly. Also, don’t set your expectations and ideals too high at first, you’ll just become stressed. Clear small goals without expecting too much from yourself.

18. If you didn’t play tennis, what sport would you play? I’ve actually played various sports. I love to move my body and have been athletic since I was little. Now I’m learning golf. There are many similarities between golf and tennis, and I’m finding ways to apply them to my coaching. In fact, many tennis players I know started playing golf during the pandemic. Japanese tennis players will often travel abroad and it is rare for us to stay in Japan for long periods like this.

19. Is golf challenging for you? I may get in trouble for saying this, but before I started actually playing golf — I didn’t think it was a real sport! When I tried it, though, I changed my mind. It’s very tiring. That’s what made it interesting, though, there’s a mental aspect to the game that is very different from tennis in terms of concentration.

20. How would you convince someone to give tennis lessons a try? It’s healthy to move your body. Tennis is a sport that requires the use of tools and strategy, which also helps your mind. I’ve said that tennis can be lonely, but playing doubles is a great way to beat loneliness and get together with people. It’s a great way to expand your community.

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