Catching Up With... Nana Smith Rogers
Published November 03, 2007 12:00
SAN DIEGO, CA, USA - Players go in many different directions after wrapping up their careers on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Some start families, others pursue complete career changes - in the case of Nana Smith Rogers, it's both. Having travelled the Tour for over 17 years under her maiden name, Miyagi, Smith Rogers hung up her racquets but continues to pursue her other passions.
You enjoyed quite a bit of success on the Tour - 10 doubles titles, six Top 20 wins in singles (including a Top 10 win over Lindsay Davenport) - how do you look back at your career?
It's hard to say! Every tournament I have played and done well in I cherish. I think my biggest victories came from my singles career, against Davenport and Hingis. I was not a doubles player but I seemed to win more tournaments in doubles than singles. I also enjoyed beating the Williams sisters at the Australian Open in doubles - I remember when we shook hands after the match, Venus squeezed so hard my finger popped!
Your playing style (two hands off both sides) is unique but has survived to this day; how did you adopt that style and did it serve you well?
I wouldn't change a thing, but you need to be a little bit quicker than the normal one-hander. I started playing with two hands because the racquet was too heavy for me when I started, which was when I was five years old. There are many advantages to using two hands, and in my case many people couldn't tell where I was hitting to. It also helped me disguise my drop shots. Also, hitting angles with two hands was awesome!
You've spent some of your life in the United States and some of it in Japan. Talk a little bit about that and how it fit in with your career.
I was born in Seattle then moved to Okinawa, Japan when I was 13. My father worked on the military base there; I lived there solid for about four years and then the Okinawan Tennis Association took me in and I played junior events. I eventually turned pro at 18 with many sponsors. I travelled my whole tennis life and went back to Okinawa whenever I had time. Now I live in San Diego.
Talk about your recent marriage - where did you meet your husband, when did you get married and where will you settle?
James and I met in San Francisco. We were both visiting friends at the time and happened to meet randomly. He lives in San Diego and is working as a project manager for VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). He's also a triathlete and does Ironmans; we hit it off quickly! I brought him to Europe for some tournaments, and we couldn't be apart from each other after that! We met almost three years ago. We were married at the Will Rogers State Park, in the Pacific Palisades. His great grandfather was the famous comedian and actor Will Rogers (Will's house is now a museum on display at the park). Having the wedding there made it extra special. We were married September 8, 2007. My name has changed from Nana Miyagi (my mom's last name - everyone on Tour knows me under that name) to Nana Smith (when I changed to my dad's last name) to Nana Smith Rogers :)
What made you decide to stop playing, and what are your future plans?
I stopped playing towards the end of 2005. I had an injury on my left thumb since 1999 and hitting backhands felt like pins and needles. I was tired of the pain and everything began to slow down when I couldn't really practice anymore. After recommendations from family and friends, I started to make jewelry! I was known as the "Jewelry Girl" on the Tour and I started my own website to sell my natural gemstone jewelry. I welcome all my friends from the Tour to drop by and say HI! Someday, James and I would like to have children, but right now we already have two children - our two Ragdoll Kitties :)
What do you think of the current game? Who are your favorite players and do you think Japan has a bright future in women's tennis?
What do I think of the current game? That I'm glad I quit when I did! The game has changed so much and there's so much power. I think it's awesome that Lindsay is coming back. I don't think you should stop because you had a child or how old you are. I was happy to have played the Williams sisters many times in doubles. Venus and Serena have always been very nice to me (except on court!) and I enjoyed thier company. I'm also happy to see Hingis come back, although she has retired again; she played so effortlessly, unlike anyone I have seen on the Tour. I have noticed there aren't many Japanese on the Tour anymore. But give it time, the country is small and they will produce more players every year.