Catching Up With Catarina Lindqvist
The Swedish star owns and manages a New Jersey tennis club.
By Ann LoPrinzi
Catarina Lindqvist played on the pro tour for 11 years, reached the world’s top 10, and played in 36 Grand Slams. But the Swedish tennis star now hangs her hat at the East Brunswick Racquet Club in New Jersey.
The former hard-hitting pro keeps a low profile at the club that she and her husband, Bill Ryan, purchased in 2009. A few posters are the only subtle reminders of the life she led as a world-class player and coach — of her win over Steffi Graf in 1984, as captain of the Swedish Davis Cup team in 2005, as Fed Cup captain 2005-2007, and of her semifinal showing at Wimbledon and the Aussie Open.
Lindqvist Ryan met her husband on the tour. After running tennis events for IMG, he moved into player management and worked with some 200 players, including such luminaries as Roger Federer, Bjorn Borg, and Mats Wilander. They have children ages 13, 17, and 19. The oldest plays hockey at Cornell. Bill coaches high school lacrosse. Catarina wanted to do something, and purchasing a club seemed the right thing to do.
“This was something I wanted myself. I always thought that would be fun to have,” says Lindqvist. “I sort of run it, but we do things together. I do more with numbers — all the bookkeeping, payroll, and paperwork.”
There was a lot of numbers crunching and research before taking the plunge. First, says Lindqvist, you have to know what works in the area and what you’re getting into.
“Don’t think you’re going to make unbelievable amounts of money,” she says. “There’s only so much you can charge and only so much you can make. I knew that. You can’t just raise prices all the time. We took over an existing club, so it’s hard to change things. But it’s going pretty good; a lot of work, but going the way I expected.”
The seven-court indoor club is situated just off busy Route 18 near the New Brunswick exit of the New Jersey Turnpike, in a town of 22.5 square miles and a population of approximately 45,000. There are four full-time pros and a couple of part-time pros. Little open tennis time can be found here; it’s home to seven Central Jersey women’s teams, they have expanded the junior program, contract time abounds, and the Rutgers women’s team practices there. Lindqvist teaches some 20 hours of private lessons each week, and at least one woman drives two hours every week for the opportunity to work with the former pro.
“We’re very hands-on owners — I work a lot,” says Lindqvist, who owns five WTA singles titles and played in two Olympics. “It sort of comes natural. That’s all I’ve done all my life. If there is something you know a lot about, why not do that? I didn’t have a college degree, but you learn a lot on the tour. I learned a lot from having this place, too.”
Since purchasing the club, they created a new logo incorporating the Swedish colors, made some renovations by choice and some because of an electrical fire that damaged the men’s locker room and shut the club for a couple weeks. “Have good insurance,” she advises.
Lindqvist, who also plays golf, is still learning something she never had to do before: dealing with the public. “People speak up. I wasn’t used to that.”
She remains enthusiastic about the possibilities for the club, trying to focus on 10 and Under Tennis “because that’s the future.” And to share the knowledge she gained by facing such superstars as Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, and Graf.
“I teach [students] first to have control over the ball and then go from there. Some people hit hard first and then learn to keep it in. That’s for people that are going to go to a high level. You want to have fun with tennis. It’s more fun to keep it in play,” says Lindqvist, whose Swedish contemporaries were Wilander and Stefan Edberg.
Things were different back then, she recalls. “I had good quality tennis but hit maybe an hour a day. I was never fed balls my whole life. You played with the coach. Some of these kids today come once a week and never play. Once a week is not enough.”