MOC's Lucia Henkle -- Fed Cup play
Published in Sports on April 30, 2004 2:00 PM
MOC Sports Information
MOUNT OLIVE -- Apart from the Olympics, many sports have their own prestigious international competition. For soccer, it's the World Cup. For men's tennis, it's the Davis Cup. And for women's tennis, it's the Federation Cup.
A great number of world-renowned athletes are competing in this year's Federation Cup. Members of the U.S. team include Venus Williams, Lisa Raymond and Martina Navratilova.
France is represented by two-time Grand Slam champion Mary Pierce and the world's No. 3-ranked player Amelie Mauresmo, while Belgium is represented by No.2-ranked Kim Clijsters. In fact, five of the world's top 10 players are competing in this year's Federation Cup.
Add one more athlete who competed in this year's Federation Cup. And you don't even have to leave the Mount Olive College campus to find her.
Lucia Henkle, a sophomore from Guatemala City, Guatemala, represented her country in April at the Americas Zone Group II Tournament in the Federation Cup. Guatemala was one of seven nations to compete in Americas Zone Group II, joining Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Jamaica, Paraguay and Venezuela.
The Federation Cup is divided into three "zones" -- Americas Zone, Asia/Oceania Zone and Europe/Africa Zone -- and there are two-to-three groups within each zone. Teams from Group I of each zone have the opportunity to qualify for the world championship. Teams from Groups II compete to advance to Group I.
Guatemala posted a 1-3 record in the Americas Zone Group II tournament, which was held in Porto Seguro, Brazil. Guatemala defeated the Dominican Republic after falling to Jamaica, Ecuador and Paraguay. Each match consists of two singles matches and one doubles match.
For Henkle, 2004 marked the fourth time she had been selected to Guatemala's National Team and the third time she competed in the Federation Cup. She competed in 2001 at St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda, and competed in 2000 at La Libertad, El Salvador. Henkle was selected to the National Team in 2003, but Guatemala did not compete in the Federation Cup that year. This year, she played the No. 1 position for Guatemala.
Henkle has a career record of 5-8 in singles and doubles in Federation Cup play. She went 0-3 this year with the matches taking place on a clay surface. But in 2001, the tournament was played on a hard court surface and she posted a 4-1 record. Henkle plays her college matches on a hard court surface.
"I normally play on a hard surface, but I had to play on red clay at the Fed Cup this year," said Henkle. "I much prefer the hard surface."
The month of April was a bit of a whirlwind for Henkle, particularly the final two weeks of the month. Competing for Mount Olive in the NCAA Division II Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference tournament and preparing for final exams was already challenging enough. Now throw in a one-week trip to Brazil to represent her country in the Federation Cup right before finals.
"It was tough, really, really tough," Henkle said about her schedule. "We just finished the conference tournament and I had one day to fly down to Brazil. I arrived late Monday night and played Tuesday morning."
Henkle brought class work with her so she could study for exams when she wasn't playing tennis. At least that was the plan.
"Well, I tried," said Henkle. "The whole day, you're focusing on tennis and at night you're very tired."
She returned to Mount Olive Sunday and attended the athletic awards banquet Monday night where she was named the women's tennis team's Most Valuable Player. She began final exams Tuesday and finished her last final Wednesday.
A business management major, Henkle has been playing tennis since the age of nine. There were no high school tennis teams in Guatemala, so she played on club teams growing up. She played on the Junior Tennis "COSAT Tour," which included tournaments in South America. Henkle says she hasn't played against any world-ranked players in the Federation Cup, but believes she faced players in junior tennis competition who went on to earn world rankings.
Henkle admits that tennis is still developing in Guatemala, as compared to other countries. But she hopes her national team can advance further into the tournament and that she gets the chance to play some of the top-ranked players in the world.
"To get into the number one group is hard, but with a lot of effort, hard work, dedication, mental toughness and confidence, I know we can get there," said Henkle. "I think it would be a great opportunity to play some of the top players and I hope to get that opportunity someday."
While many tennis players get quite excitable during a match, Henkle is always able to stay on an even keel, not getting overly excited when winning a point and still managing a smile even if she loses a point.
"It helps me not to get too emotional during a match and that's kind of my personality," said Henkle. "I'm always trying to stay positive."
Henkle was originally selected to the Federation Cup by virtue of national rankings and her performance in qualification tournaments.
While selection isn't automatic, in all likelihood she'll be invited again in 2005 to represent Guatemala in the Federation Cup, meaning next April will likely be as hectic as this April was. But you can bet that Henkle would accept the invitation to do it all over again next year.
"I feel very honored to represent my country," said Henkle.
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