OLYMPIC COACH PROFILE; Mary Joe Fernandez – Tennis (USA)
Mary Joe Fernández Godsick is an American former professional tennis player. She was the runner-up in three Grand Slam singles tournaments and won two Grand Slam women’s doubles titles and two Olympic gold medals.
Mary Joe Fernández first came to the tennis world’s attention as an outstanding junior player who won four straight Orange Bowl junior titles. In 1985, aged 14 years and eight days, she became the youngest player to win a main draw match at the U.S. Open when she defeated Sara Gomer in the first round. She turned professional in 1986. She won her first tour doubles title in 1989 at Dallas, partnering Betsy Nagelsen. Her first top-level singles title came in 1990 at the Tokyo Indoor championships. She reached her first Grand Slam singles final in 1990 at the Australian Open, where she was defeated by Steffi Graf. She finished 1990 ranked a career-high World No. 4 in singles.
In 1991, Fernández teamed with Patty Fendick to win the women’s doubles title at the Australian Open. She was back in the Australian Open singles final in 1992, this time losing to Monica Seles. Fernández was selected to represent the United States at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, winning a gold medal in women’s doubles (with Gigi Fernández) and a bronze medal in singles.
In the quarterfinals of the 1993 French Open, Mary Joe Fernández staged a dramatic comeback against Sabatini after Sabatini took a 6–1, 5–1 lead. But Mary Joe raised the level of her game and saved five match points in the 2nd set before winning a tiebreak. In the 3rd set, Mary Joe finally got rid of Sabatini by hitting a down the line winner, ending the three-hour, 36-minute marathon by a final score of 1–6, 7–6(7–4), 10–8. She then faced second seeded Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in the semifinals. Mary Joe defeated Arantxa 6–2, 6–2, ending a three match losing streak against the Spaniard. After the heroics against Sabatini in the quarterfinals, followed by her easy win over Arantxa in the semis, Mary Joe’s opponent in the final would be top seeded Steffi Graf of Germany. In their nine previous meetings, Mary Joe had lost each time against Steffi. Mary Joe took the opening set 6–4, but Steffi rallied to win by a final score of 4–6, 6–2, 6–4.
Fernández won her second Grand Slam doubles title in 1996 at the French Open, partnering with Lindsay Davenport. The pair went on to capture the year-end WTA Tour Championships doubles title later that year. Revealing the fact she had reached the climax of her career when she was 22 (she defeated Steffi Graf in the first set of French Open final).
Fernández was a late replacement for Chanda Rubin on the United States team for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. She won a second straight women’s doubles gold medal, again in partnership with Gigi Fernández. She was also entered in the singles competition (owing to a withdrawal), and reached the semifinals, where she was defeated for the bronze medal by Jana Novotná. Later that year, Fernández was a member of the U.S. team that won the Fed Cup. Fernández won her final tour singles title in 1997 at the German Open in Berlin. Her final doubles title also came that year in Madrid. She retired from the tour in 2000, having won 7 singles titles, 17 WTA doubles titles, and 2 ITF women’s doubles titles.
In 2003, Dr. Wade Exum, the United States Olympic Committee’s director of drug control administration from 1991 to 2000, gave copies of documents to Sports Illustrated which revealed that some 100 American athletes who failed drug tests and should have been prevented from competing in the Olympics were nevertheless cleared to compete. Among those athletes was Fernández.
Since retiring from the tour, Mary Joe Fernández has served as a tennis commentator for ESPN and joined CBS Sports as an analyst for the 2005 U.S. Open. She also coaches the U.S. Fed Cup team and served as the woman’s coach for the 2012 U.S. Olympic tennis team in London.
Fernandez has coached the U.S. Fed Cup team since 2009, and she coached the women’s Olympic tennis team four years ago. As a player, she won gold medals in doubles at the 1992 and 1996 Games.
“To be able to represent the U.S. for a fourth time at the Olympics is a tremendous honor,” Fernandez said. “I’m excited and looking forward to helping the top American women as they look to capture medals in Rio.”