Try juggling a professional tennis career with two kids, a history of nagging injuries and a virtual tennis academy to run. And try doing that at an age when most other pros call it quits.
Lindsay Lee-Waters is doing exactly that, and frankly, she's making it look easy.
The 31-year-old is competing in this week's Fifth Third Bank Tennis Championships at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex on UK's campus. To even get in the tournament, Lee-Waters had to win three straight matches to qualify for the first round.
All that got her was a match with sixth-seeded Lauren Albanese in what appeared to be an early-round exit.
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Not so fast.
Lee-Waters, the only mother on the WTA Tour with more than one child, defeated Albanese 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 Wednesday to advance to the second round. In might have been an upset on paper, but Lee-Waters' victory was just another example that her career is far from over with.
“She beat (Albanese) a couple of weeks ago so it probably wasn't an upset,” said husband Heath Waters, who doubles as her coach. “She's been the highest ranked player in the tournament before. It was an upset just in the fact that (Lee-Waters) is on her way back up.”
In what can only be described as an up-and-down career, Lee-Waters has journeyed from the far reaches of the WTA rankings. Ranked as high as 33rd in 1996, Lee-Waters has fallen all the way back to 414th.
But Lee-Waters plans another comeback, and is hoping to climb back into the top 100. It isn't like she hasn't done it before.
A shoulder injury dropped Lee-Waters from her perch at 33, but she recovered and broke back into the top 75 in her first comeback. Then Lee-Waters got pregnant with her first child, Sevyn, and plummeted again.
Another comeback that included beating Jelena Jankovic, currently ranked No. 2 in the world, put her back in the top 75, but a second pregnancy, this time with now 2-year-old Heath Paul, ended that run.
“She's missed probably five years of her career,” Waters said.
So why try one more time at an age considered well past that of a tennis player's prime?
“I still have some goals I want to reach,” said Lee-Waters, who has a combined 26 singles and doubles titles on the ITF Pro Circuit. “I haven't really been grinding it out like a lot of other players. I've been out here for a long time, but I've been out with injuries and babies, so my body is still strong and getting stronger.”
Said Waters: “She has an innate drive. If you still got stuff let in the tank, you want to use it. She doesn't feel that she's reached her top level because she keeps getting hiccups and interruptions with babies.
“She tells me that when she gets to 40 she can do something else, but right now she enjoys traveling around the world doing something she loves, staying in shape and trying to whoop these young'uns.”
While Lee-Waters tries to defeat the “young'uns” on the Tour, she has two “young'uns” to take care of at home, something no other woman on Tour has to deal with. She also runs an online virtual tennis academy alongside her husband.
“It's definitely a challenge, but we enjoy it,” Lee-Waters said. “It puts a lot of things in perspective. Tennis isn't the most important thing in my life – God and my kids and my husband are. We've learned and came up with a system that we can manage it. When we're at the courts, we focus on the tennis, and when we're done we go out and have fun with the kids.”
For now, Lee-Waters plans to play mainly Challenger Level tournaments while she improves her game, but she hopes to get back into the major WTA tournaments sometime next year. She isn't a rush, even if she is 31.
“The plan is to do this as long as I can,” Lee-Waters said. “I don't really think age is that big of a deal. ... I think people put limitations on age. I don't feel 31 so I'm going to keep at it as long as I love it and enjoy it.”
Lee-Waters' youthful spirit even has her playing in doubles this week in a unique pairing with 16-year-old Melanie Oudin, the No. 3 ranked junior in the world.
They beat the No. 2-seeded duo of Liga Dekmeijere and Nikola Frankiva in the first round Wednesday night.
On Thursday, Lee-Waters will try to advance to the third round of the singles when she plays Christina McHale at 12:30 p.m. At about 3:30, Lee-Waters and Oudin will take on Neha and Shikha Uberoi in doubles.
At Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex
($50,000 men, $50,000 women)
Dudi Sela (Israel) def. Noam Okum (Israel) 6-2, 6-3. Izak Van Der Merwe (South Africa) def. Alex Kuznetsov (U.S.) 6-2, 6-2. Somdev Devvarman (India) def.
Ryler DeHeart-Rajeev Ram (U.S.) def. Colt Gaston-Scoville Jenkins (U.S.) 6-3, 6-1. Harel Levy (Israel)-Jim Thomas (U.S.) def. Victor Estrella (Dominican Republic)-Santiago Gonzales (Mexico) 6-2, 6-4. Allesandro Da Col (Italy)-Andrea Stoppini (Italy) def. Jamie Baker (Britain)-Brendan Evans (U.S.) 1-6, 6-0, 10-6.
Lindsey Lee-Waters (U.S.) def. Lauren Albanese (U.S.) 6-4, 5-7, 6-2. Georgie Stoop (Britain) def. Hilary Barte (U.S.) 4-6, 6-4, 6-0. Carly Gullickson (U.S.) def. Elena Baltacha (Britain) 6-4, 2-6, 6-0. Nicole Kriz (Austria) def. Kim Grajdek (Germany) 6-0, 6-1. Gabriela Paz (Venezuela) def. Maureen Diaz ( (U.S.) 6-4, 6-3. Story Tweedie-Yates (U.S.) def. Nikola Frankova (Czech Republic) 6-4, 6-4. Christina McHale (U.S.) def. Neha Uberoi (U.S.) 6-5, 7-5.
Kai-Chen Chang (Taipei)-I-Hsuan Hwang (Taipei) def. Maria Alves (Brazil)-Robin Stephenson (U.S.) 7-6(4), 3-6, 10-7. Lauren Albanese (U.S.)-Allie Will (U.S.) def. Anastasia Kharchenko (Ukraine)-Ye-Ra Lee (Korea) 6-3, 6-3. Chin-Wei Chan (Taipei)-Kimberly Couts (U.S.) def. Amanda McDowell (U.S.)-Alexis Prousis (U.S.) 4-6, 6-2, 10-6. Kristy Frilling (U.S.)- Alexandra Mueller (U.S.) def. Whitney Jones (U.S.)-Tyra Rolle (U.S.) 6-2, 6-1.
Stadium court 1, starting at 11:00 a.m.
Georgie Stoop, Great Britain, vs. Varvara Lepchenko (2), United States; Carly Gullickson, United States, vs. Gabriela Paz Franco, Venezuela.
Not before 2 p.m.
Robert Kendrick (3), United States, vs. Rajeev Ram, United States; Izak Van Der Merwe, Russia, vs. Victor Estrella, Dominican Republic.
Not before 7 p.m.
Rhyne Williams, United States, vs. Xavier Malisse, Belgium; Ryler De Heart and Rajeev Ram (3), United States, vs. Stephen Bass and Todd Paul, United States.
Stadium court 2, starting at 11 a.m.
Ye-Ra Lee (5), Korea, vs. Nicole Kriz, Australia; Melanie Oudin (8), United States, vs. Kimberly Couts, United States.
Not before 2 p.m.
Michael Yani, United States, vs. Ryler De Heart, United States. Neha Uberoi, United States, and Shikha Uberoi, India, vs. Lindsay Lee-Waters and Melanie Oudin, United States, or Liga Dekmeihere, Latvia, and Nikola Frankova, Czech Republic.
Not before 7 p.m.
Alexis Prousis, United States, vs. Story Tweedie-Yates, United States; Kai-Chen Chang and I-Hsuan Hwang, Taipei, vs. Carly Gullickson, United States, and Nicole Kriz, Australia.
Court 3, starting at 11 a.m.
Alexandra Mueller, United States, vs. Chin-Wei Chan (7), Taipei; Christina McHale, United States, vs. Lindsay Lee-Waters, United States; Kelly Anderson, Russia, and Georgie Stoop, Great Britain, vs. Lauran Albanese and Allie Will, United States; Chin-Wei Chan, Taipei, and Kimberly Couts, United States (4), vs. Kristy Frilling and Alexandra Mueller, United States.
Court 7, starting at 11 a.m.
I-Hsuan Hwang, Taipei, vs. Junri Namigata (3), Japan.
Not before 2 p.m.
Alessandro Da Col and Andra Stoppini, Italy, vs. Harel Levy, Israel, and Jim Thomas, United States (2).