Several Los Altos residents have attended Wimbledon, but there’s one who has actually played in the oldest Grand Slam tennis tournament.
Marisue Jacutin de Mariona played in the event in 1997, while she was the top-ranked woman in the Philippines. She lost in the last round of qualifiers at Roehampton.
“The smell of freshly groomed grass – paired with the ambience and demeanor of the spectators – is unforgettable. (It’s) truly the best Grand Slam tournament,” said Jacutin de Mariona, who moved to Los Altos eight years ago.
Jacutin de Mariona also competed in the Australian Open in 1997.
“Having a Filipino take part in Grand Slam events and playing among the greats was truly an honor and triumph,” she said. “I will always look back with pride and gratitude.”
Jacutin de Mariona added that looking at the flags displayed at the Slams and seeing your own country’s flag is an “emotional and grandiose sight.”
“The whole experience was spectacular,” she said. “Sharing the courts with all-time tennis greats was magnificent for a small-town girl like myself.”
Born and raised in the Philippines, Jacutin de Mariona was introduced to tennis at age 8 by her father, a racquetball player, and she was hooked.
In the Philippines, Jacutin de Mariona said her greatest struggle with tennis was her initial lack of resources, including facilities and equipment.
“Also, I was a girl playing a sport dominated by men in the country,” she said. “I felt I had to prove my way into recognizing that women have potential to make big waves.”
That’s exactly what Jacutin de Mariona did, becoming the No. 1 ranked woman in the country in 1989. She held that title until 2000.
Jacutin de Mariona said she moved to the U.S. in 1999 to pursue greater opportunities. She attended Oklahoma City University on a tennis scholarship and participated in some pro circuits while in college. After earning her degree, she was able to travel and play in more tournaments. She played on the pro tour on and off from 1999 to 2004.
Although she stopped playing on the tour 14 years ago, Jacutin de Mariona still competes in the sport at the USTA level and also participates in national team tennis. She mainly plays in local USTA tournaments – and even a few national ones – in mixed doubles with partner Pablo Schurig. They were named USTA NorCal Mixed Players of the Year three times.
Prior to that, Jacutin de Mariona was the top-ranked USTA player nationally in the women’s 30 singles division and the No. 1 player in Northern California. She is a three-time winner of the USTA Gold Ball, awarded to the champion of several national tournaments. She also ranked second nationally in women’s doubles with three Silver Balls (runner-up) and two Bronze Balls (third-place).
Outside of tournaments, Jacutin de Mariona works as a coach for local junior players and college-bound athletes.
“I help them transition into a better version of themselves as players,” she said. “Not so much as changing their personal flair as players, but polishing their foundation.”
Jacutin de Mariona is also working her way into tennis consulting to provide better resources for young athletes both nationally and internationally.
According to Jacutin de Mariona, tennis is the greatest sport because it is able to bring countries and people together.
“Personally, I love competing,” she said. “I embrace the pressure of being on the verge of winning or losing. Tennis combines physical, mental and superb tactical skills.”
As for advice for tennis players, Jacutin de Mariona said, “Tennis is a lifestyle. It takes years of practice to master your skills and ability to think outside the box and have an edge.”