Q & A With Joyce Ardies

April 3, 2009

The Washington women's tennis team, currently ranked 31st and seeking its second straight NCAA Championships appearance, does not have any seniors on the roster. But they certainly don't lack for experience, and junior Joyce Ardies is a big reason why. The Brazilian native has traveled all around the world before finding a home here in Seattle. Prior to the Huskies hosting UCLA and USC this weekend, Ardies talked with Jeremy Cothran of GoHuskies.com about her success so far this year, her life in both Brazil and Belgium, and her favorite salsa dancing partner.

GoHuskies.com: You've had a successful year so far. Is there anything in particular you can point to as the reason behind it?
Joyce Ardies:
Well, first, the year is not over. I still have a lot of work to do. I'm happy with my performance. I'm playing No. 5 (singles) right now, which helps. That's a good spot for me. I think my game style for players at this level is very effective. I think that's the main reason for success. Also, we worked really hard on the fall on some things with my game, and I'm trying to apply that.

GH: What sort of things did you and the coaching staff work on?
Mostly on getting points at the net, creating the short balls, using the slice in variation with high balls. Normally in women's play, it's the same shots and same patterns. When you mix a little bit, you get a difference. I think that's one of my strengths, mixing it up and using variation. (Opponents) don't know which ball is going to come, or which pace, and that breaks the rhythm. I feel in great shape too. The past few years I've been injured. I did have a problem with my wrist a little while ago, but I've recovered.

GH: What were some of your goals coming in this season?
As a team, I wanted us to be top-25. I thought that our team was prepared for that, coming from the previous years. We had some really good additions this year. And it's still a realistic goal. We've had some recent success and we've won a couple of matches. Personally, I wanted to be playing good doubles. We were working with a couple of different people and now I'm playing with Denise Dy. We play a lot by intuition. We love playing doubles and it's a lot of fun.

GH: So what goes into a good doubles partnership?
Usually it's not very easy. You need some practice. But with (Denise) it's very easy because we both have the instinct of doubles. I know if she's going to one side, I'm going right to the other. We never need to talk, and we agree on 99 percent of the calls, which is a good thing in doubles. You don't want to be disagreeing with each other. We just go and play. It has been lots of fun. She's an awesome player. We like doubles. Adding two players that have that, it's natural.

GH: You just returned from a tournament in Hawaii. How was the trip?
I went a little scared because last year I had a really bad match against Sacramento State. But I was really focused and it was the best trip ever. We won three matches, and getting the job done, in Hawaii, it was the best. We weren't just having fun there. It was a business trip and we had to take care of business. The three matches were, whoa, great. We upset Illinois. They were ranked 33rd and we were ranked 36th, and we beat them, and then we switched spots. And again, doubles proved to be important because we won the doubles point and we won 4-3. Three singles plus the doubles point. That was very crucial.

GH: What was the experience like of growing up in Sao Paolo, Brazil?
It's a huge city. We have 18 million people. I was fortunate enough to live outside of the city. I had a small school, my club and home. I have a lot of close friends that I keep in touch with even now. It is dangerous, though. I never had a problem in Sao Paolo, but we don't feel as safe as I do here. But I loved the life in Brazil and having my best friends close, but I don't regret for a second coming here and having the experiences that I've had here.

GH: What were your first impressions of Seattle?
I came here on a recruiting trip and it was very, very sunny. I was like, `wow, this is like paradise.' One of the things I love the most is the landscape. Just the combination of the mountains and the snow. And then the lakes and the water all around, and the green, I was so impressed. We don't have that in Brazil. It was all so pretty. I knew that this was the place I wanted to be. It turns out the sun doesn't come very often. But when it comes, it makes it worth it.

GH: You've traveled all over the world playing tennis. What are some of your favorite places to play?
I love Chile. I remember playing in a club and I could see Cordillera Negra (mountain range), and the landscape is so amazing. And I love Croatia. Those are the two spots that stand out in my mind.

GH: What was it like to spend a year playing in Europe playing in WTA events?
I played in Belgium. My dad is Belgian, he moved to Brazil when he was young and he met my mom. So I have a lot of family in Belgium, and a cousin that had a tennis academy there. So I thought, why not? So I moved to Belgium and I had half of my family there with me to help me create the experience of playing in professional tournaments. It was intensive. It was tennis all the time. A lot of conditioning. When I traveled, I couldn't afford to pay for coaches. So the challenge wasn't only on the court, but outside. Little details you had to worry about when you travel alone. I did get injured a couple of times, which made it harder. I liked traveling, but I was alone a lot. It's not very easy on the tour. They're not very friendly. I had some friends, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't easy. After a year, I decided that I really missed school and I wanted to be a part of a team again. So I started applying for universities in the United States. Because in this country is the only place you can do both (play sports while studying at a university). That they can give you this option, it's very unique.

GH: You went to Tulane University first, but then Hurricane Katrina came. Tell me about that experience?
I arrived here in the United States two days before the hurricane hit. I met my coach at the airport for the first time, and he said there was an unusual situation and that we had to evacuate. We went to the dorms, I packed a bag for three days and we were going to stay in a gymnasium. I had just been in the United States and my English was very, very rough. I went in the bus with a couple of other students, and some other teammates, that I had just met, and it was fun at first, because we didn't know what was happened. But when the hurricane hit, and things got serious, then it was a little stressful. The athletic department said that school was closed, so we had to go to Texas A&M in College Station to start the semester. So that's what we did. I still had my three day bag following me, for six months actually. Because I never went back to Tulane, because they said it was closed. People at Texas were amazing. They donated so many things, and they were always helping. We tried to play as much as we could, but being behind in school, and we didn't have materials - tennis balls and shoes - to use. We played a tournament, and then (Tulane) announced it was cutting the tennis program. And then a hurricane came and hit Texas and we had to go back in a gymnasium again. I said, `oh wow, this is following me. I can't believe it.' It was sad that they cut the tennis program, though. We knew it was a huge hit the University was taking. So I went back to Tulane, and I was deciding whether to stay there as a student for four years on the scholarship that they promised me, or try and find another school. After a couple weeks, I thought I was missing something. I needed to go keep playing tennis. So I started looking for universities and I came here on that nice sunny day. I love it here. I love (head coach) Jill Hultquist. It was a really good recruiting trip.

GH: You've mentioned the rare sunny weather, but what's your overall favorite thing about Seattle?
I like the salsa community. I started this salsa dancing this quarter, and it's great. I started with Aleksandra Malovic, and it's very cool. We're very enthusiastic about it and we see some great dancers. I'm taking classes at Salsa con Todo. It helps us on our balance too, leaning on all the moves like inside turn, and cross-body turn. I always wanted to dance salsa, and I started researching web sites, and Salsa con Todo come up. And I'm really happy that Malo came with me. We got closer because of salsa. It's something we do for us. But the most I like about Seattle is the landscape, there is no doubt about it. I love driving my scooter when it's sunny and going to Green Lake and just relaxing or playing soccer.

GH: Do you follow the Brazilian soccer team at all?
Yeah, of course. We play today at 4 p.m., and I can't watch because we have practice. It's torture. But I have to deal with it.

GH: I saw that your father owns an art gallery. What type of art does he present?
My dad went to Brazil and started his own business. He saw an opportunity to explore Brazilian 'naïve' art. It's very simple art. It doesn't require fancy technique; the artists express themselves through the art as they see it. It's normally very bright, colorful and brings happiness to your house. It warms your soul. I love it because you promote your country's art, you help the artists. He started working with 20 painters, and now there are more than 30. He's been working with them for a long time. We have artists painting the countryside and the cities. Even something like the favellas (shantytowns), they are beautiful as art.

GH: What's next for you after tennis?
Well, the good news is that I just got accepted into the masters program here at Washington. The Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership program. So I get to play one more year for the Huskies. It's great, because I couldn't imagine saying goodbye. It's Husky pride. But the program is going to be intensive. I have class from 8am to 5 pm every day. For two months in the summer. We have law classes, fundraising and learning about NCAA rules. And during the fall, winter and spring, we do internships. It's a great way to have academics plus working experience. I'm excited to be starting and I'm pumped up that I got in, because it's very competitive. I'm glad things worked out.

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