Tennis Prose



Biofile with Lilia Osterloh

Status: WTA professional tennis player. Turned pro in 1997. Winner of three ITF singles titles, 10 ITF doubles titles and three WTA doubles titles (2000 Shanghai with Tanasugarn, 2008 Auckland with Koryttseva and 2010, Osaka with Chang Kai Chen. Achieved highest singles rank of #41 in 2001.

Ht: 5-7 Wt: 130

DOB: April 7, 1978 In: Columbus, Ohio

First Tennis Memory: I’ve had so many amazing tennis experiences over my 13 years on Tour but my very first memory was when I was six-years-old watching Martina Navratilova vs.Chris Evert on TV playing at Wimbledon – and telling my mum I will play there one day.

Tennis Inspirations: I’ve been lucky to have been mentored by experienced tennis greats – however my mum and dad have stuck by me through thick and thin. I also owe credit to Columbus, Ohio native coach, Al Matthews. I also admire Martina Navratilova & Billie Jean King. Being inducted into Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame this November 5th, 2010 was a great honor.

Hobbies/Interests: Skiing. I’ve been recently boxing at Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, CA under trainer and former pro-boxer Shane Langford and I think he can attest to the improvement in my fitness.

Last Book Read: I usually read two or three books at a time of different genres, but I do crave a good Swedish crime novel – Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, Kjell Ericksson. Nick Joaquin’s ‘Tropical Gothic’, Andre Agassi’s autobiography ‘Open.’

Musical Tastes: What’s on my iPod playlist: Replay – Iyaz, Say Aah – Trey Songz, Nothin’ On You – Bruno Mars, Knockout – Lil’ Wayne, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Bedrock- Young Money, Gangsta Luv – Snoop, Sexy Chick – David Guetta/Akon, Tie Me Down – New Boyz/Ray J, Down – Lil’ Wayne, Baby – Justin Bieber.

First Job: Tennis.

Current Car: A mini, nicknamed ‘Oreo.’

First Car: Volkswagen.

Favorite Meal: Pancit – Filipino noodle dish.

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: Ube.

Greatest Sports Moment: It was defeating Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the third round Wimbledon 2000, to reach the last 16. And representing USA in Pan-Am Games.

Most Painful Moment: My most painful tennis moment was being two points away from U.S. Opoen quarterfinal – losing to Dementieva in the year 2000.

Favorite Tournaments: Wimbledon, Rome, Tokyo, Osaka, Hawaii, Bastad, Sweden, Stanford, Bank of the West.

Funny Tennis Memory: I was playing a Challenger in an unbeknownst area, my agent called and said, “Lil’, you moved into Filderstadt Porsche Open draw (2004).” And I said, “Get me on the next flight outta here.” I drove all day and flew all night to Germany, having a tournament official car waiting for me on the assumed two-hour drive to Stuttgart which ended up being barely an hour on the Auto-bahn.

Embarrassing Tennis Memory: Kind of embarrassing was when I was playing first prime-time doubles night match againt Capriati/Hingis and versus Dokic in singles in the third round at U.S. Open and I was perusing Fifth Ave./Madison Ave. the morning before my match and someone came up to me and said, “Aren’t you supposed to be getting ready for your match tonight?”
And..being called for a mixed doubles match vs. Navratilova/Mirnyi at Wimbledon Centre Court in 2001 and I was stuck at Harvey Nick’s – and John McEnroe commentating later on BBC that “This Stanford girl was warming up before her match shopping at Harrods.

Strangest Match: I was playing Dominique Van Roost of Belgium in the second round at U.S. Open in 2000 – Grandstand court. It was a very hot New York City summer day, we had split sets, she took a bathroom break. Ten minutes went by, she never came back. I thought she had heat exhaustion. Nope. She was preggers. Game, set, and match.

Closest Tennis Friends: Most have retired from the tour – Brandis Braverman, Allison Bradshaw -daughter of Val Ziegenfuss, Ann Grossman, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Peanut Louie.

Funniest Players Encountered: Marat Safin, Novak Djokovic.

Toughest Competitors Encountered: Venus, Serena, Seles, Capriati – who I was able to defeat, and Pierce – who I was able to defeat when she was ranked #5.

Favorite Players To Watch: R-Fed, Rafael Nadal – preferably on opposite ends of court.

Which match did you feel the best, where you felt the best you ever felt on court: 2004 Filderstadt – after flying the ten hours from the U.S. and ended up qualifying and reaching quarterfinals that year. Also, in 2007 against Bartoli at Bank of the West. She just made Wimbledon final that year and I ended up winning a very dramatic match.

People Qualities Most Admired: Frankness. Ordinary, Empathy.

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  • Dan Markowitz · November 20, 2010 at 2:54 am

    I always thought she had nice legs, but she’s not exactly a must-talk-about player. Actually, kind of under-achieved after being a stud-stress at Stanford. Her claim to fame? She’s the Arnaud Clement of women’s tennis with the sunglasses. Does she even play anymore?

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 20, 2010 at 4:45 am

    14 years as a pro, three WTA doubles titles, some pretty significant singles wins, over a million $ earned, she’s one singles title from a career pretty similar to your boy Vince Spadea Dan. Currently training in Hollywood at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card gym and said to be in the best shape of her career right now. Pretty inspiring stuff. Also, some of the “journeyman” type players like Andre Sa, Jeff Tarango, Hugo Armando were some of the best Biofiles I ever did. It’s great to read about all players who have had successful careers, not just the big star names. PS Your feature on the journeyman Doubles specialist guy from Australia was also not a must-talk about player though it was still a very good read.

  • Dan Markowitz · November 20, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    No question, Scoop, but here’s my problem with writing about Lila Osterloh now. This is Masters final season and Davis Cup finals season, it isn’t the season to write about some obscure female tennis player. And in your Biofile, you don’t even mention if Osterloh is still playing anymore, what her ranking is, how old she is. She hasn’t been on my radar for at least five years so unlike Jordan Kerr, who I wrote about in the summer season, when he was playing doubles tournaments in the U.S., as a reader of this Biofile, I have no reference for Lila Osterloh. I think Biofiles should come when the player being profiled has a reference to the current tennis schedule, else they feel like they come out of left field.

    The misconception, btw, with Spadea, is yes, you can say, he was a marginal player because he only won one tour event, but I think he was in like seven singles tour finals, and lost to guys like Rios, Rusedski. He also reached Miami semis, Cincy semis, Monte Carlo semis, what’s Lila Osterloh’s claim to fame?

  • Sakhi · November 20, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    First off, let me say, I’d hold off the sexist comments about Osterloh’s great legs. I think that’s not quite the right tone for this website, is it? And Spadea was and is a nut job (is that appropriate? well, you just have to read his book to ascertain that!) and Osterloh has never retreated from a career made in struggle and less drama.

    I think Osterloh is worth talking about for many reasons. She’s just one of the many terrific OLDER American players who’s still determined and working in the WTA circuit (anyone heard of Date-Krumm lately?). Also, give the fact that we salivate at Oudin’s occasional spurts of inspired play, it’s worth revisiting a player like Osterloh who was ranked high and continues to play and inspire folks even after all these years. After all, isn’t that what tennis is all about? And isn’t that why we like Johnny Mac who always pays his respects to all the journey men and women on the circuit?

    I live in Southern California and I can tell you that for the Asian-American community and for tennis-lovers at large, Osterloh continues to be a source of much pleasure. She often plays on the public courts and it is a treat to watch her train and practice.

  • Andre 3000 · November 20, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Yes, she has had some remarkable achievements from winning NCAA Singles and Doubles titles as well as continuing to having a career as a pro player. Including her recent introduction for Stanford HOF.

    She just won a WTA event in Osaka and continues to be a player that many fans including myself still continue to watch and cheer for.

    But more importantly from the outside, Lilia seems to be a remarkable person, not only for the span of her career on court, but actually for the accomplishments and the inspiration to others off the court that are truly noted.

    There is life after tennis…. and she is pursuing her degree at Stanford and has always been a role model for young players out there just by continuing to do the right things and continuing to expand the love of the tennis game here and abroad.

    Her impact will long be cherished and we are still cheering 🙂

  • Richard Pagliaro · November 20, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    Sakhi, good post. Admittedly, I am fascinated, at times, by players like Michael Russell, Amy Frazier, Lisa Raymond, etc. who play on and to me someone like Bethanie Mattek-Sands has only begun to really understand how to use her game so if she stays healthy and interested I could see bethanie posting some of her best results in the next 5 years. Because she has all-court ability but only recently seems to understand how to apply it (in singles) and has only recently really gotten fit.
    Kimiko Date Krumm is such a fantastic story for tennis becuase tennis likes to sell itself as “the sport for a lifetime” (which it really is so no bait and switch on that sales pitch) but at the pro game when you see players through at 22, retiring early (Henin, Clijsters), burnt out (Vaidisova) in and out (Capriati, Pierce years back) you can make a case the game cannibalizes some.
    Schiavone and Pennetta both playing at their peak after 28. What Osterloh says that I agree with is we (media, fans, observers) tend to put a strict shelf life on a player based on age and expectation. If they haven’t met our expectation by a certain age then it’s the old “Stick a fork in (fill in the blank)…” or “he’s done…. “.
    I’m always fascinated by the tennis lifers like Kevin Kim or Kendrick who are the kind of tweeners where they’ll put on some really good Challenger results at times, but sruggle to transition it to the Tour or break through with the occasional great ATP result (like Kendrick nearly knocking Nadal off).
    I can see someone like Vania King, who thought about walking away but came back and won the back to back doubles majors, having a long Lisa Raymond type career because she’s so good at doubles and while she can get overpowered in singles by bigger hitters she has had good singles wins (won a singles title, took Stosur out at US Open last year, nearly took Woz out at IW) etc.

  • Dan Markowitz · November 21, 2010 at 2:47 am


    Firstly, I don’t think it’s particularly sexist to say that a woman, tennis or otherwise, has good legs. I’ve always noticed Osterloh’s legs the way I did Steffi Graf’s or Hingis’s. Is it sexist for a man who likes to look at women’s figures to say a woman has good legs? I don’t think so. I was once running without a shirt on in my twenties and a woman, who was a passenger in a moving car, yelled out, “Nice body.” I didn’t take it as a sexist remark and get offended.

    Secondly, I wrote Spadea’s book, “Break Point,” with help from Vince, of course, and I think if you read it thoroughly, you might surmise that Vince is “nuts,” but you can also surmise that he has a great head for the game and had a resolute and skillful approach that led to him being the only American player of his generation to make it. All the others, from Jon Leach to David Witt to Brian Dunn, much more ballyhooed than Vince as juniors, all went by the wayside. So you might say, in some regard, that Vince was as crazy as a fox.

    Thirdly, I am married to an Asian woman, have a bi-racial son, so I can appreciate Asian-Americans delighting in Osterloh’s career. And it is cool if she hits on the public courts. All I’m saying is, how long has it been since Osterloh’s been a player of any consequence on WTA circuit?

  • Robert · November 21, 2010 at 3:48 am

    Lilia Osterloh is one of the most talented American players of the past 15 years. Unfortunately, due to circumstances she hasn’t always had the most consistent results. But her true determination shows that she can always be a threat. Life on the tour outside of the top 50 is not an easy one and the fact she is entering her 14th(?) year on the tour should be applauded. She is still a factor in both singles and doubles, most recently she won a tour level doubles title in Osaka last month.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 21, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    But Dan, you are considering doing a book on Gilad Bloom and when was he ever a player of any consequence on the ATP Tour? But you and I both know very well what an amazing guy Bloom is and how fascinating his stories and memories of his career are to listen to as he awed us many times the night we went to see him perform with his band. Bloom’s story about Rios was a highlight of the process of obtaining info on this book. Osterloh is basically a female version of Bloom, as you can see in her Biofile she has a lot of experiences in pro tennis and many interesting answers such as the match with Van Roost and the entry into Filderstadt. People tend to focus too much on the top players who can be a bit overexposed. We all love Nadal and Federer but how many times do we want to hear, I gonna try to play my best tennis, no? Or listen to Fed answer about changing diaper questions? People like Spadea, Bloom, Osterloh, Date Krumm could actually be the more interesting subjects as reporters like us to cover and report, they certainly are more accessible.

  • vinko · November 21, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Gilad Bloom did participate in one of the most unusual monents in tennis history. He played against Jimmy Connors and during one point as Jimmy struck the ball it exploded. The point was awarded to Gilad and Jimmy went ballisitic (just like the explosive tennis ball). Gilad went on to win the match. He can forever tell his grandchildren that he defeated one of the great players of tennis.

  • dan markowitz · November 21, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    First, I’m not writing a book with Gilad based on him being the No. 60. We’re writing a book on him being a guy who develops talent, and can teach kids from the absolute beginning stages. I’m sure some anecdotes will come forth, but the book, if we can sell it, is mostly a way to teach players skills not to regal them with stories.

    Secondly, I’ve got no beef with hearing about Osterloh, but in context. This is an important, end part of the season, where the focus is on the Masters events and the Davis Cup finals. So how does Osterloh fit into that nexus?

    Vinko, I’ll have to ask Gilad about that point with Connors.

  • jesus arevalo · November 21, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    I don’t know much about tennis honestly don’t care much for it but since I ve met lil I’ve realiced its just as tough as pro boxing in its own way, especially the politics of the game, hey anyone that’s won something in the sport they love is a big accomplishment go lil wish u all the luck in the world love u, ur a great gal never give up never surrender!!

  • tom michael · November 22, 2010 at 12:57 am

    There is never a wrong time for a nice interview with a professional tennis player who wants to contribute her perspective on her profession and career.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 22, 2010 at 1:32 am

    Welcome to the site Jesus. Tracy Austin once said on the air, “Tennis is a fist fight without the fists.”

    Amen to TomMichael.

  • Sakhi · November 22, 2010 at 2:28 am

    One last comment on this. With due respect, Mr. Markowitz, I understand this is your blog and so you have free reign, but I’d like to add one note of caution, if I may. Firstly, to compare the comments you receive on your “nice body” from women can hardly be compared to the comments you made about Osterloh’s legs. You heard of gender and power asymmetries recently? And in case you haven’t, let me remind you that we are NOT living in a tennis era where men and women are treated equally. As Martina Navratilova reminds us again and again, women tennis players are still referred to as “girls,” with the male tennis players always being granted “grown up” status. And in case the point isn’t clear, we are STILL having conversations about whether women deserve equal play as men.
    All this to say, a comment about “nice legs” is never that. It’s about what you’re allowed to say about certain gendered bodies in sports versus others.

    I like this blog as opposed to other tennis blogs because one rarely has to deal with comments laced with gender and/or racial bias. The comments are mostly about tennis and its nuances and you clearly are one of the folks I enjoy reading. I hope you’ll take my comments as they are meant to be — as a moment of learning rather than mere reactionary ire.

  • Dan Markowitz · November 22, 2010 at 4:49 am


    This issue brings forth other side issues. I realize that by saying that I think Osterloh has good legs, I am in a sense suggesting that she is not much of a tennis player so I will take solace in viewing her legs. And, in a sense, I guess I am saying as much. This could be regarded as demeaning her and her skill as a tennis player.

    But I think you can enjoy both her game and the comely shape of her body, if that is your interest. Certainly, tennis and especially women’s tennis, has benefited a great deal by playing to the shapes and fashion sense of its players. And I understand your point about power asymmetries, but I’ve heard plenty of women say they liked watching men’s tennis better when the players wore shorter shorts.

    Sport is about many things, but at its most basic level, at least for me, it’s about watching the body perform beautiful feats. Clearly, most athletes have beautiful bodies. And sometimes saying a woman has nice legs is just that, and nothing more. I’m not suggesting a sexual connotation to the comment. I’m just appreciating what we can all appreciate if that is something we enjoy. Serena Williams has made lots of comments about her body over the years, and I don’t think anyone thinks anything more about than Serena is dealing with the powerful juxtaposition of being a black woman in a white woman’s game.

    I don’t think if Lilia Osterloh was told that she has nice legs that she would blush or find the comment offensive. I think race and gender influence everything in life and tennis. I know with Spadea, being Columbian and Italian, and most people thinking he’s Spanish, maybe he felt more like the outsider he is because, again, he doesn’t look like the American tennis norm, more embodied by Roddick or Harrison. But from Chris Evert to Maria Sharapova, women in tennis have been objectified by their bodies to some extent. And, they don’t seem to be running from that fact; mostly, they seem to try to capitalize on it. This may seem sad or just the way of the world, depending on how you view and judge it.

  • Andrew Miller · November 23, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    I like Flavia Pennetta because (1) she’s an awesome player with a clever game and (2) can I really deny the fact that she’s also really good looking? It’s not to take away from other players, such as Patty Snyder, who I consider one of the most clever and talented female players, but it’s just to acknowledge: she’s both a great player and she’s beautiful. Can’t help it and I don’t think it’s offensive to women or to player.

  • vinko · November 24, 2010 at 4:04 am

    I don’t see it being demaning to point out a player’s attractiveness. It is just stating the obvious. At the Open you see plenty of women swooning whenever Rafa changes his shirt. It isn’t demeaning to him. It’s just good natured fun by the female fans. We really need to lighten up a bit.

  • vinko · November 24, 2010 at 4:05 am

    spelling error: meant to say demeaning not demaning

  • Sid Bachrach · November 25, 2010 at 7:06 am

    There is nothing wrong or sexist with commenting about a player’s great looks or great legs. I was at the US Open in 1997 when Pat Rafter was at his peak and I was sitting in a section with alot of young women and they were hootin’ and hollerin’ for Pat and cheering and whistling when he changed shirts. Nobody was offended and nobody should be offended by anyone stating the obvious: That Osterlah and Dementieva are very easy on the eyes. Should one deny what is obvious to everybody? How is that in any way demeaning? If you go to the US Open, you will see lots of young females smiling and gaping at Rafa’s pecs when he changes shirts. You will not get alot of young ladies hootin’ and hollerin’ when Radek Stepanek is on the court. That is not sexist on the part of the ladies. Nor is it sexist or demeaning when males comments that Ana Ivanovic has sexy qualities. It is just stating the obvious.
    There is improper conduct to be sure and we don’t need a government handbook to tell us when someone reaches that point. You should have a moral compass that tells you that something is wrong and improper.
    But merely noting that a particular player has great legs or great pecs is perfectly harmless.

  • Sid Bachrach · November 25, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Dan, On the subject of sports books based on diaries, this is the 50th anniversary of Jim Brosnan’s classic baseball diary “The Long Season” about his 1960 season with the St. Louis Cardinals. The book is still amazingly good and readable today. It takes you back to a much simpler time and you feel like you are living in 1960 when you read it. He did another one for his 1961 season with the Cinci Reds called “The Pennant Race” which I liked even better. Ball Four by Jim Bouton is considered the gold standard but I thought Jim Brosnan was a much more graceful writer.
    Anyway, I was curious about what books influenced you when you were doing Break Point. Supposedly, James Blake was angered by the book. Was that true and did he ever tell Vince that he was angry?

  • Dan Markowitz · November 28, 2010 at 3:24 am

    I’m going to have to see, Sid, if I can pick up copies of the books by Brosnan you allude to. I heard of “The Long Season,” and I believe they made a movie out of that book, starring “Psycho’s” Anthony Perkins. I remember my father telling me about that book.

    I modeled “Break Point” after “Ball Four.” In a few major ways, I saw parallels between Spadea and Bouton. They were both 30 years old when they wrote their books. They both had fallen on hard times after early promise in their careers–Bouton more than Vince in that he won more than 20 games for the Yanks in two of his first three seasons, and played in the World Series, and I think was part of the Yankees’ 1963 WS Champion team. Both Bouton and Vince were not supposed to make it as pros. And, of course, Bouton and Vince were both outsiders looking in. Bouton because he was so intelligent and didn’t act like a regular player, and Vince because he was brought up not to cajole with his fellow players and doesn’t follow sports too much or like to drink or play cards.

    Obviously, Bouton is much more intelligent, in that he graduated from Northwestern and wrote in BF about politics, and had a family and children. Vince is smart, but more in street-smarts way, and both can see the humorous part of their sports, although Bouton I think wanted to push the borders of writing about the more supposedly-sacriligeous aspects of being a pro athlete, the cavorting, the locker room hijinks and the crazy people in the game. Vince had to be pushed in that direction by me more and then near the publishing of the book, got cold feet about a lot of what he said.

    Blake did not like that Vince talked about Andre, himself, his brother, and his friends, like Fish and Roddick, as if he knew them intimately. Vince never gave the impression he knew them well or was best friends, but because tennis is such an incestuous game, he had more than interesting stories about all of them. And Blake, I think, and to most readers, came across as way too sensitive and even prudish.



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