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Groenefeld: I just Love being on a Team

Two-time grand slam mixed doubles champ brings proven power -

If there’s one thing we know about Anna-Lena Groenefeld, it’s that she WINS doubles matches. But really, what else would you expect from a two-time Grand Slam Mixed Doubles champion?! Returning for her sixth WTT season, this time in Aviators Red, Groenefeld brings a rich history of team tennis to Coach John Lloyd’s roster. Lloyd, who’s said landing Groenefeld on his team “was almost like a fantasy,”will look to Groenefeld to take command of the women’s and mixed doubles sets for the Aviators this summer.

Like her new teammate, Marcin Matkowski, Groenefeld’s team experience goes even beyond World TeamTennis. She’s also logged 13 years of Fed Cup play with Team Germany and represented her country in both the London and Rio Olympic games. “I just love being on a team, having the team atmosphere, and always having somebody on the outside who is cheering for you, and you're playing for somebody,” she says. “I've always liked it and have done it for years now, and that's why I always like coming back to play team tennis.” As a longtime WTT player, she’s been on the roster for Houston, Orange County, New York, and most recently, Springfield. “All the teams I've been on, I had a great time, and we had a lot of fun,” she says. “I've been really lucky with that, so I have good memories from all of the different teams.”

The team camaraderie does make it fun, but the competitive atmosphere of the WTT season also means bringing your top game, even when the opponent is also a friend. One such matchup Groenefeld is especially looking forward to is playing against Vania King when the Aviators meet Groenefeld’s former team, the Springfield Lasers. “Friend” is actually an understatement. As doubles partners, Groenefeld and King won two WTA tournaments and reached the finals twice in Monterrey. “So yeah,” she says, “It will be something!”

But first, Groenefeld is playing through the clay season with some major momentum leading up to her favorite tournament, the French Open. She and her partner, Raquel Atawo, just took the Stuttgart Open on her home soil in Germany in April. “It's always nice to win a tournament, but at home it's even more special I think,” she says. “Stuttgart is a great tournament and it has been voted every year, for like the last ten years, as the best tournament of the tour, so it's always special and it's really nice that it's at home.” She’ll stop in Madrid before heading to the storied red clay of Roland-Garros, where she was a finalist last year in mixed doubles, and won in 2014, coincidentally, with Marcin Matkowki’s UCLA doubles partner, Jean-Julien Rojer. Her history at the French goes deeper still: As a junior in 2002, she won girls doubles, and nabbed the junior girls singles title a year later.

With so much career success already, it’s tough to imagine what goals Groenefeld might still want to achieve, but she’s got a few. “For sure, every year you start, you try to qualify for the [WTA] championships. I did it last year for the first time, so it would be really nice to do it again, but it's a long road,” she says. “Then, of course, there’s the dream also of getting to a Grand Slam [women’s doubles] final first and then possibly winning it, but first getting there. I've been to quite a few semifinals, but it would be nice to get to a final. That would be a dream.”

Two majors — the French Open and The Championships, Wimbledon — fall between now and the WTT season. She’s emerged victorious in mixed doubles at both. We’ll be cheering her on through clay and grass as we eagerly await her debut on the WTT multi-colored hard courts for the Aviators, where we know she’ll feel right at home. Not only has she played team tennis here as an opponent, she also visited San Diego when the WTA tour’s Southern California Open was held at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa. Plus, she knows the game of her new teammate and Aviators doubles partner, Matkowski, pretty well. The two paired up for the French Open in 2012. Of reteaming with him, she says, “I think it will be great. I mean he has a great serve; a very powerful serve. I think it will be fun to be teamed up again!”