Araceli Ramirez, USTA National Champion

Down 4-9 facing match point in sudden death in the final round against Texas, Araceli Ramirez and her doubles partner, Bob Deinhammer, are staring down almost certain defeat. It is up to them to win the game to move their tennis team, ClubSport Valley Vista, into the semifinals of the 2003 USTA National Championship Mixed Doubles 6.0 Tournament. A tell-tale tennis visor shields her eyes from the glare of the sun as she directs her laser focus towards the ball zipping back and forth across the court in an intense rally. In a dramatic upset, and drawing on her signature fierce style, they fight their way uphill in an exciting battle of finessed lobs, crosscourt shots and swift service. Nine points later, they clinch the comeback with a final score of 13-11. Game, set, match.

Just one year later, she’s back in the USTA National Championship Mixed Doubles 7.0 Tournament (a higher level) with a different partner, Paul Tomaska, ready to claim her victory in another exciting sudden death elimination game. The competition is no joke; their opponents, Sun Oaks, are experienced winners in the Mixed 8.0 Doubles League in years past. But this year during the regular season, Ramirez and Tomaska have a perfect 9-0 record together. The teams are exchanging groundstrokes from the back of the court when she spots her opening. Ramirez darts forward and injects herself straight into the action at the net. She blocks and returns her opponent’s service, the very definition of a force to be reckoned with. Their team, Walnut Creek, wins a 7-5, 6-3 victory at #2 Doubles to take an early 1-0 lead. She hopes her other teammates will use their momentum to steal the District title. Spoiler alert, they did, managing to knock off the #1 rated team and move on to Mixed 7.0 Sectionals where the team claimed the second place spot in the country.

Ramirez’s tennis game relies on a combination of skill and grit that translate to her successful career as an attorney. Or maybe it’s the other way around; she didn’t start playing competitive tennis until the age of 40, but has been practicing law since 1985. She currently practices child welfare law and criminal law in Bay Point, with her husband, Anthony Guy Ashe, a criminal law attorney, at their firm Ashe & Ramirez. They serve a diverse community and offer bi-lingual advisement along with excellent legal service.

Ramirez grew up in East County, and spent her teenage summers working in the fields. She notes this has given her a particular advantage in tennis. “The heat doesn’t bother me. Being hot on a tennis court with my teammates is nothing to complain about compared to working in the fields.” From this experience, and her participation in team sports (never tennis!) at a young age, she gained an edge that has fortified her career as an attorney, and her exploits in competitive tennis.

Ramirez appreciates not only the character building part of sports but also the character-revealing aspect. “Everything you do in life translates into everything else you do. There are some people that are very nasty and selfish, and you can see that manifested in the way they play tennis, you know they don’t want their partner to hit it—‘move aside, let me do it, I can do it all by myself.’” She acknowledges that this is the rare case and the she enjoys her teammates and camaraderie perhaps even more than winning. For the most part, the fellow athletes she encounters are just like her: they are there for the thrill of helping each other succeed, to push their physical limits, and to just have fun.

Advice for a lawyer who wants to take up tennis or another sport? Take USTA’s “Tennis 101” through the Walnut Creek Racquet Club. At the Club, they offer private and group lessons to players of all ages and skill levels. Finding a community of people or a partner to play sports with makes exercise all the more enjoyable. About tennis in particular, she says, “It’s a social outlet. It gets your cardio going; there’s nothing not to like about it.” She jokes that her advice to skeptics is, “Not to be afraid. They can’t play any worse than I did when I started.” This local star certainly isn’t lacking for humility.

Ramirez also notes how invaluable athletics are for lawyers. Particularly with a stressful practice such as child welfare, and criminal law, she views athletics as being “essential for one’s mental health.” Scientists, physicians and mental-health experts have long pointed to exercise as one of the most effective stress relievers. Endorphins, those feel-good neurotransmitters released while exerting energy, help to combat high levels of stress hormones and counteract depression and anxiety. According to Ramirez, what better way to combat the oft-inevitable side effects of being a career attorney than through the sport of tennis? Like any team sport, it’s collaborative while also requiring individual effort and skill. She argues that tennis is a great for attorneys because it not only challenges your body, but your mind as well.

Family is a driver for her athleticism as well. She is inspired every day by her father-in-law who still swims at 92. Her husband is also a tennis player. Not only did she not start playing tennis competitively until the age of 40, she had never set foot on a court. The first time she picked up a racquet, at the suggestion of her husband, “I literally hit [the ball] over the gymnasium at College Park High School.” Why start then? “It’s important to always try and experience things that you’ve never done before.” That’s why her latest conquests have been on the golf course.