Alumni Update: MaliVai Washington (1988-89)
Alumni Update: MaliVai Washington (1988-89)

In just two seasons playing at Michigan, MaliVai Washington made a lasting impression on the school's tennis program. Arguably the most recognizable face among the hundreds of U-M tennis alumni, Washington played a keyrole in helping the Wolverines claim their 35th Big Ten Conference Championshipand a 26-5 recordin1988.

A native of Flint, Mich., Washington is just one of two players in Michigan men's tennis history to be named both the Big Ten's Freshman (1988) and Athlete (1999) of the Year. He finished hissophomore season ranked as the top singles player in the nation, which earned him the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's (ITA)Player of the Year award. Washington guided the Wolverines to a berth in the nationalsemifinals as a freshmanwhile earning thefirst of twoITA All-America nominations.

A two-time All-Big Ten selection, Washington was crowned the conference's doubles champion (with Ed Nagel) in 1988 and singles champion in 1999.

Washington left
Michigan after his sophomorecampaign to switch focus to a professional tennis career. In10 yearson the ATP Tour (1989-99), Washingtonwon four individual titles and finished his singles career with a record of 254-184. His most notable accomplishment on the pro tour came in 1996 when he reached the championship match at Wimbledon. Washington, who was ranked as high as No. 11 in the world during his career, retired from the sport in 1999due toa knee injury and went on to serve as a tennis commentator for ESPN.

Washington now resides in
Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and owns a highly lucrative real estate brokerage and investment company. He took some time away from his busy schedule to reflect back on his days in Ann Arbor and also gave some insights into the current state of the U-M mens tennis program.

On what he is doing these days
"I have my own business, Washington Properties LLC, which I started about five years ago. We basically invest and develop real estate in Northeast Florida. Behind tennis, real estate is probably my second love. The other thing I spend a lot of my timewith is my kids foundation. We're in our 10th year of providing programs for underprivileged youth in Jacksonville. I'm also married and have two children."

On his decision to attend Michigan
"It was really an easy fit. It was an hour from my home and it was the best school in the Midwest by far. They had a great tennis program at the time. (Former head coach) Brian Eisner made a good push for me and recruited me pretty heavily. Having the opportunity to attend Michigan and play tennis was a thrill for me. Therewere just too many positives to consider going anywhere else."

On his most memorable tennis moment at Michigan
"My favorite collegiate memory was when we won the Big Ten Championship during my freshman year. I had a lot of success as an individual my first two years, but winning that team championship was by far my best memory of college tennis. Another great memory was reaching the semifinals of the team championship at NCAAs later that year."

On how his time at Michigan helped him prepare for life in the real world
"From an athletic standpoint, playing tennis those two years and earning a No. 1 national ranking was certainly a stepping stone to making the professional tour. It was always a goal of mine to play pro tennis and the University of Michigan was one step on the way to that goal. Without having the opportunity to play at U-M, that goal may have never been realized.

"From acareer standpoint,the collegeexperience helps you mature andmakes you realize that you're an adult. You have to start formulating some ideas about what you want to do with your life. It helped me tremendously in that regard and allowed me to go on and do some pretty successful things."

On the job Bruce Berque has done since he arrived at Michigan
"Fortunately, it seems like Bruce has been a great fit for the program since he came in. His new assistant, Sean Maymi, is a buddy of mine down here who went to North Florida. I have a lot respect for Sean and the job that he can do. He will be a great fit for U-M also. For a few years, it seemed like tennis at Michigan was suffering. I don't know why that was, but for whatever reason, Bruce came in and things are starting to turn around. Progress is never as fast as you want it to be, but the team is starting to get better year after year and is starting to have a presence at the NCAA Championships. When you see things like that happening, you know that the program is headed in the right direction. I hope that it continues to go that way and I have every confidence that it will."

On the alumni reunion back in the fall
"It was a great reunion and I'm looking forward to coming back this fall. To see players who you haven't seen in years and to meet guys who were there before or after you is a great experience. You're able to hear old stories that have been changed and concocted over the years, and sometimes you have to come clean and tell what truly happened. It was great to get everyone back who have experienced the same thing over the years. It was fun being back in that college atmosphere with a bunch of guys who you had something in common with."

On which former teammates he keeps in touch with the most
"Andrew Adler (1989) is in the financial world in New York, as is Mike Pizzutello (1986-89). Jon Morris (1985-88) spent half of his life preparing to go to medical school before heading off into the business world. Those are some of the guys I've kept in contact with in the last couple years."

On which former teammates he hasn't heard from in a while
"There are a couple of guys who I haven't talked to in a long time, like BradKoontz (1985-88)and Chip McColl (1986-89). There's also Jean Roussel (1988-89), who transferred to Michigan during my freshman year. The last time I ran into him was when I was in Paris playing in the French Open several years ago. He got me out of a bind and I was able to stay with him a couple nights."

Washington'sKids Foundation: www.malwashington.com
Washington'sReal Estate Brokerage Company: www.washingtonproperties.org

Contact: Marc Ressler (734) 763-4423


 



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