Up Close With HPU Athletics Hall of Famer Mika Maatta

Jan Tribler (left) and Mika Maatta, tournament winners in 2011. Photo from Bruce Nagel.

Fan-friendly is a term that best describes Kailua Racquet Club’s Blue Moon Men’s Nights Doubles Tournament, and you can count Mika Maatta among the event’s biggest fans. Maatta also is one of the tournament’s most decorated participants, of course, having won it the past two years with partner Jan Tribler.

Asked what he enjoys most about playing the Blue Moon, he answered without hesitation. “It’s the crowd, the audience, which is by far the biggest (among tournaments) here in Hawaii,” said Maatta, who was inducted into Hawaii Pacific University’s Athletics Hall of Fame last November. “It’s not like your average tennis tournament where everyone is real quiet. They have fun.”

That mindset is also part of Maatta’s own makeup now. “We always want to win, but the older we get, the more it’s about the experience. The main thing is to have fun out there. You never expect to win.”

Maatta, who hails from Sweden, recently took some time to visit with MidWeek‘s Windward Islander.

What is your earliest sports-related memory?

When I was 6, I played soccer against 9- and 10-year olds. I always was running backward and defending. There’s a major difference between a 6-year-old and someone who is 9 or 10, but they needed one more player, and I was a sports fanatic, so I played.

Who has had the biggest impact on your life? My father (Mauri). He was an excellent runner and volleyball player. He never had the opportunity to see how far he could go. He gave up a lot to give me opportunities.

What area of your game have you been working on of late? We don’t practice as much as maybe we should. We try to keep our fitness up. If our fitness is OK, we can compete.

Through your tennis-related travels, what is your favorite road destination? Florida was nice, but hot. I’ll say San Diego. It is similar to Hawaii, so maybe I am biased, but it was pretty nice over there.

What film could you watch over and over?

Braveheart. I’ve seen it too many times. Whenever it is on TV, I stay there.

Who is your favorite musical artist? I have a broad range of music, I enjoy a lot of local music and I enjoy harder music. Disturbed is a band I like.

What is your least favorite household chore? Doing the dishes. I don’t know why, but it is a pain in the butt.

When on the Internet, what website do you go to the most? The news – MSN, Yahoo … just to see what is going on.

When you have free time, how do you like to spend it? What are your hobbies? I enjoy playing squash. I think it is an amazing sport. They say that squash is tougher than boxing. It is one of the ways I keep my fitness up.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? I’m hoping my body will still be good enough to compete (in tennis) – and that I am enjoying a successful life inside and outside of the tennis court.

You are stuck on Kaho’olawe and can have an endless supply of just one food. What would it be? Meatballs. That’s something I haven’t gotten tired of yet.

Given the chance, what celebrity would you most like to meet? The runner, Usain Bolt. I just saw a documentary on him. I think he’s the best athlete in the world.