Get to know Alex Cao, father, USC research engineer, USTA flex league player

by Jonathon Braden

By day, Alex Cao of Columbia is a research engineer at the University of South Carolina. By night, he is a husband, a father to 1-year-old Lily, and a tennis player.

Cao, who is younger than 40, is also an active member of USTA South Carolina. He enjoys flex leagues, combo league, and other USTA programs, including tournaments.

Recently, he took time to answer questions about his tennis background, why people should try USTA flex leagues, and how to best enjoy Paris and the French Open with a 1-year-old baby. (Disclosure: I played Alex in a flex league match earlier this year, and he might be the nicest person I’ve met in my year of living in Columbia.)

Family: Wife and baby. Neither play tennis at the moment, but both will one day.

How long have you lived in SC? 2 years

How long have you been playing tennis? I used to just play for fun with friends in junior high, but took it up again recreationally four years ago.

Where do you typically play? Southeast Park. It’s really nice there but needs a clubhouse. I also wish it was open until 10 p.m.

What USTA programs do you currently enjoy? Men’s league, combo league, flex league.

What is it about flex leagues that you like? I’m going to say the obvious: flexibility, plus the choice of where and what surface to play your home matches. I like to play on clay whenever possible.

What would you say to someone who hasn’t tried out flex leagues? Try it if you like to play singles. It’s relatively easy to schedule with just two people. Plus it’s a good way to meet new people. I know there are other options for singles in the city but none are as easy, IMO.

What is your favorite part about being a member of the USTA? The USTA tournaments and the Tennis magazine, although I know you don’t have to be a member to get it.

You also recently went to the French Open. What was that like? It was my first grand slam tournament and it was really exciting. I definitely recommend it. There were a lot of people everywhere on the grounds. They just have one session per day so you get a chance to see a lot of the top players. We bought tickets for two sessions. We got to see Murray, Federer, Halep and Serena, who lost. Plus, we had chance encounters with other players off-court, like Raonic and Djokovic. We were sad not to see Rafa in person. It’s kind of crazy seeing these players outside of the TV set. I just wish I had a chance to play on the red clay over there. Our lack of French was not an issue. Paris is also a lovely place to visit.

Any travel tips for those of us who want to make the trip in the future?

  • Buy your tennis tickets before your plane tickets and as soon as possible.
  • Buy tickets to one of the main courts otherwise you’ll be standing in line most of the time waiting to get into the outer courts.
  • Doesn’t really matter where you stay in Paris since Roland Garros is on the subway line and relatively easy to get to.
  • Don’t be deterred by having a 1-year-old baby with you 🙂
Alex Cao holds Lily, 1, at Court Suzanne Lenglen on May 28, 2014. (Submitted photo.)

Alex Cao holds Lily, 1, at Court Suzanne Lenglen on May 28, 2014. (Submitted photo.)