Florida Sophomore Lisa Raymond is something of an expert on the criminal mind. An absolute sucker for whodunits, she devours mysteries (she has all 83 of Agatha Christie's) and avidly scans USA Today for some fresh mention of murder and mayhem. "I always thought it would be cool to work for the FBI," says Raymond, a criminology major. There's little mystery, though, to how Raymond does away with her NCAA tennis foes. She is simply better than everyone else. Last week in Gainesville she routed Cinda Gurney of North Carolina 6-3, 6-1 for her second consecutive NCAA singles title. The victory made her only the second player—the other was Pancho Segura in the mid-1940s—to win NCAA singles crowns in the first two years of school. As much as Raymond loves intrigue, she doesn't care for surprise endings in her matches. A straight-set victory for Raymond (in 44 consecutive wins for Florida she has dropped only two sets) is about as startling as Hercule Poirot outsleuthing Scotland Yard. Her matches lasted an average of 54 minutes, a block of time known around Gainesville as "the Lisa Raymond tanning hour."
Last year Raymond, who will turn pro next month, reached No. 76 on the WTA computer despite entering only six pro tournaments. The question is, Why didn't she turn pro right out of high school? "I wasn't ready as a tennis player or as a person," says Raymond. "Coming to Florida was the best decision of my life. I've made great friends, and I've gained confidence in myself on and off the court. I wouldn't trade that for any amount of money."
"Lisa will be a little different than most phenoms, who turn pro at 15," says Florida coach Andy Branch. "She's going to be 19. She'll have had a little more experience with life."
Growing up in Wayne, Pa., Raymond got into sports by throwing a football around with her father, Ted. She showed early promise as a quarterback, but Ted and her mother, Nancy, channeled her into tennis when she was seven. Raymond hasn't given up on football, though. She still keeps one in her equipment bag. Those hours spent throwing a football might explain how Raymond developed her powerful serve, only one of many weapons in her arsenal. She also has a wicked backhand slice, a crushing topspin forehand and excellent mobility. No wonder Gurney says that Raymond's "biggest strength is that she has no weakness."
How will Raymond fare on the pro tour, which she will join at a Wimbledon warm-up tournament in Eastbourne, England? If her first encounters with the top players are any indication, she should hold her own. Last November, Raymond knocked off 17th-ranked Amy Frazier before throwing a 6-4, 7-6 scare into Gabriela Sabatini at the Philadelphia Virginia Slims. Before that Raymond had faced Monica Seles in the second round of the U.S. Open. Seles won but was clearly impressed. "Whatever she touched just went in fast," said Seles. "She hit four or five really great shots. Even when you play Steffi Graf you are not expecting them." That's the kind of plot twist Raymond really enjoys.