APP: You grew up in the country of Georgia. What was that like growing up? Did you play sports?
Salome Devidze: I played tennis growing up, starting at the age of five. I have two older brothers that played tennis growing up in Georgia, and so I just sort of grew up on the courts. We came to America when I was 10 years old to help me play better. We moved to South Florida, and it was tough. Back then, it was tough to play tennis in Georgia. It was one of the ex-Soviet countries, so people were poor. Conditions were hard and difficult, but I give so much credit to my mom for pushing me and my brothers into tennis and believing in us.
It was really, really difficult, but we persevered. My oldest older brother was an exchange student, which is how he came to America initially, and he went on to play Division I college tennis here. My other brother, who is our middle brother, also played Division I tennis. That was all thanks to my mom.
APP: That’s awesome. Shout-out to your mom!
Devidze: I know. Shout-out to my mom for sure.
APP: When did you start getting into pickleball?
Devidze: I started practicing and playing more at the end of January 2022, but the first time I played was in the summer of 2021. I was visiting my oldest brother, George, in Indiana, and he said, “Let me take you out to play pickleball.” So I went out with him and his buddies. I was like, “Well, I don’t know. You guys seem like grown-ups and you’re playing pickleball. I don’t know, it’s just weird.” I really didn’t get into it. It would be another six or seven months before I played it again, but then I got into it and stuck with it. My brother actually decided to sign us up for the US Open in 4.5 mixed doubles without asking me. It was a lottery system, and we got picked! So, in January 2022, he called me and said, “Hey, we got into the US Open and you should start practicing.” We were like three months away from the tournament, which wasn’t a lot of time! So that’s how I started practicing and then I realized I enjoyed playing more.
APP: When did you get involved with the APP?
Devidze: My first APP tournament was in Punta Gorda last year in 2022. That first tournament experience was great. I then played one in Boca Raton last year, and then my next one was at the APP Legacy Open in Mesa. In Mesa, I won my first gold medal in just my third tournament ever and it’s been a great experience ever since. I always look forward to playing APP tournaments.
APP: Switching gears a little bit. What does pickleball mean to you?
Devidze: It means so much. I don’t even have all the words for it, but it means so much. I’m really, really loving it. I love the competition aspect of it. I’ve met so many wonderful people at the tournaments. The APP is like a family – I go to tournaments and everybody’s nice, they ask how I’m doing, and I ask how they’re doing. It feels like people are real and down-to-earth and I really enjoy being part of it.
APP: Going off of that, if you could describe APP in one word, what would that be?
I always get excited and really look forward to every tournament. I always count down the days before my next APP tournament. I get excited. That’s what comes to mind.
APP: You’re a professional athlete, you’ve been playing sports for a long time. What advice would you have for younger athletes out there that are aspiring to be pros, not just pickleball, but any sport?
Devidze: I would tell them don’t rush. Take your time. Really develop who you are as a person and as an athlete and take care of your body. Because no matter how talented or how good you are, if your body breaks down over years, your sport can go away. I feel like a lot of times we’re a generation where everything is fast and everything is immediate. People expect us to do everything and be successful immediately. Don’t rush, develop your body, develop your mind, and develop as a person off the court and everything else will get there.
APP: Wise words. Anything else that you want people to know about you or any fun facts?
Devidze: I’m a big animal lover, and I’m vegan.
APP: Do you have a favorite animal?
Devidze: Well, I have a dog and a cat, so those are really important to me. But I think all animals are precious to this planet. Also, being vegan really helps me stay healthy and active and gives me tons of energy.
APP: What kind of dog and cat do you have?
Devidze: I have a mini poodle. He’s no more than eight pounds, this tiny little dog. It’s funny because the dog we had before was 80 pounds. My family had him for 14 years before he passed away. But then, we got a new dog and went from an 80-pounder to an eight-pound dog and we were like, “This doesn’t even look like a dog.”
And we actually found our cat at a gas station in Miami. It was maybe three or four days old, and it’s been with us ever since, and she’s become a little queen now.
APP: That’s so awesome. Everyone, be on the look out for Salome and her awesome lovable pets.
Devidze: Thank you!
Salome Devidze and the rest of the APP pros return to action at the 2023 APP Mesa Open, March 29-April 2 at Bell Bank Park in Arizona. Stay tuned for the next installment of the Player Spotlight series!
Pictured: Salome’s dog, Lucky, and cat, Kitty