By Steve Virgen
11:50 PM PDT, September 7, 2013
It would be more dramatic to think of a tennis racquet gathering dust in Natalie Raney's home. But in reality there are no tennis racquets. There isn't even tennis apparel or tennis merchandise there.
To put it simply, when it comes to tennis for Raney: love really does mean nothing.
Raney, formerly Natalie Braverman, has a much different life now. For 17 years, basically all of her youth, tennis consumed her life. But now she's all about real estate and her marriage.
The former Newport Harbor High tennis standout who excelled at Pepperdine did gain lasting qualities from the sport and she applies those characteristics today.
But no more tennis, please.
"I can tell you with absolute certainty I will not pick up a tennis racquet again," Raney, 29, said recently. "From age 5 to 22 that's what dictated my life. It's a lot of pounding on the pavement. I think, mentally it was really exhausting. I'm appreciative of everything it taught me and instilled in me because I feel that allowed me to achieve anything in real estate. It's what made me a better wife. It's what has made me better at everything in my life. But it's just something that I've been there and done that."
She certainly did that.
She played three years at Newport Harbor, sitting out her junior year to focus more on individual tournaments. She returned her senior year and led the Sailors to a runner-up finish in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs. She also won two Sea View League singles crowns and reached the CIF Individuals final and the semifinals.
Back then, she was known as the first Newport Harbor girls' tennis player to reach the CIF singles final.
All that work on the junior tournament circuit, the dedication and hours of practice, led to a scholarship to play at Pepperdine, where she continued to garner success.
She helped lead the Waves to four West Coast Conference titles and earned first-team all-conference status, as well as other honors playing at No. 1 singles at different times during her four-year career.
Raney enjoyed her time at Pepperdine, where she built a good rapport with longtime coach Gualberto Escudero.
She went from Newport Beach to Malibu.
"It's been a really tough life," she said, jokingly.
But when it was over, she knew she had enough of tennis.
"The moment I was done with it, I was done," Raney said. "Not while I was in college did I feel burnout because that was when I was at the peak of my tennis career. I wanted to achieve everything that was possible for that level. I don't own a tennis racquet. I don't own tennis apparel. I literally have not picked up a tennis racquet since my last match at Pepperdine. I didn't so much feel a burnout then, but in retrospect I was clearly getting close to that point. Now I have no desire to play tennis.
"People will be like, 'Oh, you'll change your mind.' No, no, no I won't. Trust me."
Raney instead applies the tireless work ethic and determination she showed in tennis to real estate.
After earning a business degree at Pepperdine, she moved back to Newport Beach and became involved with real estate.
"The market was very challenging for the first four or five years," she said. "Now it's really active and really busy, which is a good thing, whereas three years ago it was just tough to move anything, tough to put any type of deal together. But I appreciated learning in that environment because it makes it a lot more manageable now than it was back then."
Earlier this year, Raney began work with Villa Real Estate, a new firm that represents mostly high-end properties.
Raney is now earning success in business rather than tennis.
She said Villa Real Estate consists of a group of elite real estate agents. That "brings out the best in everyone," she said.
Real estate, coincidentally, also played a role in her meeting her husband, Aidan, a cardiologist.
He was a tenant at a Balboa Island property that she was trying to sell. She went to the property, knocked on the door and gave Aidan brochures for an upcoming open house.
After meeting her, he later asked her out.
"He jokes, 'Here I am spending all this money on dinners and going to bars, and then all of a sudden my wife comes knocking on my door while I'm taking a nap," she said.
Being in Newport Beach has also helped Raney remain close to her family — her mom, Georgia, her father, Ron Foell, and two sisters, Brandie, 33, and Jill, 23.
The three sisters all played tennis. Brandie Braverman is the tennis director at Park Newport. She is a former pro.
Jill played at Newport Harbor and then at Pepperdine, too. She is now a golfer, who won the women's club title at Big Canyon Country Club and competed in the Jones Cup, helping her club win its third straight title and ninth overall championship in the 14th annual event that features the top players from the local clubs.
Raney has also tried to make the transition from tennis to golf, but she plays for mostly the social aspect. She also enjoys playing with her family.
"You would think it would progress, but it hasn't," Raney said, joking about her golf game. "I play with my mom a lot. It's a thing we do as a family. I also play with my husband sometimes. It's fun for us. It's not competitive at all. I feel very blessed, very lucky."
She remains close with her family and remains grateful for the sacrifices her mother made that allowed her to do so well in tennis.
"I have to give my mom credit," Raney said. "You don't realize what your parents go through. She was at all my matches, driving around. She was just as dedicated as I was. She was really instrumental with the mental coaching. It can be difficult because sometimes you're not on a team. It's an individual thing. It helps to have that kind of support."
That support has helped her to earn success back in Newport Beach.