A Garden Full Of Legends
Published June 29, 2010 12:00
LONDON, United Kingdom - The beautiful home and magical garden of Ingrid Bentzer, former Swedish No.1 and the first secretary of the Women's Tennis Association in the 1970s, provided an idyllic setting for the 2010 European Alumnae & Friends Reunion held on Wimbledon's middle Sunday.
The event drew players and officials from around the world, including no fewer than six women who won the Wimbledon singles title during their glorious careers: WTA founder and six-time champion Billie Jean King, Ann Jones, Virginia Wade, nine-time champion Martina Navratilova, Conchita Martínez and Jana Novotna.
Former world No.1 and two-time US Open champion Tracy Austin, who reached the semis at Wimbledon twice and won the mixed doubles with her brother John in 1980, looked the part in a rose-patterned dress. Pam Shriver, whose 21 Grand Slam doubles titles included five wins at Wimbledon with Navratilova, served as emcee for the event.
Others with a special connection to The Championships included Olga Morozova, who was runner-up to Chris Evert in 1974; Betty Stove, who fell to Wade in the 1977 final; and Kathy Rinaldi Stunkel, who reached the semis as a teenager in 1985. Mima Jausovec, who won at Roland Garros in 1977, and 1979 Australian Open champion Barbara Jordan made the trip too.
As well as dignitaries such as ITF President Francesco Ricci Bicci, USTA president Lucy Garvin and All England Tennis Club chairman Tim Phillips, the party attracted many who may not be well-known names but nonetheless played pivotal roles in establishing tennis as the leading global sport for women.
Peachy Kellmeyer, the Tour's first director, was given special mention, as was Ceci Martinez, who organized a public petition that helped secure equal prize money at the US Open. Martinez also featured in a group photo of those who were present during a critical meeting at London's Gloucester Hotel on the eve of Wimbledon in 1973; that gathering led to the creation of the WTA in its purest sense, as a union representing all women professionals - bringing an end to the days of divisive rival tours.
"We will make sure today's players don't forget what it took to make the Tour what it is today," promised Tour CEO Stacey Allaster. But the emotional heart of the reunion was reserved for Georgina Clark, holder of many senior roles with the WTA, who passed away earlier this year. In her honor Ann Jones was presented with the inaugural Georgina Clark Mother Award, and Clark's daughter Caroline spoke on behalf of her family.
Future reunions are already in the works. Jeanie Brinkman Evans, who was the nascent Virginia Slims Tour's first publicity guru, will host an event in Melbourne during the 2011 Australian Open. John and Leslie Korff are set to follow suit on Key Biscayne during the Miami tournament a few months later.