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On This Day: Tracy Austin Becomes No.1

On April 7, 1980, Tracy Austin became the only woman in an 11-year span to break up the stranglehold Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova had on the No.1 ranking.

Published April 07, 2014 12:13

On This Day: Tracy Austin Becomes No.1
Tracy Austin

HILTON HEAD, SC, USA - For more than 11 years between 1976 and 1987, the No.1 ranking was going back and forth between two of the greatest WTA legends, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. But there was one woman who broke that stranglehold - just one - and she did it on this day in 1980.

Fresh off winning the WTA Championships, which were held in March back then, Tracy Austin travelled to Hilton Head for the Family Circle Cup, and after one of her early round wins it was confirmed - she would rise to No.1 in the world when the April 7, 1980 rankings were run after the tournament.

Austin spoke to wtatennis.com over the weekend to reminisce about that groundbreaking day.

"It wasn't like it is today, where you guys will know if a player gets to a certain round, they'll be XYZ on the next rankings. Maybe people were talking about if I could do it, but I never heard anything before the tournament, or before that match, about becoming No.1. I'm actually glad I didn't know, because I don't think I would have wanted to play a match knowing something like that was on the line!

"At Hilton Head they had a back porch area where we used to do our press conferences, and after I won my match and sat down, my mom came up to me and whispered to me I was going to be No.1 now. It was just a wonderful moment to share it with my mom, because she was really the one who supported me all through my career. She was always by my side, she drove me to practice and everything - and she knew it was my dream to become No.1 in the world one day. It was also special to do it in Hilton Head, which was one of the first tournaments I ever played. It was like I came full circle.

"I loved the fact that I didn't know, and I loved the fact that it was my mom who shared it with me."

The magnitude of that moment is even clearer when Austin thinks back to why she dreamt of No.1.

"The first time I ever thought of being No.1, or even heard of people being No.1, was when Billie Jean King came to my club to do a commercial for Wilson. I was in fourth grade. We were all watching her and just thinking, 'This is the woman that's No.1 in the world.' I thought, 'Wow, No.1 in the world, it's amazing to be No.1 in the world at anything.' That's when the seed was planted that I wanted to achieve that someday. It was my joy. And it was just overwhelming to think about. In so many endeavors in life there isn't a clear cut grade - you can do well, you can do better - but in sports it's not like that, it's clear cut. You're No.1, you're No.10, you're No.100. It's not a subjective sport.

"It's pretty cool that the computer spits out that you're the No.1 player in the world."

Austin ended up going all the way to the title in Hilton Head that year, but that moment with her biggest supporter is an understandably clearer memory. "I think I won the tournament, I'm not sure," she commented. "But I clearly remember that moment of finding out for the first time from my mom."

A few throwbacks to April 7, 1980...
No.1 song on Billboard Hot 100 singles: Another Brick In The Wall Part II by Pink Floyd
No.1 album on Billboard 200 albums: The Wall by Pink Floyd
No.1 movie at US Box Office: Coal Miner's Daughter (starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones)
No.1 men's tennis player: Björn Borg

Topics: 2014, news, tracy austin
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