Janet Young was a member of Australia’s Fed Cup winning teams in 1973 and 1974, building a 6-0 record in doubles with Evonne Goolagong. In singles, she reached the Round of 16 at Wimbledon in 1973 – giving Chris Evert a major scare before succumbing 8-6 in the third set – and won titles in Brisbane and Adelaide. A five-time Grand Slam doubles semifinalist, she won three tour titles, all with Goolagong. Young has a doctorate in sports psychology and worked for several years as Tennis Australia’s women’s player development manager; she also served on Tennis Australia’s board.
wtatennis.com: How did you start playing tennis?
Janet Young: My tennis journey began when I was three, when I started watching my mother play. By the age of five I was hitting against our garage door. My parents instilled in me a love of the game and I was fortunate to be given opportunities to travel and play as a junior. These were invaluable learning experiences that made my transition into professional tennis relatively easy. I always knew that I wanted to ‘be a tennis player’ and I felt ready and prepared when I was invited by Evonne Goolagong’s coach to travel overseas with her to play on the big stage.
How would you describe your style of play?
JY: I played a serve-volley game, having grown up on grass courts in Australia. My strengths were my volleys and approach shots. An obstacle was a negative coach who would put me down and made me lose confidence in myself. I slowly overcame this, but it took time and was difficult to do on my own.
What was your most memorable win?
JY: My most memorable win was over Evonne in Brisbane. Evonne was already a Grand Slam champion, so this win gave me confidence in my particular style of game, being attack and serve-volley.
What, for you, was the best thing about competing?
JY: The best thing about competing was the opportunity to be different to most others, especially at that time. In other words: I could travel, play a sport for a living, exercise and make wonderful life-long friends.
Favorite tournament to play?
JY: My favorite tournament was the Dallas event, which was named for Maureen Connolly in 1973, the year that Evonne and I won the doubles. It became a longstanding stop on the Virginia Slims Circuit. I remember it because of its warm hospitality and friendly tournament personnel.
Did you have a back-up plan, in case tennis didn’t work out?
JY: I did a Commerce degree at Melbourne University after playing in junior events throughout the world, including Junior Wimbledon. On my father’s advice, I studied economics and psychology. These studies helped me mentally prepare for the rigors of the professional circuit, equipping me with problem-solving skills. At that time, it was a comfort to know that I had a 'parachute' should life on the circuit not be for me. I could always return to study or work in a more traditional business role.
Looking back, what was your most memorable WTA experience?
JY: Playing on tour gave me the wonderful chance to play doubles with my very good friend Evonne Goolagong. It made a big difference to have a travel companion, and ally, in Evonne with me in my first year on the pro tour. It was magical and we formed a friendship that continues to grow. Playing with Evonne was special because of her blend of competitiveness, fun, respect for our opponents and good sportsmanship. She always gave her best to our matches. More than that, Evonne is an exceptionally caring person with a special gift for making a difference to the lives of so many. In many instances, she does this through tennis, sharing her love of the sport and offering opportunities to youngsters where few opportunities may have previously existed. I continue to admire her greatly.
What have you been up to since retiring from the tour?
JY: Over the years I have continued to work in tennis in roles with the WTA (Tour Director) and Tennis Australia (Head of Women's Tennis). I have always been intrigued with governance issues in tennis and general politics. In addition, I am a director of the Evonne Goolagong Foundation and ambassador for Blind Sports Victoria’s tennis program. My current role is at Victoria University, where I am a senior lecturer teaching and researching Exercise and Sport. I owe so much to tennis – throughout my life it has motivated, excited and energized me.
What advice would you give to your younger self, or players starting out in the sport?
JY: Gather a strong and supportive team around you. It is critical that the team truly believes in you and your abilities. The team need not necessarily travel with you but needs to be accessible and there for you in both good and bad times. And, always remember to focus on your love of playing. You were drawn to the game because it was fun. It can continue to be so although there will be challenges. You are lucky to have the opportunity to play a wonderful sport. Count your blessings!
Who do you like to watch playing these days?
JY: Tennis continues to be a lifelong passion and interest. Currently my two favourite players to watch are Ashleigh Barty and Serena Williams. Ash’s game reminds me so much of Evonne’s game – easy flowing, almost effortless, yet with lots of variety, touch and sportsmanship. I also enjoy watching Serena and the passion and power she displays. In addition to Ash and Serena, I am always keen to watch women’s tennis including Simona Halep, Sofia Kenin, Bianca Andreescu, Naomi Osaka, Madison Keys, Petra Kvitova and Garbiñe Muguruza. All are great athletes who bring their best efforts to matches.
What is your favorite movie about sports?
JY: I enjoyed Battle of the Sexes as it highlighted the King-Riggs match and also the early days of professional tennis for women, including the efforts of the Original 9.