Around 100 guests attended a WTA Legends & Friends Reunion during the recent US Open, at the prestigious New York Historical Society on Central Park West.
The focal point of the occasion – hosted by Pam Shriver with contributions from Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe – was presentation of the Georgina Clark Mother Award to former World No.33 and celebrated sports broadcaster, Mary Carillo.
The late Georgina Clark was the WTA’s Vice President for European Operations and Worldwide Tour Director. The first woman to umpire a Wimbledon final – Evert vs. Navratilova in 1984 – she raised five children in her own family while earning the moniker “Mother Superior” for the guidance she gave to players on the Tour.
The award in her name recognizes individuals who’ve made a significant contribution to the culture and emotional life of the WTA family, worked to improve the sport for all, and gone above and beyond to help the less fortunate.
Speakers on the night paid tribute to Carillo’s talent for storytelling, and the trailblazing impact of her Emmy-nominated career in broadcasting, which began in 1980 after her playing career was wrecked by knee injuries at the age of 23.
McEnroe, who grew up just streets away from Carillo in Queens before they combined to win the French Open mixed title in 1977, noted that she “managed to turn lemons into lemonade” professionally but on a personal level “made me believe in myself before I believed in myself.”
Indeed, the broader purpose of the gathering was to celebrate a devoted daughter, mother, grandmother, colleague and friend and on that note, an emotional Evert shared insights from her own recent cancer battle.
“Mary was in the hospital with me, saw me get my chemo, went to my house and talked to my family and she held my hand. She was just so compassionate and empathetic. We bonded and we decided that we would be friends forever.
“I just can’t think of a better recipient of this award.”
When it was her turn to take the stage, Carillo recalled: “Georgina Clark was a force for good. She taught us how to walk in this world, what to put out in the world.”
Reflecting on the spirit of the award, she added: “If you’re like me and you’re lucky enough to get somewhere in life, you’ve got to send the elevator back down. That’s the rule. I’m so honored to have a place at this table. You women for so long have been my friends and my sisters – couple of daughters maybe – and Billie Jean here is the mother of all mothers. So many memories. I am very, very touched and overwhelmed.”
Aside from Evert and Ingrid Löfdahl Bentzer, who was also at the reunion, former recipients of the award include Ann Haydon Jones, Judy Dalton, Gladys Heldman, Françoise Dürr, Youlia Berberian-Maleeva, Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Judy Murray.
Other Tour alumnae at the New York soiree included Ilana Kloss, Wendy Turnbull, Kathy Rinaldi, Kathleen Horvath, Gigi Fernandez, Anke Huber, Katrina Adams, Leslie Allen, Lindsay Davenport, Jill Craybas, Megan Moulton-Levy, Shahar Peer, Rennae Stubbs, Casey Dellacqua and Melanie Oudin.
The group watched video messages from Carillo’s son, Anthony and daughter, Rachel, who were both unable to attend – Rachel having recently given birth.
Unfortunately, the perpetual Georgina Clark trophy was damaged in shipment, but Shriver saved the day by raiding her family’s basement. To the amusement of the guests, Carillo was presented with an old Eastbourne doubles trophy – a porcelain dish – instead.