INDIAN WELLS, CA – This year’s Annalee Thurston Award Reception was hosted by Original 9 trailblazer Rosie Casals at the Palm Valley Country Club on March 9, with former World No.1 Tracy Austin serving as emcee for the evening.

The popular annual charity event raised nearly $100,000 for the Love & Love Tennis Foundation, which was founded in 2015 by Casals and fellow former player Tory Fretz to promote grass roots and junior tennis in the Coachella Valley. 

The Annalee Thurston Award, named for a beloved former WTA marketing executive who passed away in 2007, recognizes exceptional women who have elevated the sport of tennis in their specific field of endeavor – this year’s recipient being American legend Pam Shriver.

On top of her Hall of Fame playing career, former WTA Doubles World No.1 and singles No.3 Shriver has worked tirelessly over four decades for a range of charities, served on committees across the tennis world, and established herself as one of the sport’s pre-eminent media pundits.

Shriver's contribution to the sport was doubly celebrated on the night with the WTA Georgina Clark Mother Award, which pays tribute to women who have made a significant contribution to the culture and emotional life of the tour and gone above and beyond to help the less fortunate.

Georgina Clark was the WTA’s Vice President for European Operations and Worldwide Tour Director. The first female to umpire a Wimbledon final – Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova in 1984 – she earned the moniker “Mother Superior” for the support and guidance she gave to players on the circuit.

WTA legend Kim Clijsters presented Shriver with the award, which this year came with a Monica Rich Kosann bracelet from Evert’s collection.

Getty Images

“Pam is a true role model for what women can achieve on and off the court,” Belgian icon Clijsters said. “She is the epitome of what it means to be a member of the WTA family. We’ve shared some laughs and we’ve shed some tears together, and I’m really proud to be here to give her this award.”

Croatian star Donna Vekic, who added Shriver to her coaching team in 2022, was on hand to support her mentor while video messages were provided by Navratilova, Evert, Judy Dalton, Elise Burgin and Mary Carillo.

Finally, Shriver was joined on stage by her elder son George, twins Kaitlin and Sam, and sister Eleanor who flew in from Baltimore for the event. Taking to the microphone, the 22-time Grand Slam champion spoke with characteristic emotion and wit.

“I’m glad there are so many moms on the tour now – it really enriches the sport,” she said. “I had George when I was 42 and the twins at 43 – you know, normally when you pick something up at 42 years old you’re probably not going to be very good at it, so I’ve never tried harder!

“The two things that have meant most to me are family and this great sport of tennis and I’ve tried very hard at both.”

Another focal point of the occasion was the presentation of the WTA Foundation’s Champions for Change Award to Larry King – the former husband of Billie Jean King who, as a lawyer and entrepreneur, played a key role in the early growth of the women’s professional tennis.

The Champions for Change Award has been created to recognize players and contributors – be they individuals or organizations – that have made women’s tennis the leading sport for women. When each recipient is honored, a $10,000 donation is made to a mutually selected nonprofit organization serving the mission of the WTA Foundation.

A steadfast ally and supporter of Billie Jean’s vision for the sport, Larry King prepared vital legal paperwork that was used to establish the WTA at a meeting of players on the eve of the Wimbledon Championships in 1973. He was also a co-owner and promoter of several tournaments on the nascent Virginia Slims Circuit, among other business ventures.

Getty Images

With his wife Nancy and other family at his side, King was introduced by Ann Austin, executive director of the WTA Foundation, with additional remarks from longtime business associate and friend Bill Shoen and Jan Diamond, the widow of Jerry Diamond, who was the WTA’s first executive director and a business partner and friend of both Larry and Billie Jean.

In a video message, Billie Jean stated: “Larry, you are a founding member of the WTA, because the WTA would not have been formed in 1973 without you. You got us to sign in members, drafted the bi-laws and facilitated the election of officers. You gave us the foundations that have stood the test of time. You taught me the importance of being a feminist and stood beside me and all the players in our fight for equality, inclusion and respect. We all owe you a debt of gratitude.”

Accepting the award, a humble King – who directed his $10,000 donation to the Love & Love Foundation – spoke to the importance of community and team effort.

“When I met Billie Jean, she wanted to change tennis, make it a respected sport like football, baseball and basketball,” he said. “More than that, she wanted to make an impact on the world. Me, I was a smart kid, but I had no ambition – so helping Billie Jean became my life.”

Guests at the gala included the USTA’s Stacey Allaster and another former WTA CEO, Bart McGuire along with the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Patrick McEnroe and Dan Faber, Shriver’s longtime agent Sara Forniciari, and the BNP Paribas Open’s Peggy Michel.

Other former players in attendance included Lori McNeil, Katrina Adams, Marianne Werdel, Nicole Pratt, Debbie Graham, Jackie Joseph and Mariaan de Swardt and WTA founding members Trish Bostrom and Valerie Ziegenfuss.