LONDON, Great Britain - Before the remaining eight battled it out this week at the All-England Club, the eleventh reunion of the WTA Alumnae & Friends Program was held at the San Lorenzo restaurant in SW19, drawing legends from around the world.
The reunion took place at San Lorenzo restaurant in SW19 with WTA Board Member Lisa Grattan serving as emcee. Notable former players in attendance included Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Betty Stove, Ilana Kloss, Frankie Durr, Mima Jausovec, Pam Shriver, Katrina Adams, Claudia Kohde-Kilsch, Rennae Stubbs and Mercedes Paz, who was celebrating her 50th birthday.
The highlight of the afternoon, which was overseen by Hall of Famer Peachy Kellmeyer and co-hosted by the Women's Tennis Benefit Association, was the presentation of the Georgina Clark WTA Mother Award to the beloved Bulgarian former player and coach, Youlia Berberian-Maleeva.
Youlia coached three of her daughters into the Top 10 on the WTA Rankings: Manuela Maleeva-Fragnière (No.3), Katerina Maleeva (No.6) and Magdalena Maleeva (No.4). The Maleeva sisters made Grand Slam history in 1993 when all three were seeded at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Combined, the trio won 39 WTA singles titles throughout a playing career spanning more than two decades (1982-2005) and Youlia was right beside them the whole time, attending more than 1000 tournaments.
Youlia herself was a decorated tennis player, although her career was restricted mostly to Bulgaria and other Communist countries due to travel restrictions imposed on Communist Bloc citizens by the Soviets. However, Youlia still took home 31 national titles across singles, doubles, and mixed, including winning the Bulgarian National Title nine times (1962-1976). She also won the Lebanon Open in 1965 and the Yugoslav Open in 1973, as well as led her country to two Fed Cup semifinals as the Bulgarian National Women's Coach, a position she held for 13 years (1982-1995).
In 2004, Youlia opened the Maleeva Tennis Club to the public in Sofia. Owned by the Maleeva family, it is the largest sports complex in Bulgaria and offers year-round tennis and squash with Youlia as head coach.
Away from the tennis courts, Youlia has remained politically active and has served as the president of the Bulgarian Women's Association since 1995. She holds an ongoing role as board member for the American University in Bulgaria, and from 1997 to 2001 she was a member of the Bulgarian parliament representing the anti-Communist bloc.
Youlia shared the story of the family's struggle against the Communist regime, travel restrictions in early days and eventual successes in a book titled, "I Want, I Believe, I Can."
The Maleeva sisters were in attendance for Youlia's presentation of the award, along with Youlia's husband, Georgi Maleev, her brother Edward and his partner Lynda, and three grandchildren - Lora, Timo and 'Little Youlia'.
The Georgina Clark Mother WTA Award is named in memory of the WTA's former vice president for European Operations and Worldwide Tour Director, who passed away in 2010. Clark was also the first woman to umpire a Wimbledon final - Martina Navratilova vs. Chris Evert, in 1984.
The award given in her honor recognizes women who've raised their own children and also contributed in a significant way to the life of the extended 'WTA Family'. Previous recipients Ann Haydon-Jones, women's tennis pioneer Gladys Heldman, Original 9 member Judy Dalton, Francoise Durr and former Swedish No.1 Ingrid Lofdahl Bentzer.
Here are a few more photos from the WTA Alumnae & Friends Reunion, courtesy of Art Seitz: