WATCH: Tracy has lent her expert analysis to Tennis Channel Live and Talking Tennis with Tracy (above).


Ponder the circles of time that take us back and forth, around and around, in a constant motion, across the decades and decades that comprise a life.

Loop back nearly 50 years.  The venue was Lincoln Park, a tidy six-court public tennis facility located in Santa Monica, a beachfront town bordered by the Pacific Ocean and Los Angeles.  This was the setting for the Santa Monica Open, a prestigious Southern California tournament played at the end of summer.  I was 13 and had just played a novice tournament.  One afternoon, I took a bus three miles west from my West Los Angeles home to watch the tennis at Lincoln.

On the stadium court, a small blonde girl was in the middle of a match.  Rally after rally, point after point, she struck one crosscourt drive after another.  When the time was right, she’d rocket one down the line.  Rarely did she miss.  There was not merely a bounce to her stride, but a laser-like focus I normally associated with taking a challenging math test.

“Who’s that?” I asked.

“Oh, you don’t know?” replied a spectator.  “That’s Tracy Austin.”

“How old is she?”

“She’s ten.”


A young Tracy Austin exudes excitement during the 1977 Wimbledon Championships.

A young Tracy Austin exudes excitement during the 1977 Wimbledon Championships. 

As far back as the days of May Sutton Bundy – the first American to win Wimbledon, back in 1905 -- Southern California has continually had many precocious juniors. So tennis-rich is this sun-soaked region, that there are often more than one at a time.

Still, in the Southern California ‘70s of my youth, the standout was Tracy Austin. Just over two years after that day in Santa Monica, the 13-year-old Austin was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. “A Star is Born” read the headline.

Indeed, Austin would go on to have a brilliant career, highlighted by a pair of US Open singles titles, earned in 1979 and ’81. In ’79, Austin’s last two victories came at the expense of Martina Navratilova and Chrissie Evert. Two years later, Austin rallied to beat Navratilova in the finals by the rare score of 1-6, 7-6, 7-6. Even then, in the wake of so many triumphs that took her to the world number one ranking and a spot in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Austin remained grounded, a mindset aided by many factors, perhaps most notably the fact that three of her older siblings had also been pros.


Injuries cut Austin’s career short. But that did little to lessen Austin’s passion for tennis. Today she turns 60, thoroughly engaged with the sport – from her broadcast work with Tennis Channel, to life as a speaker, interviewer, and clinic leader at many a corporate event, to aiding the tennis and life journeys of her three sons, to sharing in all of it with her husband, Scott Holt.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve been fortunate to witness this first-hand. During this time, I’ve worked frequently with Tracy on a wide range of projects – everything from various TV projects, to events, interviews, and, currently, a regular video piece called “Talking Tennis with Tracy.”


You may be familiar with the term, “The Champion’s Mentality.” Tracy personifies that brilliantly. You’ll be hard-pressed to meet a more passionate analyst, teacher, and student; yes, student, for as much as Austin has accomplished, her curiosity remains as high as it was when she first learned the game from Vic Braden, wrote an elementary school paper on Billie Jean King, and sharpened her tennis with Robert Lansdorp. From drills to tactics, grips to strings, understanding the past and contemplating the present, Austin relishes the chance to dig in and explore.

The park where I first saw Tracy is now known as Reed Park, a tribute to one of the town’s former mayors. I visited Reed Park earlier this month, walking around the courts on a drizzly Southern California Friday afternoon. Like many places one explores decades later, it looks a lot smaller than it appeared at the time. But there remained the six courts and the bleachers on the west side of the court that held roughly 200 people. I recalled standing in the southeast corner, just behind the court, that day in 1973. Then I remembered the time a few years later when I watched an even better version of Tracy defeat another tennis Hall of Famer, Dorothy “Dodo” Cheney. To think then that the iconic “Dodo” was approximately 60 years old, the same age Tracy has just turned.

And then I thought about the next conversation I was going to have with Tracy, be it about our video piece, or some happening in the tennis world – past, present, future. Any conversation with her is as rich as a hitting session with a Hall of Fame tennis player. Just keep in mind that you better be on your toes. Because she sure is.

Happy Birthday, Tracy.