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Tennis player, executive and now author: Happy Birthday, Katrina Adams
Investing more than 40 years in the world of tennis, Adams has forged a path defined by engagement and collaboration.
Published Aug 05, 2020
“Embrace the path you lead and enjoy the battle.” This is the wisdom displayed front and center on Katrina Adams’ website (katrinamadams.com). Certainly these are lessons she knows quite well. Born in Chicago on August 5, 1968, and investing more than 40 years in the world of tennis, Adams has forged a path defined by engagement and collaboration.
As far as battles go, Adams faced a major one in March when she tested positive for coronavirus. “I was fine emotionally because I never once felt that I was in danger,” Adams said in an April interview with Black Enterprise. “However, physically, the body aches were like something I had never felt before. The physical recovery was somewhat weird because, although I only had the body aches for two days, I felt lethargic and tired all the time for about a week or two afterwards.”
Once recovered, Adams became a candidate to donate her plasma to help others.
More recently, in her current role as immediate past president of the USTA, Adams addressed the challenges of staging the US Open in 2020. Said Adams at a press conference this past June, “This has been an unprecedented year, racked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial injustice that has put a global spotlight on the Black Lives Matter's movement. I am particularly proud to say that the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center became a center of support during the pandemic, serving as a temporary center of support for a hospital for those that are affected.
“I'm equally proud that the USTA not only supports the Black Lives Matter movement, but has long been at the forefront of diversity and inclusion, emphasizing those important elements in all that we do.
“Of course, holding the 2020 US Open will be good for our sport at every level of the game. Playing the Open will once again shine a spotlight on tennis, and get people excited about playing our safe and healthy sport for themselves. It will also allow the USTA to generate important income to invest in growing the game's grassroots efforts in local communities all across the U.S.”
The concept of “local communities” has long played a major role in the Adams tennis journey. It began in Chicago, when she started to play the game on public park courts at the age of six. It continued in college, where Adams starred at Northwestern University, her appetite for team play shining through when partnering with Diane Donnelly to win the NCAA doubles title in 1987. Seamlessly, Adams made her way to the pros, the next year reaching the round of 16 at Wimbledon before losing in three sets to Chris Evert. In 1989, Adams attained a career-high singles ranking of No. 67. She was even more of a force in doubles, taking 20 WTA doubles titles and advancing to the quarters or better at 10 Grand Slam tournaments.
As dedicated as she was to excelling inside the lines, Adams devoted considerable time to making a difference off the court. She served on the WTA board (earning the WTA Player Service Award in 1989) and once her playing career wrapped up at the end of 1999, became increasingly involved with such organizations as the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program, where she became executive director (a post she still holds). Several years later, Adams entered the world of television commentary, working for CBS, Tennis Channel and other broadcasters.
In 2015, Adams became the USTA’s first Black president, as well as the first ex-pro and, at 46, the youngest person to hold that prestigious office. Serving an unprecedented two terms, over the course of her four years in office, Adams played a key leadership role in the opening of the 100-court USTA National Campus in Orlando, as well as a wide range of upgrades to the $600 million USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. She’s also currently vice president of the International Tennis Federation.
As you might expect from an athlete, Adams is more focused on action than talk, far more eager to let her deeds take priority over her words. Next February, though, those curious to know more about Adams will have a chance to read her first book, Own the Arena: Getting Ahead, Making a Difference, and Succeeding as the Only One. No doubt, it will illuminate both the path and the battles.