Class of 1992
World No. 1 (1980)
Grand Slam Results
3-time major champion, and one-time finalist
Overall Record: 348-106
Singles Record: 335-90
Doubles Record: 13-16
WTA World Tour Championships
Winner in 1980
Member of the U.S. Championship Federation Cup Team 1978-1980
Overall Record: 13-1
Singles Record: 13-1
Tracy Austin’s meteoric rise in women’s tennis was so startling and attention-grabbing that when, as a 14-year-old she lost in the quarterfinals of the 1977 US Open to Betty Stöve, her post-match cool down included a supportive call from President Jimmy Carter.
Austin’s mature game, exceedingly advanced for a player so young, led her to win two US Opens over the game’s premier legends – Chris Evert in 1979 and Martina Navratilova in 1981 – but in a career moving at the speed of an arrow launched from a bow, assorted injuries (primarily back and persistent sciatica) shortened what had initially appeared to be an assault on the record books. By the time she was 21, Austin’s playing days were over – although she attempted a few comebacks – but her 35 professional titles and No. 1 world ranking in 1980 was more than enough to make her the youngest person (29 years old) inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Tennis observers should have seen her immortality coming. She appeared on the cover of World Tennis magazine at age 4. The Californian had tennis genes – her sister Pam and brothers Jeff and John were all touring professionals. At age 10 in 1972, she won the U.S. National 12s championship and had earned two dozen age-group titles. On March 22, 1976, she appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline, “A Star Is Born.” When as an unseeded player Austin steamrolled into the 1977 US Open quarterfinals with four impressive victories, three of which were in straight sets, she had become the youngest quarterfinalist in a major event in history. In 1990, a younger Jennifer Capriati secured that distinction at the French Open.
At Wimbledon in 1979 she was seeded No.4 and still wearing braces when she defeated 35-year-old Billie Jean King in the quarterfinals, 6-4, 6-7, 6-2. She lost to Navratilova in the semifinals, 7-5, 6-1, but the promise of what the US Open would hold a few months later was palatable. As the third seed, Austin won four of her first five rounds in straight sets, and then produced a memorable 7-5, 7-5 upset over Navratilova in the semifinals. Against No. 1 Evert in a finals match that set US Open attendance records, Austin was relentless from the baseline, looking like a human ball machine. The rallies were long – many surpassing 40 strokes – and tactical with ball placement, but Austin was in a zone throughout, registering a 6-4, 6-3 victory. Austin again donned a Sports Illustrated cover (September 17, 1979), the headline reading “Yowee,” and a story heavy on the proclamation by Austin that “she simply couldn’t believe it.”
At 16 years, 8 months and 28 days, Austin became the youngest male or female champion in US Open history, a distinction that still remains today.
Two years later, Austin was back in the US Open championship match. She was still three months away from turning 19, but Austin emerged as champion, once again rolling through the draw as the No. 3 seed. Navratilova’s serve-and-volley game was nullified by Austin’s precise groundstrokes on a windy afternoon in Flushing Meadow, 6-1, 7-6, 7-6. Austin was at her best in New York, but on two occasions she was a semifinalist at Wimbledon (1979, 1980) and a quarterfinalist at the French Open (1982, 1983). She was a quarterfinalist at the Australian Open in 1981. One of her biggest tournament victories came at the 1981 Toyota Championship where she defeated both Evert (6-1, 6-2) and Navratilova (2-6, 6-4, 6-2) back-to-back, one of only three players in history to earn that distinction.
She teamed with her brother John to win the 1980 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Championship, the first brother-sister combination to achieve that feat, over Aussie’s Dianne Fromholtz and Mark Edmondson, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3.
Austin was ranked in the world Top 10 six times from 1978 to 1983. She played on Federation Cup winning teams in 1978, 1979, and 1980 and was part of Wightman Cup winning teams in 1979 and 1981.
Following her playing career, Austin delved into broadcasting, becoming a premier analyst with several networks, including ESPN, USA Network, Fox Sports, and the TennisChannel. In 1992 she published her autobiography Beyond Center Court.
Australian Open: QF 1981
French Open: QF 1982, 1983
Wimbledon: SF 1979, 1980
US Open: W 1979, 1981
US Open: QF 1978, 1979
Wimbledon: W 1980
US Open: SF 1988