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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
8:03 AM Wed, Sept. 19th

Howard: A family affair of tennis greatness

My Point

I personally like hearing success stories, and the one I’m about to tell certainly falls under that category.

George and Jeanne Austin have 5 children, starting with the first in 1950, Pam. The two meet while going to school at UCLA.  George was a former air force lieutenant colonel and later a nuclear physicist.

By the time their third child Doug was born they both had taken up the game of tennis as a means of exercise and social enjoyment. Jeanne reached the point of catching the tennis bug to the point she and her husband would bring along a play-pen and sit their youngsters near them when they played.

They moved to 26406 Dunwood Road in Rolling Hills Estate in California, and became members of the new Jack Kramer Tennis Club where well-known tennis professional Vic Braden helped build, and then became the first tennis director.

Jeanne ended up working in the pro shop where she came up with a line of tennis dresses she would sell ,and the money ade was used for tennis lessons for her kids, Pam, Jeff, Doug, John and Tracy.

Pam became a good junior player, was invited to play on the U.S. Junior Wightman Cup Team, and later went on to play for UCLA. After winning the National Hard Court Doubles Championship, she turned pro and played professionally on the Virginia Slims Tour, as well as the World Team Tennis league of the Phoenix Racquets.  She is now directing a tennis club in Southern California.

Supposedly the hardest worker of the bunch, Jeff had a great junior career, became an All-American at UCLA with championships there ii 1971 1972 and 1973. The next step was the ATP Tour where he obtained a high ranking of 52 in the world, and also played for the WTT Phoenix Racquets.

After retiring from the tour, he went back to school at UCLA, became a lawyer and is now an  NBA Agent for Octagon, and is spoken of as “Everyone’s Rock.” His wife is the well-known fitness guru Denise Austin.

Doug was a person unto himself. After a strong junior career, he went on to play college tennis at Long Beach State where he ended up playing in the No. 1 position, but with no real drive to push his talents into the professional ranks.

Youngest brother John, born in 1957, was the non-achiever on the courts up until the age of 15 when he hit his growing spurt and then came into his own.  At 6 feet, 4 inches tall he played college tennis at UCLA on the 1976 NCAA winning team, and then in 1978 became a NCAA doubles champion.

He went into the pros and achieved a high singles ranking of No. 40 in the world, winning a grand slam title in Mixed Doubles with his younger sister Tracy in 1980 and was runner-up in 81. He retired from the tour and has held many prestigious jobs in the tennis industry to date, many in Arizona.

And the last Austin to play the game became the most well-known, Tracy.  Born in 1962, she had the drive and talent to catch the eye of many early on.  She was on the cover of World Tennis Magazine at the age of 4.

Tracy was pretty much undefeated in her junior career playing anyone near her age and unlike her sister Pam, who was a 6 footer, Tracy reached all of 5 feet, 5 inches, but went on to win two U.S. Opens and a mixed doubles title at Wimbledon with her brother John, as well as over 30 singles titles, the No. 1 ranking in 1980, three Fed Cup titles and Hall of Fame induction in 1992.

A car accident cut her career short, but she has gone on to commentate for the likes of NBC, USA, BBC, Tennis Channel and other radio and television outlets, and is married to Scott Holt with three children.

This short version of their lives shows a family that loved the game of tennis and overcame the odds of not only having each play high school tennis, but then division one college at the highest level and professionally, not to mention being successful after that.

Sibling rivalry would warrant some of it, helping one another, parents who pushed a bit but with balance, good coaches, opportunities in the community and local clubs, all combined to create a story that many could benefit hearing in what it takes to reach the heights of the Austins.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@gmail.com.