You probably know Tracy Austin is an International Tennis Hall of Famer, and a two time U.S. Open champion. She’s still the youngest person to win the U.S. Open, beating Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert when she was 16. She was winning professional tournaments before she was old enough to drive, and at the age of 17, she was the world’s number one ranked player. This week is the 39th anniversary of Tracy’s rise to that world number one ranking.
Maybe what you don’t know is, only a few years after that, her brilliant career was cut short by multiple injuries, and effectively ended by a near-fatal car wreck. One moment her dream was still alive, the next, it was over. Her superstar career ended at an age where some careers were only starting.
She thought she had years remaining to play at the top of her sport. It was supposed to be the big three of Austin, Evert, and Navratilova for years to come. For many people, this would have been enough to cause them to spiral out of control. Numerous celebrity child stars, when their careers ended, struggled with drugs, alcohol and the law. Not Tracy Austin. She didn’t give up, she didn’t take the easy way out, and she didn’t quit. She found the inner strength and discipline to carve out a new career path of broadcasting and inspirational speaking. It’s a path that keeps her involved in the sport she loves and allows her to support the people and causes that are important to her.
Tracy and I talked for a few minutes, and I had a delightful time. She’s warm, funny, insightful, and very direct. When you listen to my podcast, you’ll ride the roller coaster of emotions with her. She’ll take you back to significant moments in her life; stunning the tennis world at the U.S. Open, becoming the world’s top-ranked player, and when the dream turned into a nightmare. She also has hard-earned advice for parents of young athletes.
Tracy Austin, as a young girl, was an inspiration. All these years later, Tracy Austin is still inspiring people. All you have to do is listen.