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Florida Tennis Pioneer Reed Passes at Age 76

August 4, 2009 12:08 PM
Nancy Reed (far right) in 1966 with (from left) Carolyn Bentley, Pauline
Betz Addie, and former Grand Slam champion Maureen Connolly
(courtesy ITA Women's Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame).
Florida lost a life-long, comprehensive friend of tennis on July 25, 2009, when Nancy Reed of Winter Park passed away peacefully in the presence of family and friends after battling an aggressive form of cancer at age 76.

It is not uncommon for an individual from Florida to find great success on the international tennis stage, or to make a large impact as a volunteer within the USTA and the tennis community – but it is uncommon to achieve and maintain both throughout an adult lifetime.

“She was the winner of doubles and singles international 75 age divisions in October,” said friend and fellow player Diana Mincer. “That's one of many trophies she held. We know her as simply Nancy. She never missed a tournament for our league, keeping it less about egos and always about tennis. We are all so very lucky to have our lives touched by her. She was loved by so many and will be missed by all of us.”

No one within the inner circles of tennis would expect much from an individual seriously taking to the game at the late age of 15. Reed nonetheless quickly achieved a high school record that would eventually lead to an induction into the Washington, D.C. Area Tennis Hall of Fame, and then the No. 1 singles and doubles position on the Rollins College women’s squad in Florida. She eventually returned to Rollins to coach, following a stint on the women’s tour from 1964-70 that saw her compete against greats such as Maureen Connolly and Billie Jean King.

She collected more than 100 international singles and doubles titles during her professional and recreational tennis career, representing the U.S. on 21 international USTA age group teams.

In South Florida she was a force in single-handedly moving the needle for senior tennis, in 1977 co-founding and serving as the inaugural president of the National Senior Women’s Association, and in 1978 co-founding the prestigious Les Grandes Dames women’s prize money tournament which international players have come to flock to every year.

"Nancy wasn't just a good friend of tennis -- Nancy was in love with the sport of tennis," said Trish Faulkner, director of tennis and fitness at Ballen Isles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens. "She was a visionary and a pioneer for the senior women players. Her legacy and dedication to our sport will live on with the Les Grandes Dames tournaments, the National Senior Women's Tennis Association and in the USTA's commitment and support of senior women's events and teams. Thanks Nancy from all of us who benefited from your love of the game. We will miss you."

In 1978 she also began a 31-year run as a USTA and USTA Florida volunteer, in various roles but concentrating her efforts on her foremost love, competitive tennis with the Adult Competitive Tennis Council.

“She is most widely known for her dedication to Adult Competitive play, but I learned that she loved to get new players into the game, especially kids,” said USTA Florida Competitive Tennis Coordinator Andy Gladstone. “I remember this past April while undergoing chemotherapy she requested prizes from the office for her annual parent-child tournament. She took such pride in making this event special. My family was on their way to Sarasota and feel fortunate that I introduced my kids to her. She was so proud of her vintage racquet collection displayed all over her garage. Ironically I was a ballboy in 1979 for Nancy Reed when I was 16 during the National Senior Women’s Grass Courts at Forest Hills. She lived a very fruitful life and lived her passion.”

Among Reed’s numerous awards and achievements over the years include:

2008 – USTA Florida Female Player of the Year award; USTA Florida 30 Years of Service recognition
2004 – Women’s Intercollegiate Tennis Hall of Fame inductee
2002 – International Tennis Association (ITA) Women’s Hall of Fame inductee
1999 – USTA Service Bowl Award
1998 – USTA Seniors Service Award
1997 – USTA Florida Female Merit Award
1995 – Central Florida Sports Hall of Fame inductee
1986 -- World Tennis Magazine Senior Women's Player of the Year
1985 – USTA Florida Hall of Fame inductee
1978 – USTA Florida Female Player of the Year award; Rollins College Athletics Hall of Fame inductee; co-founder, Les Grandes Dames senior women's event
1976 -- National Senior Women's Tennis Association, co-founder and first president
1975 – Washington, D.C. Area Tennis Hall of Fame inductee

“I’ve known her since I was a volunteer in the late ‘70s -- everyone knew her, if you were in tennis you knew Nancy,” said USTA Florida Executive Director Doug Booth. “She was involved in every facet of women’s competitive tennis, in Florida and nationally. She just had a passion, as a player and a promoter.”

As a senior player Reed was ranked No. 1 nationally by the USTA in singles and doubles in all but one age group, and No. 1 internationally at various times. She competed internationally on every USTA Senior Cup team in the age 40 to 65 groups, also winning numerous individual Senior Cup singles and doubles international titles. Her legacy lives on in Florida through the Les Grandes Dames event, but more so in the lives she touched as a tireless volunteer, organizer, advocate and example of tennis as the lifetime sport.

Also see: ITF Obituary, Orlando Sentinel Obituary
 

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