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TENNIS

Jeanne Austin, mother of Tracy Austin, dies

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jeanne Austin, the matriarch of a tennis playing family that produced four professional players, including two-time U.S. Open champion Tracy Austin, has died. She was 84.

She died Tuesday of heart failure at Torrance Memorial Hospital following a long illness, daughter Pam Austin said Friday.

From 1962-77, Jeanne Austin managed the pro shop at the Jack Kramer Club in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif., where her five children learned to play tennis. Besides Tracy and Pam, sons Jeff and John played on the pro circuit, with all four playing at Wimbledon, while her other son Doug was a top college player.

The most successful of the Austin children was Tracy, who earned the No. 1 ranking during a career closely supervised by her mother. Jeanne took her youngest child with her to the tennis club when she went to work, and put Tracy into a tennis program when she was 2.

In 1977, at age 14 in Portland, Ore., Tracy became the youngest player at the time to win a pro event. She beat Chris Evert to win her first U.S. Open title at 16 in 1979. She and her mother celebrated by eating at McDonald's.

She defeated Martina Navratailova to win the U.S. Open again in 1981. In 1980, she was ranked No. 1 and teamed with her brother John to win the Wimbledon mixed doubles title. Chronic injuries cut short her career a few years later and subsequent comebacks were unsuccessful.

Jeanne Austin always accompanied her daughter on the WTA Tour, monitoring her interactions with the media and players, most of whom were much older than Tracy.

After she had heart valve replacement surgery five years ago, she would go to the Kramer club on Mondays and have a pro hit balls to her.

"She would stand at the service line for 20 minutes," Pam said. "That was the hardest part for her, that she wasn't going to play anymore. She was in her element around tennis."

In her 1992 autobiography "Beyond Center Court," Tracy Austin wrote that her parents met at UCLA when her father was an Air Force captain and her mother was a junior. Her mother didn't play tennis, although her brother Bill Reedy was a nationally ranked player.

After the Austins moved back to California, Jeanne became a "tennis nut," according to her daughter's book. Jeanne was ranked 25th in the Southern California women's division.

She was introduced to psychologist Vic Braden, a friend of tennis champion Jack Kramer. He built his self-named club in Rolling Hills Estates, with Braden becoming the pro and Jeanne working in the pro shop.

Tracy Austin wrote that her mother hit tennis balls to her sister and brothers on the night of Dec. 11, 1962, and at 6 a.m. the next day Jeanne gave birth to Tracy.

Three of the Austin children remain involved in the sport. Tracy works as a TV tennis commentator; Pam is tennis director at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.; and John runs a 25-court complex in Surprise, Ariz. After leaving the Kramer club, Jeanne worked part time as a travel agent.

In addition to her five children, Jeanne Austin is survived by her husband of 64 years, George, a retired nuclear physicist, and 10 grandchildren. One of her daughters-in-law is fitness expert Denise Austin, who is married to Jeff.

A memorial service is set for June 4 at Rolling Hills Covenant Church in Rolling Hills Estates. Burial will be private.