Tracy Austin was a day late for the opening of school in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif. last week, but her classmates understood. “Congrats. Tracy, our champ,” read the big sign they put up to welcome her back. “I thought some of the kids might be jealous,” Tracy says. “But everybody was very warm and happy for me.”
The 16-year-old high school junior with an A average had, of course, upset Chris Evert Lloyd to become the youngest woman ever to win the U.S. Open championship. Was Tracy sorry about thwarting Chris’ ambition to win an unprecedented five straight women’s Open titles? The answer was a quick “No.” Tracy was, however, gracious in victory: “Chris is a lady and I’ve always looked up to her. I’d like to be No. 1, but there’s no way they’re calling me that yet. This is my first big win.”
Tracy began playing tournament tennis at 7 and was only 14 when she played at Wimbledon in 1977, the youngest woman ever to compete. But Tracy has not grown up in a pressure cooker. “We don’t set goals,” explains her mother, Jeanne. “She does the best she can and that’s great. Some day you hope something good will happen.”
Tracy enjoys plenty of family support. Her father, George, a nuclear physicist, flew to New York to watch her win the championship. So did older brother Jeff, 27, a law student, who relaxed Tracy prefinals by challenging her to a tongue twister contest (“One smart fella, he fella smart” was one). Half an hour after she beat Lloyd, she was on the phone to her older sister back in California. “When she wins,” says Pam Austin Reynolds, “she talks as long as if she had lost, only she’s a little more excited.”
So far this year Tracy has earned about $300,000 on the pro tour, and her agent, attorney Donald Dell, plans to put a hold on an estimated $2 million in endorsements to allow Tracy to concentrate on finishing high school.
“I really don’t need anything big,” says Tracy. Most of her latest earnings will go into investments. “Winning the title is much more important than money,” she says, then adds, “but maybe I should go shopping a little bit more.”