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Old May 2nd, 2007, 01:29 AM   #1
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Judy Alvarez (What could have been)

When assessing the tennis achievements of Tampa's Judy Alvarez, there are two keys: referencing the results and listening to the stories. Alvarez's remarkable rise on the women's world tour in the early 1960s must be remembered in two contexts - factual and fun.

Alvarez has titles and trophies, many of the latter on display at her northwest Tampa tennis club. She also has tales that take you back to when big-time tennis was genteel and, at times, uproarious.

Take Wimbledon, 1962 for instance. Alvarez's first appearance at the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, a fortress of decorum that was downright stodgy and snobby 40 years ago. In the faux pas category, Alvarez quickly became the tournament leader.

Her first match was on an outside court. Good thing, too, because Alvarez, well, "snapped.''

"I go to serve, first time on a court at Wimbledon ... and my bra broke,'' Alvarez said, laughing. "All the [linespeople] on my court were women, and they looked around in their purses until one of them found a safety pin. Then they circled around me and held their coats out, so I could fix the bra. Well, I got it fixed but I went back to play and it came loose so I had to come over and fix it again.''

For a first-round doubles match, Alvarez and partner Carol Caldwell were put on famed Centre Court, right after a Rod Laver singles match. Alvarez looked ready, as she walked back to the service line to begin the match. Except for one thing. She had left her racket at her chair.

"When it was obvious I didn't have my racket, you could hear all this mumbling,'' Alvarez said. "Anyway, I got my racket and as I walked back out, I held it up so everyone could see it. Everyone applauded. Carol and I lost, but the crowd was behind us the whole time.''

There are other gems. Like the time at Wimbledon when a good friend and fellow player, having gone to see a London hypnotist to help her concentration, freaked out and couldn't play her match. She stood riveted at the back fence, claiming she had gone blind, and had to be led off-court by Alvarez.

As a teenager growing up in Ybor City, Alvarez spent many days catching a bus to the old Davis Islands Tennis Club. A good friend - and top rival - was future Tampa mayor Sandy Freedman.

"There was a whole crew of us back then,'' Freedman said. "I remember Judy's mother used to bring me pizza. But I don't know if she did it to weigh me down before I played Judy or what.''

Not all of the memories are good ones, of course. For Alvarez, 1964 forever will be bittersweet. She beat fellow Americans Billie Jean King, Darlene Hard and Donna Fales, only to be left off the Wightman Cup squad. Crushed by what she considered a political and perhaps discriminatory decision - Cubans weren't exactly commonplace in tennis - Alvarez quit the tour. She was ranked No. 6 in the U.S. at the age of 21.

"I could shoot myself for that, now,'' Alvarez said.

"I think Judy could've made a lot of money [if she'd kept playing],'' King said. "She was a great player, a very good athlete. And it was very important for her to be playing - it was important to me - because she was Hispanic.''

After a short comeback in 1970-71, Alvarez quit again to open Judy Alvarez's Club Tennis, a northwest Tampa facility she now is trying to sell.

At the age of 35, she came back and dominated her age group in the U.S. and internationally. Finally, in '84, she quit for good.

"And I think I kind of lost my identity after that,'' she said. "The competition was a big chunk of my life, and I had to put it away. I miss that a lot.

"But I'll tell you, if I had to play now like I used to, I'd need a doctor to travel around with me, to keep me going.''

Indexed and linked to Blast bio.
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Old May 16th, 2007, 11:34 AM   #2
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Re: Judy Alvarez (What could have been)

I am not familiar with her career - is she the same one who played pro golf in the late 60s/early 70s?
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Old May 16th, 2007, 06:14 PM   #3
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Re: Judy Alvarez (What could have been)

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I am not familiar with her career - is she the same one who played pro golf in the late 60s/early 70s?
Yes, she is!
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Old May 16th, 2007, 06:23 PM   #4
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Re: Judy Alvarez (What could have been)

She was a reasonable enough player but never threatened to break the world top 10.
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Old May 16th, 2007, 08:07 PM   #5
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Re: Judy Alvarez (What could have been)

Yes, she is!

Thanks - for some reason, I cannot remember her in tennis but will search for some bio data. I esp would like to know why she was left off the Wightman selection.

As a Hispanic, I know fully well how the sport of tennis was so segregated in the 60s. When I was about 10 or 11 my mother tried to get me into a city park to play tennis with other kids. But the attendants there refused to allow me in that group as they only wanted white kids to play. When my mother complained they threatened to have her thrown in jail!!

True, parks in other cities were integrated. But sadly, not so in that part of Brooklyn. It certainly was a different time.
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Old May 17th, 2007, 11:01 AM   #6
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Re: Judy Alvarez (What could have been)

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When assessing the tennis achievements of Tampa's Judy Alvarez
<snipped>

Great post trivfun. Great to hear about some of the lesser-known players, rather than just thread after thread about the same ones.
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Old May 17th, 2007, 06:27 PM   #7
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Re: Judy Alvarez (What could have been)

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Not all of the memories are good ones, of course. For Alvarez, 1964 forever will be bittersweet. She beat fellow Americans Billie Jean King, Darlene Hard and Donna Fales, only to be left off the Wightman Cup squad. Crushed by what she considered a political and perhaps discriminatory decision - Cubans weren't exactly commonplace in tennis - Alvarez quit the tour. She was ranked No. 6 in the U.S. at the age of 21.
I think that would have been 1963.

It would surely be relative. I don't think anyone could dispute that Darlene Hard, Billie Jean King and Nancy Richey were the top 3 US players and Donna Flloyd-Fales was an experienced doubles player. In fact herself and Carole Hanks were ranked #2 in the US so if anyone should have been in the US team perhaps it was Hanks. Gwyn Thomas was ranked ahead of Alvarez for that year so she probably deserved a place ahead of Judy as well.

She had many losses as well as victories - as The National Women's Rankings Committee said - "It was a long but uneven record".

The bottom line probably is that the US had an embarrassingly large number of good players to choose from and I can't see that the US Wightman Cup team for that year was anything other than the strongest available.
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Old May 18th, 2007, 12:16 AM   #8
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Re: Judy Alvarez (What could have been)

chris,

Do you know if there was any form of dirty politics going on behind closed doors that discouraged her?

For example, I well remember stories of pro baseball teams who wouldn't take their black players to certain trips because of racism in the USA. It was the old "we don't serve Negroes here" nonsense that discouraged many great black players from the past and forced many of them to drop out of the sport. As the story of Judy Alvarez is new to me (I was 11 years old in 1963), I am curious to know if something untoward went on in the background.
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Old May 18th, 2007, 06:02 PM   #9
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Re: Judy Alvarez (What could have been)

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chris,

Do you know if there was any form of dirty politics going on behind closed doors that discouraged her?

Sorry, wta_zuperfan I really wouldn't have any idea of whether or not there was anything underhand going on with regard to Judy.

It was just before my time any data I pick up would be from World Tennis magazine for the period.
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Old May 18th, 2007, 07:59 PM   #10
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Re: Judy Alvarez (What could have been)

Thanks chris.

And yes, there was a great deal of intimidation going on those days. Elston Howard was a great black ballplayer in that era for the NY Yankees and was subjected to numerous death threats. Had he been brought into the MLB a few years earlier as he should have been, he would today be in the Hall of Fame. He, like many others, had their families threatened with death and that is why so many quit pro sports. This happened to a lesser extent among Hispanic athletes who were light skinned so that this is why that was the first thought that came to my mind when this topic was brought up.

It is very difficult to play tennis or any other pro sport when your life, or that of your family, is being threatened. Life in the USA was a whole lot different back then and I am old enough to remember it.
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Old May 23rd, 2007, 01:49 AM   #11
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Re: Judy Alvarez (What could have been)

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Yes, she is!
Sorry about this. No, she is not. I contacted Judy Alvarez the golfer in Tampa. She emphatically said no. The reason i thought she was because she was in a tennis article unrelated. My bad.
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Old May 23rd, 2007, 09:41 AM   #12
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Re: Judy Alvarez (What could have been)

Was Florida Judy's home state?

I see she made to the Slims Masters event in 1971 winning 2 qualifying matches and beating Betty Ann Hansen to reach the quarter-final losing there 0 and 2 to the 16 year-old Chris Evert.
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Old May 23rd, 2007, 11:51 AM   #13
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Re: Judy Alvarez (What could have been)

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Sorry about this. No, she is not. I contacted Judy Alvarez the golfer in Tampa. She emphatically said no. The reason i thought she was because she was in a tennis article unrelated. My bad.

Thanks for the update -- do you have any photos of Judy? I tried to find some online but couldn't. A few profile and action photos might add to the conversation.

Thanx in advance.
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Old May 25th, 2007, 04:47 AM   #14
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Re: Judy Alvarez (What could have been)

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Originally Posted by wta_zuperfann View Post
Thanks for the update -- do you have any photos of Judy? I tried to find some online but couldn't. A few profile and action photos might add to the conversation.

Thanx in advance.
This article had a photo of her but I can't find the original article now.
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Old May 25th, 2007, 04:48 AM   #15
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Re: Judy Alvarez (What could have been)

Yes, Florida was her home state. Tampa was her hometown.
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