NAGELSEN, “BETSY” (Helen Elizabeth Nagelsen)
Born 23 October 1956 in St. Petersburg, Florida
Married Mark Hume McCormack, 1 March 1986, deceased 16 May 2003
Height: 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Beat both Olga Morozova and Virginia Wade at her first pro event at Newport, Rhode Island in 1974. A back injury in 1975 sidelined her most of the season.
Nagelson won the doubles championship at the 1978 and 1980 Australian Opens (with Renáta Tomanová and Martina Navratilova). She reached the singles final of the 1978 Australian Open, losing to Christine O'Neil 6-3 7-6.
Nagelson's longevity was remarkable. She entered Wimbledon 23 consecutive years from 1974 to 1996.
Question: What a great tennis career you have had so far ! How old were you when you started playing and where did you play ?
I grew up in St. Petersburg Florida and when I was six years old my mom got invited to go watch a tennis tournament at the St. Pete Tennis center which was then called Bartlett Park. It was part of the Caribbean tour and attracted the best tennis players at that time. She took me and I got hooked then and there and begged for months for my mom to let me play tennis. A few months later she did and I’ve been playing ever since!
Question: Tell us about your Junior tennis — you were #1 in the Country !
In 1972 I won the 16 and under national’s and that same year lost in the finals of the 18 and under nationals and was co-ranked number one in the country.
Question: You had some great Doubles Wins as a player – is there one victory in particular that you enjoyed the most?
I did have some success in doubles as my game was more suited for it. I loved to serve and volley and it was also more fun with a partner. I want 2 grand slam doubles, one with Martina Navratilova, and got to the finals of Wimbledon one year losing a close one. Wendy Turnbull from Australia and I won the richest tournament at that time with all the greats in it and we each won a car. Some of my most fun doubles memories were in mixed doubles. One year in a Wimbledon semi final Scott Davis and I played up until then the longest match ever played losing to Martina Navratilova and Emilio Sanchez in a little over four hours. One year in a US open final Paul Annacone and I had a match point against Martina and Emilio again and lost that in three close sets. Peter Fleming and I won a world mixed doubles title which was also memorable.
Question: Your religion has always been a very important part of your life – how does your strong Christian faith help you in sports?
Yes, my relationship with the Lord has been the most important part of my life. I became a Christian at 16 and now many years later have found that His love for me and my wanting an ever closer relationship with Him has not only sustained me both through difficult circumstances but has helped me put things in proper order in a way that only knowing Him can do. I can not imagine any life which mine included competing seriously in a sport to dealing with the loss of a husband and being a single mom to all the other equally tough things people go through without the help from a perfect Savior.
Betsy is good friends with Monica Seles, and helped Seles get through the dark period following her 1993 stabbing in Hamburg.
Best singles ranking: #25
Best doubles ranking: #11
With the 2003 Invitational doubles trophy-partner Joann Russell is on the right.
1978 World of Tennis, page 335.
BETSY NAGELSEN MCCORMACK | ITA Women's Hall of Fame