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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
From Tennis Week

http://www.tennisweek.com/features/fullstory.sps?iNewsid=6630919

Love Means Nothing In Women's Tennis By Nathanael Chura
Saturday, April 18, 2009

In the summer of 1977, 23-year-old JoAnne Russell, stood on Centre Court of the All England Tennis Club serving for the Wimbledon women’s doubles championship. Somehow she and Helen Gourlay Cawley, a pair of unseeded long shots, found themselves poised to upset the world’s number one doubles team, Martina Navratilova and Betty Stove. If there were any at the tourney’s start who gambled on the sinewy spitfire from Naples, Florida having the nerve to seize such an opportunity, it certainly wasn’t Ms. Russell. For starters she and her Australian partner had hardly met before their first-round match against the second seeds, Chris Evert and Rosie Casals.

"We were supposed to play in Eastborne the week before but she didn’t show up," Russell recalls. "Then at Wimbledon, I’m waiting on court two. Chris and Rosie are sitting there and they go, ‘Where’s your partner?’ I said, ‘She wasn’t in my locker room.’ I didn’t wanna say I never met her before! Finally Helen walks out, a tiny wisp of a thing. She had racquets, so I go, ‘That’s her!’ She comes over, looks at me and says, ‘Do you mind playing the backhand side?’ I go, ‘No, Helen. I always play the backhand.’ Meanwhile, I haven’t played the backhand side since I was twelve, but you can’t say, ‘Oh, no! Don’t put me there!’ Then she goes, ‘Do you mind serving first?’ I said, ‘No, Helen. I am serving so well.’ Luckily she missed my singles match where I lost 0-and-0 and double faulted 28 times to Rosie (Casals) in the worst match I ever played at Wimbledon." Nonetheless, in their debut match, Russell/Cawley blasted through Evert/Casals 6-3, 7-5 and steamrolled their way to the finals.

At 6-3, 5-3, 40-love, on the centennial anniversary of the Wimbledon Championships, Russell unloaded a big first serve into Navratilova’s backhand. When the return went wide, Russell and Cawley jumped for joy and walked away with the crowning achievement of their careers.

It was a career, however, that existed before prize money became sizable and one that ended too soon, at least from the penurious perspective of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). In December 2008 SportsBusiness Journal reported outgoing Sony Ericsson WTA Tour chief Larry Scott made $1.6M in '07 becoming the first unofficial exec in women's sports to top the $1 million mark in annual salary. Yet players like Russell who retired before 1991 get no help in the form of pension or healthcare from the WTA, not a dime, not a Christmas card.

"I'm pretty sure they lost my address," says Russell.

These days Russell, age 54, makes her living as a "freelance" teaching professional at the Grey Oaks Tennis Club in Naples, Florida while, with the help of her sister, caring for her aging parents. Freelance tennis pros are by-and-large unsalaried and uninsured independent contractors. The only way to ensure one’s livelihood is to be healthy and fit, something Russell does not take for granted. In between lessons she keeps in shape by running, spinning, stretching, yoga…or pounding groundstrokes against a backboard. This sort of dedication has served Russell’s senior career well. In 1993 she won the Wimbledon 35-and-over doubles with partner Betsy Nagelson and was a US Open Senior Doubles Champion in 1993 and 2002. But there’s no other option for a journeywoman pro of her era.

Born in Miami, Russell grew up in Naples when southwest Florida was still practically frontier territory. Her first formal tennis instruction came at age six from the only pro in town, Julius Lesser. "I started playing in his beginner clinic," Russell remembers fondly, "with a man named Russell Reitz." Mr. Reitz was 65 years old, but since Mr. Lesser did not separate the adults from the juniors, Russell and Reitz soon became hitting partners. "At ten years old," Russell says, "I was playing with all these slicer-dicers in their 60s, 70s, 80s…and boy could they lob. Those guys would be planted at the net, and of course I’m the young one. They’d yell, ‘Get it JoAnne! Get it!’ That’s who I grew up with."

When Russell turned twelve, her father drove her up to Cape Coral to play in a junior tournament. "I made it to the finals," says Russell. "I double faulted 26 times and still won the match!" After that match a local coach named Tommy Boys approached Mr. Russell and told him his daughter could be a pro. Apparently this caused Mr. Russell to chuckle. "I had no serve," Ms. Russell admits with laughter. "No groundies. Nothing!" Nevertheless, Boys managed to convince Mr. Russell. In fact, Boys gave Russell free lessons for fifteen years, even while she was winning the NCAA Championships for Trinity University. According to Russell, one day after she turned pro her mother looked at her and said, "JoAnne, I think you should start paying Tommy. He gave you free lessons all that time and he didn’t expect anything in return." Boys remained Russell’s primary coach until he retired in 1980.

From 1973-1988 JoAnne Russell was largely a middle-of-the-pack player. Despite singles wins over Navratilova, King, Shriver, and Casals, and a 3-1 record over Virginia Wade, she had just a 150-158 singles record, reached a career-high singles rank of No. 22 and achieved her greatest success in doubles. She paired with Billie Jean King on the 1977 Wightman Cup Championship team and made it to the finals of the US Open Mixed Doubles in 1981 with Steve Denton. All in all, Russell finished her tour doubles career with a respectable 218-175 record, her best results coming at Wimbledon. (In 1982 she made it to the quarterfinals in all three events: singles, doubles, and mixed.)

"Her personality is Big. Funny. Curious. Kind," says former tour player and sports broadcaster Mary Carillo of her long time friend and colleague. "When I first got to know her and watched her play I was taken by her attacking style and very obvious competitive nature. ‘Russ’ was a real emotional player. She let you in on what she was feeling, and often in very entertaining ways. One Wimbledon she beat the higher ranked Sylvia Hanika, a bruising lefty who was tricky on grass. The win got Russ into the quarterfinal against Navratilova. Hanika was extremely crabby after the loss and came to the press conference ahead of Russ. There she was asked if she thought Russ had a chance against Martina. Hanika huffily answered, 'No.' When the broadly smiling Russ showed up to meet the press the first thing someone did was repeat Hanika's inelegant statement about her: 'Sylvia says you have no chance against Martina.' Russ never lost her smile, barely stopped to think before she answered, 'I've got a better chance than she does.' "

So what happens to a "working" woman’s tennis player 20 plus years after retirement?
For a while, Russell was a tennis commentator for ESPN, USA, and NBC Sports. Her most memorable experience in the booth was calling the decisive match of the epic French Open finals trilogy in 1986 between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. But after Russell’s five year contract with NBC expired, the network decided not to renew opting for star-powered Evert. "I believe they liked me," Russell says, "but at some point or other they made the decision to go the celebrity route. Which was fine! But they didn’t bother telling me. I found out reading the newspaper."
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Part 2 of the article

Though Russell understands the NBC decision was simply business, she can’t help but be perplexed by the WTA's treatment of the founding mothers and early pioneers of the tour.


JoAnne Russell at home in Florida.
© David Parsons

Founded in part by Billie Jean King, the WTA was officially born in the week leading up to the 1973 Wimbledon Championships. After the legendary meeting of ’73 at the Gloucester Hotel in London that united all women’s professional tennis into one tour, the US Open became the first grand slam to offer equal prize money to both men and women. But while in 2007 the WTA at last won its hard fought 34 year crusade for equal prize money at all the slams, the organization’s current pension policy shows there is still work to be done with regards to equal opportunity for female athletes.
The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) which oversees the men’s tour adopted a pension plan in 1990 where male players who satisfied a 12 tournament requirement dating back to December 31, 1972 were eligible to receive annual benefits. That’s an 18 year gap between the men and women. Perhaps the difference can be explained by the fact that in 2007 the ATP donated $1.5 million to its annual pension fund. The WTA does not contribute any money to the women’s pension fund. The Women’s Tennis Benefit Association (WTBA) that administers the fund for qualifying WTA members draws its revenue from the current player’s prize money.

"When we talk about pension benefits," says Russell, "I’m sorry, but you need to go back. All the youth sees today is Billie Jean. There was a whole group of ladies who signed contracts with Gladys (Heldman) for $1. And I’m not even in that group! Those ladies could use a retirement. This is one of those things where I say, ‘Don’t be cheap!’ "

As it turns out, Ms. King agrees.

"I really do think they should go back to 1973 when we started the WTA because it was really our generation that started everything," says King when asked how she feels about the disparities in the WTA’s pension plan. "They know that’s what we want. I’ve been saying it for many, many years. When we started the WTA we gave 10 percent of our prize money to make it work. Where else were we going to get the money? We put our money in from day one."

Even Venus Williams at a recent press conference suggested the need to, "Get on that," with respect to the WTA’s current pension stance.

Larry Scott’s office at WTA headquarters had no comment in response to the issue. Perhaps his successor will have more to say on the subject.

At the end of the day, Russell is proud of where she came from and has absolutely no regrets about anything. "I love tennis in the way that a less gifted player (me) could beat some of the best players in the world," says Russell. "I get asked a lot about the money the pros make now as opposed to what I made back in the day. Who's to say I would have done better or enjoyed it as much? Maybe I would have quit playing a lot earlier."


Mary Carillo On JoAnne Russell: Her personality is Big. Funny. Curious. Kind.
© David Parsons

Not long ago Russell took a trip to Nepal as part of her long-term commitment to Support Project Nepal, a non-profit school that helps disadvantaged children. It comes as no surprise she brought a tennis net, balls, and racquets. The school’s head-master teaches all the kids tennis.

"When I left," says Russell, "I took my tennis clothes out of my bag, my sneakers, my shoes, my hats…everything I had and gave them all to the kids. They’re playing on a court where six feet behind the baseline there’s a brick wall. And if you go too far off the court on one side, there’s a giant ditch!" She laughs, "I mainly taught the kids how to half-volley."
So far, the school has succeeded in sending two juniors to the United States on tennis scholarships.
Upon further reflection, Russell adds one regret, "In a way, I wish I was a little more famous, that way I could raise even more money to help people."
 

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Joanne is probably best known for her TV commentary in the 1980s. She was also good enough tomake the quarters at Wimbleon in 1982 and win the doubles in 1977 with Cawley.
The articles on Russell were great to read. I loved her style and it is a shame that the weather at Wimbledon 82 was so bad and that there were so many matches crammed together. It detracted from her wins over Jausovec and Hanika, and meant she didnt play a show court for her quarter final. I LOVED THE QUOTE AFTER HANIKA SPOKE AT THE PRESS CONFERENCE!!!
I remember she played great tennis to get to the final in Brighton in 84 thumping Ruzici and Temesvari.
Yes she and BJK gave Sue Mappin and Lesley Charles a blasting in the 77 Wightman Cup 0 and 1- and they were one of the best teams in the world.
I am glad that BJK stuck with Pam Shriver for the final doubles at 78 Wightman Cup- Russell and Evert may just have got it from Wade and Barker.
 

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I have a huge soft spot for Joanne as growing up in the mid-80's she and Bud Collins and Dick Enberg pretty much tennis for me. My folks didn't have cable, so outside of CBS commentary during the U.S. Open, NBC at Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and Hilton Head was my main source for tennis. She was a pretty good commentator too, sometimes would get a bit too cutesy trying to out-cute Bud Collins, but often she was pretty bright and quite funny.

She grew up with Chris and as such tended to have a bit of an Evert bias; I didn't really notice it at the time (as I had a huge Chrissie bias myself it would've been hard for me to recognize) but I do recall hearing that Martina got bent out of shape (what a shocker!!!) about a few comments that Joanne made, especially when Martina showed up with glasses in '85 and Joanne said something along the lines of "Just imagine what she'll do now considereing how dominant she was when she was playing half blind."

I also read that Russell called Austin out on how she dressed when she first came on the tour wearing pinafores and pigtails playing up the whole kid thing to try to psyche out opponents. She does seem to have a point, as what 14 year old girl in the '70's would be caught dressed like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm the way Austin was, if not for strategic purposes?

I know she was coaching at Illinois or Southern Illinois in the '90's at some point, but I lost track of her. It does seem sad that there isn't a pension program out there, especially for players from the '70's and '80's, like Russell, who were good enough to stay on the tour for a long time but not good enough that they didn't have to work after retirement.
 

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I know she coached in college at Florida and Illinois as an assistant coach.
 

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I remember her as being better than a 'middle-of-the-pack' player; I think anyone that rises to No.22 in the world is more than that. I'd like to tell her, though, that she didn't lose 0 and 0 to Rosie Casals at Wimbledon in 1977-it was 1 and 1, slightly more respectable.
(However, I have to point out to the Tennis Week journalist, in fairness as a big Virginia Wade fan, that of her 3-1 H2H over Virginia, her 3 wins came after 1980, when Ms Wade was long past her best....)
 

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Discussion Starter #11
There's a second Russell-Martina story if my memory isn't wrong. When Joanne beat martina in the 1978 Family Circle Cup Martina said to her something like, "I like your new look."

Rusell's reply: "It's not a new look. You [She] just never noticed me before."

:lol:
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Here's a wire story about Russell from 1985

DON'T INVITE THESE 2 TO SAME PARTY; [SPORTS FINAL, C Edition]
Bill Jauss. Chicago Tribune (pre-1997 Fulltext). Chicago, Ill.: Sep 17, 1985. pg. 4


Copyright Chicago Tribune Co. Sep 17, 1985
Ilie Nastase has done a lot of name-calling in his stormy tennis career. Monday night, Nastase was on the receiving end.

"The guy's a pig. He has the manners of a goat," said Joanne Russell, Nastase's mixed doubles opponent last weekend in a tournament in Hilton Head, S.C.

Russell, who is playing in this week's Virginia Slims of Chicago tournament, charged that in Saturday's semifinal, Nastase "tried to take my head off with an overhead, called me every filthy name in the book and pushed me at the end of the match."

Russell and Ben Testerman teamed to beat Nastase and U.S. Open champ Hana Mandlikova. Russell refused to shake hands with Nastase after the match and said she will never play tennis with Nastase again.

"I shook Hana's hand and was about to shake Nastase's when I just said 'Yuk!' I'll never play him again. He essentially spit in my face."

Mandlikova said that playing with Nastase was "exciting, but he was just nasty."
 

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I loved JoAnne. She was great! And her comment she made after the Hanika press conference at 1982 Wimbledon. It was classic JoAnne!!

I always enjoyed her commentary. She was much wittier and more insightful than Chris Evert was (and I was a Chris fan).

JoAnne did reach a career high singles ranking of #11. The WTA records don't go back that far, so their website says her career high rank was only 23. But JoAnne was seeded #14 at the 1978 US Open. I think 1978 was her best season. She did well on the Slims circuit, and had that big win over Martina at the FCC.
 

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Yes, she beat Ruzici 6-1 6-1 then.
They were sometime doubles partners too I seem to remember.
A really good team and for a good few years. They were the pair who famously played Sue Barker and Ann Kiyomura on the Centre Court when the crowd went crazy and ripped their cushions of the seats and threw them on court. After the referee suspended playy!!!!!
 

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Here's a wire story about Russell from 1985

DON'T INVITE THESE 2 TO SAME PARTY; [SPORTS FINAL, C Edition]
Bill Jauss. Chicago Tribune (pre-1997 Fulltext). Chicago, Ill.: Sep 17, 1985. pg. 4


Copyright Chicago Tribune Co. Sep 17, 1985
Ilie Nastase has done a lot of name-calling in his stormy tennis career. Monday night, Nastase was on the receiving end.

"The guy's a pig. He has the manners of a goat," said Joanne Russell, Nastase's mixed doubles opponent last weekend in a tournament in Hilton Head, S.C.

Russell, who is playing in this week's Virginia Slims of Chicago tournament, charged that in Saturday's semifinal, Nastase "tried to take my head off with an overhead, called me every filthy name in the book and pushed me at the end of the match."

Russell and Ben Testerman teamed to beat Nastase and U.S. Open champ Hana Mandlikova. Russell refused to shake hands with Nastase after the match and said she will never play tennis with Nastase again.
"I shook Hana's hand and was about to shake Nastase's when I just said 'Yuk!' I'll never play him again. He essentially spit in my face."
Mandlikova said that playing with Nastase was "exciting, but he was just nasty."
That is a great one, good for Russell. Nastase had went from being funny to being sad and annoying in the latter stages of his career. By 1985 he had retired from singles but yes he did go on playing mixed and some Davis Cup for a while.
 

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A really good team and for a good few years. They were the pair who famously played Sue Barker and Ann Kiyomura on the Centre Court when the crowd went crazy and ripped their cushions of the seats and threw them on court. After the referee suspended playy!!!!!
Do tell us more! Did the crowd go bonkers because they paid money and the rain delay came early in the match, or was it that good a match?
 

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Do tell us more! Did the crowd go bonkers because they paid money and the rain delay came early in the match, or was it that good a match?
Hi Rollo, yes this made the news in Britain- here is excerpts from Tennis's Strangest Matches, excellent book by Peter Seddon.

As tennis fans know there is nothing like following a real ding-dong battle all the way to the final point, especially when it involves a British player snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
There's also nothing like the strange reaction of a perfectly respectable tennis fan when denied that ultimate pleasure.
The Centre Court crowd on the balmy evening of Tuesday 30th June 1981 was in fine mood as Britain's 'Devon Cream' girl Sue Barker and American Ann Kiyomura , seeded ninth, began battle with fourth seeds Jo Anne Russell and Virginia Ruzici(of course this is wrong Barker and Kiyomura were 4, Ruzici and Russell 9-IAIN)
But heads dropped as Barker and Kiyomura lost the first set 6-4 and trailed 5-3 in the second. The crowd,many of whom had gained belated entry to the sacred court only by dint of early leavers handing in tickets, prepared to gather belongings and troop home.
Who knows what galvanised the underdogs at that point, but galvanised they were as Barker and Kiyomura stormed back to take the second set on a tie break.
Now it was 'game on' and the crowd settled for the duration. Or so they thought. With the score at 5 all in the deciding set, with no tie break to come and a fading light, the fans looked on anxiously as the referee surveyed the skies:'We can see',they urged the officials, but to no avail as they were denied the climax they'd waited for. Play was called off at 935pm.
The British thing to do would have been to file away demurely but the crowd had gathered up a head of steam and bayed for somebodys blood. First boos and jeers rang out, then programmes and plastic cups were tossed on to the court, followed by the real heavy battery of a barrage of leather Wimbledon seat cushions.
The officials later claimed vindication as next day six more games were needed for Barker and Kiyomura to take the match with a 9-7 third set cliffhanger, this time in broad daylight. 'That's what happens when the hoi polloi are let in late in the day',some of the reactionaries were heard to mutter:'It wouldn't have happened in our day before the war', sniffed the old campaigners...........

Great story and very funny reaction!!!!
 

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Hi Rollo, yes this made the news in Britain- here is excerpts from Tennis's Strangest Matches, excellent book by Peter Seddon.

As tennis fans know there is nothing like following a real ding-dong battle all the way to the final point, especially when it involves a British player snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
There's also nothing like the strange reaction of a perfectly respectable tennis fan when denied that ultimate pleasure.
The Centre Court crowd on the balmy evening of Tuesday 30th June 1981 was in fine mood as Britain's 'Devon Cream' girl Sue Barker and American Ann Kiyomura , seeded ninth, began battle with fourth seeds Jo Anne Russell and Virginia Ruzici(of course this is wrong Barker and Kiyomura were 4, Ruzici and Russell 9-IAIN)
But heads dropped as Barker and Kiyomura lost the first set 6-4 and trailed 5-3 in the second. The crowd,many of whom had gained belated entry to the sacred court only by dint of early leavers handing in tickets, prepared to gather belongings and troop home.
Who knows what galvanised the underdogs at that point, but galvanised they were as Barker and Kiyomura stormed back to take the second set on a tie break.
Now it was 'game on' and the crowd settled for the duration. Or so they thought. With the score at 5 all in the deciding set, with no tie break to come and a fading light, the fans looked on anxiously as the referee surveyed the skies:'We can see',they urged the officials, but to no avail as they were denied the climax they'd waited for. Play was called off at 935pm.
The British thing to do would have been to file away demurely but the crowd had gathered up a head of steam and bayed for somebodys blood. First boos and jeers rang out, then programmes and plastic cups were tossed on to the court, followed by the real heavy battery of a barrage of leather Wimbledon seat cushions.
The officials later claimed vindication as next day six more games were needed for Barker and Kiyomura to take the match with a 9-7 third set cliffhanger, this time in broad daylight. 'That's what happens when the hoi polloi are let in late in the day',some of the reactionaries were heard to mutter:'It wouldn't have happened in our day before the war', sniffed the old campaigners...........

Great story and very funny reaction!!!!

I think I still have some of the newspaper clippings from 79-84, remember that Ruzici got hit by a cushion as running off the court (according to one of the papers - probably the Sun :) )
 

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I think I still have some of the newspaper clippings from 79-84, remember that Ruzici got hit by a cushion as running off the court (according to one of the papers - probably the Sun :) )
That was so crazy and unexpected wasn't it? I remember seeing the centre court in the news and it was a blanket of cushions!! Who said that the Italians were the only ones to throw objects on to court?
Poor Virginia being hit but somehow I think she would have enjoyed the drama!!
 

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I loved JoAnne. She was great! And her comment she made after the Hanika press conference at 1982 Wimbledon. It was classic JoAnne!!

I always enjoyed her commentary. She was much wittier and more insightful than Chris Evert was (and I was a Chris fan).

JoAnne did reach a career high singles ranking of #11. The WTA records don't go back that far, so their website says her career high rank was only 23. But JoAnne was seeded #14 at the 1978 US Open. I think 1978 was her best season. She did well on the Slims circuit, and had that big win over Martina at the FCC.
I'm pretty sure Joanne was never as high as 11, more likely high teens 16 or so. There were a few big names missing at the US Open of 1978 who would have been seeded ahead of her: King, Barker, Goolagong and this bumped her up a few spots. She was ranked 21 at the end of 1978 and the same at the end of 1980, and also 1981! 26 at end of 1982. (All year-end WTA rankings from ITF yearbooks.)
 
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