Dana Gilbert: Do What You Love to Achieve Your Highest Goals
May 17, 2018
Six months after picking up her first racquet, Dana was playing in tournaments, shortly after her 10th birthday. Tennis, to Dana, represented a great outlet because of the camaraderie and the focus on practice. Both her brothers, Barry and Brad, were avid players as kids. They began the game with their father, a recreational hard-court player. The family played on public courts practicing up to seven days a week.
Dana continued her love of the game when she entered Piedmont High and joined the Boys’ Team because that group provided the competitive challenge she needed. Other girls, like highly ranked Linda Siegel, soon joined this highly ranked team. Dana was a four-time California State Jr. Girls Singles Champions in 14s, 16s, and twice in 18s. She mirrored that accolade in doubles paired with Linda Siegel. ADVERTISEMENT She also ranked in the top 10 USTA National Jr. Singles for 12s, 14s, 16s and 18s. By 1976, Danawon the California State Open Champion Mixed Doubles with her brother Barry and Girls’ 16 Pacific Coast Singles Champion.
In 1977, Dana joined the UCLA team, playing #1 and #2 for the next two years. Dana was part of the first group Tennis Coach Gayle Godwin recruited with Title IX, allowing them to compete against top tennis schools including U.S.C., Stanford, Florida and Texas. While at UCLA, she played in the Maccabiah Games, the Jewish Olympics. She earned a gold medal in Singles in Israel, her first international competition. She also qualified for the first WTA main draw Singles, but lost to Martina Navratilova in the first round. In 1978, Dana was ranked #1 in Girls’ 18 in NorCal and traveled with the USTA Jr. Federation Cup team.
As an amateur in 1978, Dana racked up her most prestigious title at the U.S. Clay Court Women’s Singles Championship in Indianapolis. Entering as a wild card, she beat French Open winner, Virginia Ruzici, on her way to winning the title. She had her best ranking that year reaching #40. In 1980, Dana won the Japan Borden Classic in Singles and was a quarterfinalist at the Japan Open. She went on to win a gold medal in doubles at the 1981 Maccabiah Games. In 1982 at the French Open, she reached the round of 16 as a lucky loser, and also won the Japan Open Doubles Championship with Peanut Louie Harper. She earned a finalist spot at the Sardinia Open and semifinalist spot in Atlanta in Singles. Her results in 1982 earned her a WTA ranking of #53 in the world.
In 1984, Dana retired from the WTA tour and became a teaching pro at Mulholland Tennis Club in Los Angeles. In 1985, she became the first woman tennis teaching pro at Hillcrest Country Club. From 1986 until 1992, she assisted her brother Brad with day-to-day tennis affairs and also joined the family’s real estate property management firm. To this day, she continues to work in the family business.
Dana was inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1994. She was one of two women honored in 2011, in the first group of Legends of the Maccabiah from the Bay Area. Through her hard work and dedication, she came full circle when, in 2016, she was inducted into the Piedmont Sports Hall of Fame.