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Intermountain / Colorado

Celebrating Women in Tennis: The Ageless Rita Price

USTA Colorado | March 19, 2021

Rita Price is a whole bunch of things rolled into one amazing ball of energy and fun.

 

First of all, she’s a really good tennis player. World-class good. On several occasions, Price has held the top ITF ranking in her division. As you may know, ITF stands for International Tennis Federation, which means she’s been No. 1 in the world. 

 

She’s a multiple World Champion, a double-digit National Champion, despite being a bit of a late bloomer. You see, Price didn’t start playing tennis seriously until 1988, when she was 62 years old.

 

Rita’s first tennis tournament was the 1978 Denver City Open, and the experience proved to be life-changing.

 

“Tennis literally helped me survive a terrible divorce,” she acknowledged, adding that “it saved me thousands of dollars on therapy!” 

 

And she can’t be more serious that tennis has been her “passport to life,” giving her the ability to travel and make friendships of a lifetime. 

 

Price won her first major title at the Senior Olympics in 1991, capturing the title again 1995 and 1997. She won in mixed doubles in 2001 and in 2003. During that period, she also captained Colorado’s first senior league team to win a National Championship in 1992 (and again in 1994). 

 

The secret to her success? Well, she’s not exactly sure why she’s so good at tennis; she used to be a tap dancer in burlesque shows, and her theory is that all that footwork translated well to the court.

 

“I win funny,” she jokes. “I’ve always had great feet! I can run, run, run, run!” 

 

Funny or not, her on-court excellence garnered her USTA Colorado Senior Player of the Year honors in 2003. 

 

She captured her first USTA Gold Ball at age 79 in the 75s division (2005 US Grass Court Championship). She then started to roll, winning the 2006 doubles title at the Japan Friendship Cup and adding a pair of national titles in singles and an additional doubles gold ball.

 

Price won three gold balls in 2007, as well as the 2007 World Championship doubles title in Christchurch, NZ. She earned the singles and doubles titles at the Senior Olympic Games in 2008 and another gold ball in doubles, bringing Price her first No. 1 world singles ranking, in the ITF 80s division. In 2009 she won the singles title at the Perth, AUS World Championships.

 

Despite living on a fixed income, a few years ago she sold her house and moved in with a friend so she could afford to travel to tournaments. 

 

“This all costs money,” she says. “But now I can say I’ve been to Turkey. New Zealand. Last year I made $1,000 in Austria!” 

 

In 2011, Price held the No. 1 singles ranking in the nation in women's 85 singles, earning three national titles. In 2012, Rita won five gold balls, and three more in 2013. 

 

That same year, she was inducted into the Colorado Tennis Hall of Fame. When she was inducted, Rita thanked Franklin D. Roosevelt for creating the Works Progress Administration, which funded the first dance classes she ever took.

 

In 2014, Rita completed a Gold Slam, winning the USTA 85s doubles championship on all four surfaces (including a singles championship on clay). She won a second Gold Slam in 2015.

 

Price has been celebrating her 90s in style, sweeping doubles at every national championship since 2016 with her long-time partner Doris Lutz. She and Lutz have split the gold and silver balls at most of those events, with Price sweeping in 2016-17 and sharing titles in 2018-19.

 

The pandemic of 2020 was the only thing to keep Price away from a National Championship, having won a gold ball in 24 consecutive events. Dating back to her first year of competition in the USTA 85s, Price has won 43 gold balls in the last decade, 51 overall, in addition to her dozens of second place silver ball trophies.

 

No matter where she goes, she’s always looking to spread her passion, whether it’s for tennis or tap dancing, something she is more than willing to demonstrate.

 

You can keep track of Rita’s global tennis adventures on Rita’s website.. 

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