Courting Success: Ashe and Decades of Trailblazers
Some of the most influential players have at one time called the Mid-Atlantic home. During our Centennial Celebration in 2023, USTA Mid-Atlantic will highlight 50 noteworthy and intriguing players.
This month we are featuring nine incredible players associated with USTA Mid-Atlantic - including Arthur Ashe - one of the greatest tennis players of all time and native of Richmond, Va.
Almost all in this capsule collection of stories are Hall of Famers with indelible legacies, and a few on the list continue their work today giving back to tennis in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Make sure to visit our Centennial Celebration page to learn more about this special, historic year and all the ways you can join in celebrating with us. Look out for more player stories coming up next month and you can revisit last month’s stories here.
Harold “Hal” Burrows, who was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Charlottesville, Va., won the Virginia State Boys Championship in 1938 and 1939 and the junior state title in 1941 and 1942. He also won the Virginia State Championship from 1946 to 1948 while attending the University of Virginia, where he was team captain for his last three years. On the men’s tour he was ranked as high as No. 10 in singles and reached No. 3 in doubles, advancing to the semifinals at the U.S. Nationals/US Open in 1953, and the quarterfinals of the French Championships and Wimbledon in 1951 and 1954, respectively. A member of the U.S. Davis Cup championship team in 1943, Burrows was inducted into the USTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 1992.
Washington, D.C., native Doris Harrison proved to be a tennis champion both on and off the court. An accomplished player, she excelled in a wide range of age groups, winning the 1957 ATA mixed doubles championship and earning a silver medal in Women’s 65-69 singles at the 1991 National Senior Olympics. She also took home gold and silver medals at the 1996 International Senior Games. A driving force in the growth of tennis in the Washington, D.C., area for more than 40 years, Harrison wore a variety of hats, including instructor, clinician, league coordinator and captain, and organizer and director for inner-city youth programs and camps for seniors. In 1969 the USTA presented her with what is now called the Barbara Williams Service Award, making her the first Black woman to receive the honor, presented annually to a female volunteer who gives unselfishly of her time and energy to promote the sport of tennis. Harrison was inducted into the USTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 1996.
Marietta “Mary” Boswell was born in West Virginia and became the first woman to play on the men’s tennis team at Fairmont State College. After settling in Maryland’s Montgomery County and raising a family, she started playing competitively and became one of the most accomplished players on the senior circuit. Competing at events as far away as Australia and South Africa, she claimed the world No. 1 ranking in the 70-and-Over age group in 2002. She again became the world’s top-ranked player in 2007 in the 75-and-Over age group, along with achieving a Gold Slam by winning the clay, grass, hard court, and indoor national titles. Boswell was inducted into the USTA Mid-Atlantic tennis Hall of Fame in 2012.
Susan Spessard Cain
Susan Spessard Cain was born in Roanoke, Va., and grew up in Norfolk, Va., where she won the Norfolk City Open at age 17, the first of many area tournaments she captured, among them the Richmond City Open women’s singles and doubles in 1969, and the Richmond City Women’s 35s singles in 1976 and 1977 and doubles in 1977. She also became a top tennis official, serving as a chair umpire at the US Open from 1972 to 1989 and officiating at Wimbledon and the Australian Open. She was inducted into the USTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 1992.
Carol Wood of Rockville, Md., has been ranked No. 1 in the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section in every age division from Open to 85-and-over—including 2022, when she ended the year as the top-ranked player in the Women’s 85s—and has won more than two dozen national titles. She launched the USTA’s first intersectional tournament for women over 35 and over 45, and has frequently represented the United States at the International Tennis Federation Super-Seniors World Team Championships, the senior tennis equivalent of the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup. Wood was inducted into the USTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991.
Before becoming one of the first-ever sports agents—representing the likes of Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith—and a pioneer of sports marketing, Donald Dell of Bethesda, Md., was a standout tennis player. A three-time All-American at Yale, he entered the U.S. Top 10 in the early 1960s and captained the Davis Cup team to back-to-back titles at the start of the Open Era. Once his playing career ended he utilized his law degree from the University of Virginia to represent some of the biggest names in sports, found the sports marketing giant ProServ, cofound the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), serve as a tennis commentator for NBC and PBS, and launch the Washington, D.C., tournament now known as the Citi Open. Dell was inducted into the USTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 1995 and the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009.
One of tennis’s greatest ambassadors and the man for whom the US Open’s grandest stage is named, Arthur Ashe was six years old when he picked up a racquet at the Brook Field playground near his home in Richmond, Va. After sharpening his strokes on the local courts he began working with Dr. Robert Johnson to improve his game—and improve he did, capturing his first junior title at age 12. He went on to win the NCAA singles championship in 1965 while attending UCLA and established himself as America’s top player in 1968 by winning the U.S. Amateur Championships and the inaugural US Open weeks apart. Ashe reached the quarterfinals or better at the US Open six times and netted 33 singles titles on the men’s tour, including the 1970 Australian Open and 1975 Wimbledon men’s singles championships, while claiming five Davis Cup crowns as a player and two more as captain. On top of all his accomplishments on the court, it was Ashe’s lifelong fight for civil rights and social equality that continues to inspire us to remember and celebrate his life and legacy. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985 and the USTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991.
Willis Thomas, who grew up in Northwest Washington, D.C., developed a love for the game from his father, who was a USTA Official. When Thomas was about 11 years old he became Arthur Ashe’s doubles partner on the ATA junior circuit for nearly six years. Thomas went on to coach several professional players, including Katrina Adams, Leslie Allen, Zina Garrison, Rodney Harmon, and Lori McNeil, and for more than three decades was a program director and high-performance coach at the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation. He also served two terms as the president of the ATA. He was inducted into the USTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991.
A National Interscholastic champion who went undefeated for three years at her high school in Durham, N.C., Bonnie Logan came to Baltimore in 1963 to compete in the Maryland championships and collected the Girls’ 14s and 16s titles as well as the Girls’ 18s doubles crown. In 1964 she won the first of seven consecutive ATA women’s singles national championships. From 1967 to 1971 she attended Morgan State University in Baltimore and was such a dominant player she was allowed to join the men’s team. In her freshman year she became the first woman to win an NCAA-affiliated men’s conference title by taking the No. 2 flight at the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association championships. After college, Logan continued to break barriers by becoming the first Black woman to play on the Virginia Slims circuit that began in 1971.
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