USTA Middle States Women in History
In honor of Women’s History Month, USTA Middle States is featuring a handful of the many women who have helped shape our game, both locally and beyond. These women have been at the forefront of competition, advancement and overall tennis growth — accomplishing plenty on their own while paving the way for others.
Willa Bentley has made an incredible impact on the Pittsburgh community. Bentley is considered Pittsburgh's first competitive African-American tennis player, but wasn’t satisfied by only being a player. She wanted to make the game accessible to inner city youth who otherwise would have no way of paying for equipment, lessons or court time.
Bentley founded the Inner City Junior Tennis program in Pittsburgh (ICJTP), which has been growing tennis and developing champions of the sport since 1974.
ICJTP is fulfilling Bentley’s dream for it: blending together people from different neighborhoods and economic backgrounds, while teaching kids the skills they need to win on the court and in life.
Jane Brown Grimes
Jane Brown Grimes was USTA President from 2007-2008, becoming only the second woman to hold the position in the organization’s long and storied history. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) in 2014 and served as the organization’s President and Chief Executive Officer in 1991 until 2000.
Brown Grimes has held leadership positions for ITHF, WTA and USTA, and has been highly active with the ITF. She has been extremely influential in the tennis industry and helped launch QuickStart Tennis for kids ages 10 and younger. She served on the board for the USTA Foundation and has been active with USTA Middle States since she moved to the area. Brown Grimes worked closely with Rodney Street Tennis and Tutoring Association to help introduce tennis and life skills to more than 1,000 children. She was inducted into the Middle States Hall of Fame in 2008.
Althea Gibson broke racial and gender barriers far beyond tennis. Starting in 1947, Gibson won 10 consecutive national championships run by the American Tennis Association. In 1956, she earned her first Grand Slam title by winning the Doubles Championships at the French Open. Gibson then won singles titles at Wimbledon and US Championships.
Gibson won a total of 11 Grand Slams, including five singles titles, five doubles titles and one mixed doubles title. She was inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and International Tennis Hall of Fame. Later in her life, she helped the Middle States tennis community by working in parks and recreation facilities in New Jersey. Gibson now has a statue on the grounds of the US Open commemorating her strong influence on tennis and sports as a whole.
Philadelphia native Traci Green recently finished her 13th season as the head women's head tennis coach at Harvard University, where she helped contribute to its biggest turnaround in 35 years.
Before her time at Harvard, Green coached the women's tennis team at Temple University for three years. She also served as an adjunct faculty member in Temple’s College of Education, teaching courses in the department of kinesiology. Green had a successful career as a college player at the University of Florida, where she was a member of the Gators' 1998 NCAA championship team and was ranked nationally as high as No. 5 in doubles and No. 12 in singles during the 1999-2000 season.
She currently serves on the USTA Collegiate Varsity National Committee, on the board of the Black Women in Sport Foundation, and as Vice Chair of the Sportsmen's Tennis and Enrichment Center.
Jackie Kimball was one of the founders of the USTA's regional tennis leagues in 1977 and later became one of the pilots for the national tennis leagues. From her home in New Jersey, she helped build the section’s league program in the late 1970s. To get more players involved, Kimball would coordinate teams from all over the section and served for 17 years as a Middle States' league coordinator.
Kimball has been influential in coordinating and increasing adult participation in league play for years and has been the recipient of the inaugural Carol Strasser Memorial League Service Award.
Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King’s impact goes far beyond the world of tennis. Along with 39 career grand slam titles in singles and doubles, she broke barriers for gender equality and continues to make an impact in the community as a humanitarian and activist. She was a champion player and coach, captaining the United States Fed Cup team to four titles, and coaching the US Olympic team to four medals. King assisted in the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association and became its first president of the organization. She serves on several boards including the Elton John Aids Foundation and the Women’s Sports Foundation, which she founded.
King is very active in the Middle States community and across the world. As a junior player, she played many tournaments in the area including Merion, Germantown and Philadelphia Cricket Clubs. Later in her career, she brought four professional World TeamTennis teams to our section: the Pittsburgh Triangles, the New Jersey Stars, the Philadelphia Freedoms and the Delaware Smash. In 1974, King played for the Philadelphia Freedoms, and now is the proud owner of the team. King was inducted into the Middle States Hall of Fame in 2006.
A longtime player and coach, Ann Koger became the first African American women’s tennis coach at Haverford College. During her 35 years of leading the tennis program, Koger helped develop three conference singles champions, two conference doubles champions, and a host of players who earned conference, regional, and national rankings.
As a young college player at Morgan State University, she was the second female ever to play on the school's men’s tennis team. There, she ranked second in singles and first in doubles from 1969 to 1972. Koger is a decorated coach and player.She was inducted into the Middle States Hall of Fame in 2010, named 2016’s PTR Coach of the Year, selected as a member of the Black Tennis Hall of Fame Class of 2010, and inducted into the Hall of Achievement at the Philadelphia Association of Black Sports and Culture, Inc.
A Philadelphia native, Eve Kraft made an impact as a tennis coach, teacher, and author. Kraft was the founder and former executive director of the Education and Research Committee of the United States Tennis Association. In 1971, Kraft became the first woman to coach the women's varsity tennis team at Princeton University, and led the team to an undefeated record in the three years she coached the team.
Kraft later became the co-founder and director of the USTA Tennis Teachers' Conference, held annually during the US Open.The USTA now honors an award in her name for outstanding stewardship in community tennis with the Eve Kraft Community Service Award. Kraft was inducted into the Middle States Hall of Fame in 1994 and into the International Tennis Association's Women's Collegiate Hall of Fame in 1996.
Originally from Lancaster, Pa., Judy Levering was the first woman to serve as USTA President. She was instrumental in creating the USTA Foundation, which is the national charitable foundation of the USTA. Levering has also served on its Board of Directors since its inception in 2001.
Levering has been influential in helping with many USTA and NJTL programs and is also credited for creating the concept of Community Tennis Associations. In her time as Middle States president, Levering focused on promoting USTA league play and Team Tennis. She supported giving volunteers more important roles and wanted to increase community development.
Levering is a strong player as well. She was a member of a USTA League team that won the national title and has been a finalist in the USTA Mother & Daughter Championships with both of her daughters
Delaine Mast has changed many lives through tennis during her career and continues to help the sports community in her current role as Executive Director of Tennis Central NJTL. Since 1986, she has coached the men’s and women’s tennis teams at J.P. McCaskey High School in Lancaster, Pa., where she mentors under-resourced students.
Mast is the founder and Executive Director of the Junior Tennis Corporation of America, a non-profit that provides free tennis lessons to more than 10,000 youth in 14 cities across the country. She has served as the National Director of World TeamTennis (WTT) Recreational Leagues since 1986.
In 1998, Billie Jean King and WTT created the “Delaine Mast Award” to be given annually to the top WTT League Director. Mast was inducted into the Middle States Hall of Fame and was selected as the Professional Tennis Registry Member of the Year for Pennsylvania in 2010.
Born and raised in the Greater Philadelphia area, Lisa Raymond has been a star player in women’s doubles and mixed doubles all over the world. As a junior player, she competed in Middle States tournaments and won five U.S. National singles and doubles titles. Raymond became the top-ranked 18-and-under player at only 16 years old. She later received a scholarship to play for the University of Florida Gators, taking them to a national championship in 1992 and winning the NCAA singles titles herself in 1992 and 1993.
After college, Raymond continued her tennis career by winning a total of 11 grand slam titles including six in women's doubles and five in mixed doubles. She has held the World No. 1 Ranking in doubles and over the course of her career, Raymond won 79 doubles titles, and held the World No. 1 doubles ranking for a total of 137 weeks. She represented the Philadelphia Freedoms in World TeamTennis for many years and coached the team as well.
Ora Washington grew up in the Germantown section of Philadelphia in the early 1900s, where she became a star basketball and tennis player. She dominated her time in women’s tennis and won the American Tennis Association’s national singles titles eight times. At the height of her tennis career, she also starred on the powerhouse women’s basketball team, The Philadelphia Tribune, in the 1930s. She was considered one of the most valuable players and was often their top scorer.
In her later years, Washington continued to help younger generations learn to play tennis in her hometown of Germantown. Washington helped pave the way for future African-American champions on the tennis court, including Althea Gibson and the Williams sisters, and was inducted into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in 1976.
Best known for her contributions as a USTA volunteer and Philadelphia-area coach, Rose Weinstein’s impact on tennis goes beyond what most people realize. A Middle States Hall of Fame inductee, Weinstein began her public tennis career in 1985, when she began her local USTA involvement. A certified USPTA and PTR pro, Weinstein volunteered for district and sectional events, leagues, local leadership meetings and countless other essential functions. She also spent time raising funds for public and private events, individuals, junior and adult leagues and programs.
As a tennis player, Weinstein captured several Philadelphia and Middle States singles and doubles titles. She was part of four USTA League Tennis teams to reach national championships, including a second-place finish in 1993. Weinstein currently volunteers her time in the Philadelphia Area and is actively involved with numerous district programs, in addition to junior coaching.
There are many impactful women in Middle States who we don’t cover here. If there’s someone you’d like to see featured, please let us know by emailing NetPLAY@ms.usta.com.