Hall of Fame Inductee: Alison Riske-Amritraj
Alison Riske-Amritraj's rise through tennis traces back to her roots. Born and raised just outside of Pittsburgh, she quickly found a fascination (and obviously, quite a bit of talent) with the sport.
“We’ll just put it this way,” said her father, Al Riske. “She was beating me when she was 3.”
Riske-Amritraj grew up hitting with her father in her backyard, driveway and — much to her mother’s disliking — even in the living room. Her parents, Al and Carol, played tennis recreationally, but never imagined the talent that their kids possessed.
Riske-Amritraj is the youngest of three: sister Sarah McGlamery is nine years older, and brother Daniel Riske is seven years older. Not surprisingly, her siblings were top tennis players themselves, seemingly attached to their racquets at all times of the day.
So naturally, Riske-Amritraj looked up to her older siblings and watched them play. As she watched her brother and sister compete and train during their high school years, she forced her way onto the court to try returning their serves.
Even at that age, she got a few more back than most people would expect.
Tennis truly began to click for Riske-Amritraj at the age of 7, when she began training with her first coach, Janice Irwin. She trained with Irwin at the community-based Upper St. Clair tennis courts, immediately showing promise.
“We always trained with positivity, love and joy,” Irwin said. “When she was out on the court, she wanted to win, but in a quiet way. It was hard for her to lose.”
As she grew, Riske-Amritraj began competing in more and more events and her talent continued to shine through. She was a staple at Middle States zonals and intersectionals events, while standing out at USTA junior tournaments.
Middle States Sr. Director of Competition, Mike Kennedy, remembers Riske-Amritraj competing at a tournament in Landisville, Pa.
“It was a great match. She was probably 12 or 13, playing against one of the top 18 year-olds in the section,” Kennedy said. “I remember when Alison got to match point. She loved playing so much, there was almost a sense of disappointment or sadness that came over her because the match was about to end. That’s how much she loved to play.”
That love for tennis showed in more ways than one, including through her sportsmanship. Riske-Amritraj frequently won sportsmanship awards at junior events, and even if she didn’t win the tournament itself, her family says she’d celebrate her award as if it was a victory.
“She is fun, caring, extremely kind, humble and totally genuine,” Irwin said.
“If it hadn’t been for Jan, I don’t know where I would be,” Riske-Amritraj said. “Jan was the mainstay and the person I would always go back to. She has been an unbelievable support system.”
Through all of her success, she stayed humble. She continued to train on the community courts, and was always accessible and helpful to the people around her. She stayed close with her family as her siblings continued to stay involved with the game (Sarah competing at Vanderbilt University and Dan competing at West Liberty State).
Although her high school education was virtual through the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, Riske-Amritraj played on the Peters Township High School tennis team during the 2006 fall season, building friendships and enjoying all that team tennis offers. That year she led her team to the State Championship title, while also taking home the singles title.
Not a bad freshman year, right?
The following year, Riske-Amritraj won the USTA National Collegiate Clay Court Championships and earned a spot in the US Open qualifying draw. She also finished second at the USTA National Hardcourts and won the USTA Girls’ 18 National Championship Sportsmanship Award. She earned the No. 1 ranking in the country in the Girls' 18s category.
That’s when the potential for playing tennis at the next level entered the discussion.
Riske-Amritraj went on to work with Yves Boulais, the husband of former professional Patricia Hy-Boulais. She trained alongside her sister and also had training spots that took her to South Carolina, among other locations.
She turned professional after strongly considering Vanderbilt, where her sister was a four-time All-American. At that time, she began traveling the world.
Fast forward to today, and Riske-Amritraj’s pro career resume fills pages.
“I have had unbelievable people around me from start to finish,” Riske-Amritraj mentioned. “And more than anything, I think my success is a byproduct of who my family is. I am very fortunate.”
She earned her first WTA title in October of 2014 at the Tianjin Open, and now has three WTA singles titles. In all, she has 12 singles and one doubles title on the ITF Circuit.
She reached her career-high singles ranking of world No. 18 in 2019 and has evolved into one of the most consistent and accomplished Americans of the last decade, dominating her performances on grass courts.
Her best singles performances include reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2019, the fourth round of the Australian Open in 2020, and the fourth round of the US Open in 2013 and 2022. She also represented the United States at the Billie Jean King Cup (formerly the Fed Cup) in 2017 and 2022. In doubles, she reached the 2019 Australian Open semifinals with Jennifer Brady and the 2020 US Open quarterfinals with Gabriela Dabrowski, achieving a career-high ranking of No. 40 on January 13, 2020.
Riske-Amritraj has had numerous career wins over current and former top 10-players such as Ash Barty, Elina Svitolina, Sloane Stephens, and Naomi Osaka.
In July 2019, she married Stephen Amritraj in Pittsburgh.
Even as a top-tier athlete, Riske-Amritraj doesn’t forget where she comes from. Family friend, John Delura, mentioned that when she comes back to the Pittsburgh area, she finds ways to stay involved with the community.
“She's a kind and giving person who hasn’t forgotten where her roots started,” he said.
She has organized a free tennis clinic at Peters Lake Park where she demonstrates skills and stays to talk to players about the sport. She’s donated full bags of tennis apparel to underserved areas in the community and stays in touch with her childhood coaches about ways she can contribute.
“That’s the beauty of Peters Township,” Riske-Amritraj said. “It is a small community and they’ve all followed me since it all began. It really means a lot. Pittsburgh will always be home for me.”
Riske-Amritraj’s career is far from over. After having much success, it’s her attitude towards the game that keeps her going.
“She is an example of amazing resilience through all the adversity and challenges the professional tennis player experiences,” Irwin said. “There is no indication she will quit anytime soon.”
“I am beyond proud of her,” her sister added. “What she has achieved is so commendable and people just don’t truly understand how big it is to be in the top 50 for a decade. It’s so fun to watch her and see her be so successful.”