Making a Difference in USTA St. Louis Tennis: Women's History Month
In honor of Women’s History Month occurring in March, check out these features on three prominent St. Louis-based women who have left an indelible mark on the game of tennis.
A lifelong St. Louisan, Kim Steinmetz is one of the elite players to come out of the Missouri Valley region. Steinmetz enjoyed a 10-year professional tennis career that included 26 Grand Slam tournament appearances. She earned a Top-100 ranking by her third year on tour and defeated the No. 8-ranked player in the world, Natasha Zvereva, at the 1988 US Open.
Steinmetz also earned a doubles victory over Steffi Graf and her partner, Jo Durie. She competed against such all-time greats as Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Pam Shriver and Billie Jean King. Before entering the pro circuit, Steinmetz became the first woman to receive a full tennis scholarship from Southern Methodist University. She finished her college career at Trinity University (Texas) and was a two-time collegiate All-American.
“I don’t think anybody in my family anticipated it would turn into a lifetime thing,” Steinmetz said. “In grade school, they had Career Day. I went as a tennis player. My first coach talked about traveling and getting free equipment. That all sounded pretty cool. The other thing she put in my head was you can even get a scholarship to play in college. I was maybe 14 or 15 — ‘OK, I really want to do tennis only.’ Getting a scholarship became a big goal for me at that point.”
Steinmetz began playing tennis as a 7-year-old, with her junior career culminating in a Missouri Valley ranking of No. 1 in singles and doubles for both the 16s and 18s divisions. After she retired from professional tennis in 1990, Steinmetz began passing on her knowledge via coaching. She is now the tennis director at the Missouri Athletic Club.
In addition to her victory over a player ranked in the Top 10, Steinmetz listed her first year competing in Wimbledon as one of her favorite accomplishments. That year, Steinmetz played in the qualifying round before the main draw in singles, doubles as well as mixed doubles. She won a trio of matches in each of those events to earn qualification to all three main draws.
After her pro career concluded, Steinmetz recalled an event where her family held a garage sale. She decided to gather all her trophies and silver plates that had been stored in boxes at her parents’ house. A young girl about the age of 10 came to the garage sale and noticed the hardware all set out on a table.
“She said, ‘Who won all these trophies?’” Steinmetz said. “And my sister pointed to me and said, ‘She did.’ The little girl looked at me and goes, ‘Oh, you won all these trophies?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I did.’ She said, ‘If I won one of these trophies, I would be so happy. But if I won all these trophies, I would be so proud.’
“She was just right on the money with that. So cute. And I’m like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I guess I am proud.’ I hadn’t really thought of it like that at all. I am proud of all these things. It just takes this little girl to make me remember it.”
A standout, self-taught player, Marilyn Mueller was a nine-time St. Louis district singles champion and a five-time Missouri Valley singles titlist. She also captured 11 Dwight Davis singles titles, eight Dwight Davis doubles championships and added 10 Dwight Davis mixed doubles titles.
“Marilyn was a wonderful player with an absolutely great Western forehand,” said Judy Dippold, who called Mueller a mentor of hers. “She just was honest as the day is long. Always on time, loved everybody. I never heard her say a bad thing about a person — ever. She would play with anybody. She was never standoffish because she was better than almost all of us.”
Mueller won a combined 20 Martin J. Kennedy championships: six in singles, eight in doubles and six in mixed doubles. She also collected two National Public Parks doubles titles and a pair of National Parks 40s doubles championships.
Mueller was active in the Muny Tennis Association for better than three decades, frequently participated in Senior Olympics and ran several St. Louis tournaments, especially adult events. She continued coordinating tournaments at Dwight Davis until 2007. Mueller died in 2017.
"I can’t say enough good, kind things about her. She was a delight,” Dippold said. “You would like her as soon as you met her. She always had a twinkle in her eye. She would be a friend to anyone. She would always be helpful. If you were around she would say, ‘Do you want a soda or anything?’ She was very thoughtful.”
Judy Dippold was pregnant with her last son when she ran her very first tournament — by herself, no less — for the Muny Tennis Association in August 1970. One month later, her son was born.
That son is now 50-years-old, and a half-century after her first tourney Dippold remains a central figure in the St. Louis tennis scene. Dippold has presided over countless tournaments throughout the decades, particularly at the junior level. She has been a national tournament director since 1992. That same year, Dippold became the first-ever USTA St. Louis district executive director.
“My mantra was always kids had to bring back three things after their match: balls, a smile and the score,” Dippold said. “I called kids winners and learners. There were no losers in my tournaments. Every time you played, you either won or you learned from the event.”
Dippold held every office within USTA St. Louis and is a walking encyclopedia of St. Louis tennis knowledge. She ran indoor tennis clubs for 20 years and has been recognized more than 20 times for an outstanding tournament by the St. Louis district. She managed the Dwight Davis Tennis Center and loved forming leagues and interclub teams. Dippold is now chair of the Missouri Valley Hall of Fame committee, of which she was inducted into in 2012.
Dippold was a 2020 Missouri Valley Gold Star award-winner and earned induction into the USTA St. Louis Hall of Fame in 2019. She received the USTA Blue Ribbon Award in 2016 as one of the top-three junior tournament directors in the nation. The St. Louis district’s junior awards are named in her honor.
“I’m proud of the fact I’ve met so many wonderful juniors growing up into adulthood who go to college and keep in touch,” Dippold said. “Who tell me now I’m a doctor, I’m an attorney, I’m a tennis pro. I can be at Dwight Davis and if I’m running a tournament — almost every time — a former junior will be in the park. They come and fill me in on their life and introduce me to their husband or wife and children. That has been such a benefit of meeting these wonderful, upstanding people who go on to have successful lives because of the game.”
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