HILTON HEAD, SC, USA - It was on April 7, 1980 when Tracy Austin - one of the all-time greats of women’s tennis, and one of Tennis Channel’s own - rose to No.1 in the world for the first time.
She officially became No.1 after winning the Family Circle Cup, which was held in Hilton Head back then, but she had secured her rise to No.1 earlier in the week after one of her early round wins.
Austin recently reminisced about the day she found out she was going to ascend to the top spot.
“At Hilton Head they had a back porch area where we used to do our press conferences, and after I won my match and sat down, my mom came up to me and whispered to me I was going to be No.1 now. It was just a wonderful moment to share with my mom, because she was really the one who supported me all through my career. She was always by my side, she drove me to practice and everything - and she knew it was my dream to become No.1 in the world. It was also special to do it in Hilton Head, which was one of the first tournaments I ever played. It was like I came full circle.
“I loved the fact that it was my mom who shared it with me.”
At just 17 years old, Austin still remains the third-youngest woman to reach No.1 in WTA history - Martina Hingis was 16 years old, and Monica Seles was a younger 17 when she did it (by 17 days).
More impressive? Between May 10, 1976 and August 16, 1987, Austin was the only woman other than Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova to be No.1. She broke up the more-than-11-year dynasty for 21 career weeks in 1980, two from April 7 to 20, and 19 more from July 7 to November 17.
She still has more career weeks at No.1 than more recent WTA superstars like Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Jennifer Capriati, Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams. Angelique Kerber only just passed her.
Austin would end up finishing her career with two Grand Slam titles, both at the US Open - one in 1979 before she became No.1, and another one in 1981 - and a career haul of 30 WTA titles.
Here’s video from Austin’s first major title - she took on Evert in the final of the 1979 US Open:
And here’s a snapshot of what the world was like when Austin became No.1 on April 7, 1980:
- The No.1 player on the men’s tour was Bjorn Borg
- The Williams sisters weren’t born yet (neither was Roger Federer)
- Pac-Man came out six weeks later (and CNN launched seven weeks later)
- The first Friday The 13th movie wasn’t out yet (neither were The Empire Strikes Back or Airplane!)
- And this was the No.1 song in the US…