SBJ/August 29-September 4, 2011/In Depth

Tennis Hall of Fame member Kellmeyer looks back at her career

In July, Peachy Kellmeyer was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, honoring her more than three decades working as an administrator in women’s tennis. Kellmeyer performed nearly every job one could hold in women’s tennis, getting involved as the fledgling WTA launched to great skepticism in the early 1970s. SportsBusiness Journal’s Daniel Kaplan catches up with the tennis hall of famer.

■What are all the positions you have held in women’s tennis?
In 1973, I began as [WTA] Tour director and did everything imaginable, from scheduling matches and providing competition rules and guidelines to running out to the local sporting goods store when we ran out of tennis balls, filling in as a ball person late at night when the kids had to get home to bed for school the next day. I called lines when we ran out of linespersons, baby-sat for players’ kids, and at the same time worked with the local tournament director and the Virginia Slims executives in promoting the sport [Virginia Slims sponsored the tour]. Throughout my career, “operations” was always in the title, and I am proud of the fact that I participated for 35 years on the WTA board of directors since day one.

Peachy Kellmeyer (right) poses with (from left) former player Rosie Casals, WTA Tour CEO Stacey Allaster and WTA Tour player Marion Bartoli during the BNP Paribas Open in March.
■How did you get the first position?
While refereeing at the 1972 Virginia Slims Championships in Boca Raton, I was hired by Gladys Heldman and the 16 players [who formed the tour] to be the tour director for the upcoming 1973 Virginia Slims season.

■What is the most important development to occur in the sport?
“Battle of the Sexes” — King defeats Riggs [in 1973]. This got tennis on the front pages, got the guy in the local pub who was a sports fan now becoming a tennis fan, and got women all over the world to feel a new door had been opened. It was a cultural change, and I believe it to be the most important development to occur in women’s sports.

■What would you like to see changed with the game today?
I would like to see more former champions of tournaments recognized and/or participating during the worldwide events. They do quite a bit of this in golf, and I think it is important for everyone to know and understand the history in order to determine how best to plan for the future.

■Who was or is your favorite player?
No question, Billie Jean King. Without her vision and leadership, tennis, equality and women would not be where they are today.

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