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September 07, 2009
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September 07, 2009

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Every SI Story ... Every SI Photo ... Ever SI.COM/VAULT

EXCERPT | Sept. 17, 1979

Ponytail Express

Tracy Austin became tennis's newest teen queen

After reaching the semis at Wimbledon, Austin made history by winning her first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open, as Barry McDermott reported.

Magnificently fulfilling her boundless promise, Tracy Austin became a legend. By winning the women's title at the tender age of 16, she is now the youngest champion—male or female—in the history of the U.S. Open.

This was a title that Austin was destined to win, but even so, her 6--4, 6--3 triumph over Chris Evert-Lloyd was startling not only because it came a trifle sooner than anyone expected, but also because it snapped Evert-Lloyd's Open championship streak at four and dashed any hopes she had of regaining the domination of women's tennis that she enjoyed as recently as last year.

The unrelenting and unflappable Austin was three months younger than Maureen Connolly was when she won in 1951. And, indeed, Austin is still a kid. After winning, she gave her bouquet of roses a couple of twirls and went off to telephone her friends and relatives. "I can't believe it," they all said. "I can't either," said Austin.

When Austin looks across the net, she sees two opponents: whomever she is playing and history. She relishes the fact that she is the youngest ever to play at Wimbledon. She also knows that Billie Jean King was 23 years old before she won her first U.S. Open title, and Evert-Lloyd was 20. Austin's second-round opponent at the Open, Andrea Jaeger, who is only 14, even called her "an older woman." She is hardly that, although at 5'4" and 110 pounds Tracy is no longer a toddler.

Austin won the U.S. Open again in 1981 before injuries cut short her career. In 1992 she became the Tennis Hall of Fame's youngest inductee.

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