TENNIS TOURNEY

It’s a big plus for Dallas to be graced by the presences of tennis tycoons Chris Evert Lloyd and Martina Navrati-lova. They’ll be competing here during the Virginia Slims of Dallas tournament March 7-13, drawing what many people predict will be record-breaking crowds. City officials are delighted, and local tennis buffs are busy reserving seats, but members of the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation have a personal reason to be excited: The proceeds from the competition have gone to the foundation since it first came to Dallas in 1972. Since then, the foundation has been able to fund hundreds of scholarships; if $100,000 is collected this year, it will become a $1 million foundation.

The original members of the foundation, such as Nancy and Frank Jeffett, were all friends of Maureen Brinker. Known as “Little Mo,” she was a Dallas tennis star who played at Wimbledon before dying of cancer in 1969. Foundation members have been working with the tournament to make it a success since its creation in 1970.

The first tournament was held free of charge in the small, private, indoor tennis courts of Dallasite Al Hill. Twelve players, including Billie Jean King and Margaret Court Smith, competed (for no prize money); limited seating allowed only a handful of fans to watch. The “bleachers” were two rows of folding chairs set up around the court. Participants received gold pins in the shape of Texas, with a small diamond chip representing Dallas. The foundation received $26,000 the first year; this year’s Virginia Slims tournament should bring the $100,000 that’s hoped for. They’ve come a long way, baby.

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