Society / The Seen

Houston Tennis Greats Helped Pave Way for Serena and Venus Williams — a Homecoming to Remember

Making Sure the Game is for Everyone

BY // 02.14.20
photography Daniel Ortiz

The “Game Set Match Gala & Tennis Fashion Show” served as something of a homecoming for Tennis Channel broadcaster Chanda Rubin, who recalled training at Houston’s MacGregor Park with tennis pros Zina Garrison and Lori McNeil.

“Before there was Richard Williams with Venus and Serena, there was John Wilkerson,” Rubin said of the revered Houston tennis coach. “It was inspirational.”

The former Grand Slam Doubles Champion and Olympian who reached No. 6 in singles in the world rankings in 1996 told the gathering at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, “I was thrilled to see players who looked like me and awed to be hitting with Zina and Lori.”

Both Garrison, who today heads her namesake tennis academy, and McNeil joined the evening that raised funds for the youth development programs of Houston Tennis Association (HTA) National Junior Tennis & Learning, (NJTL) which provides free tennis and educational classes and scholarship opportunities of area youth.

Also joining the fundraiser was former KPRC Channel 2 news anchor Rachel McNeill, who flew in from her post as an anchor at the NBC affiliate in Phoenix, to reprise her role as emcee.

It was a special evening for longtime NJTL volunteer Bev Taylor, who hits the tennis courts three times a week and turned 80 only a few days after the event. The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to the woman who proves that tennis is a lifetime sport.

PC Seen: Honorary chairs Sheila and Paul Adams, gala chair Lara Lehman, Lilly and Thurmon Andress, Claire and John Goosey, Yvette and Erik Simpson, Efe Ustundag and Suur Biliciler, Shelley Taylor Ludwig, HTA president Peter Farrell, HTA executive director Cheryl Hultquist and Charles Hooper, and Brad Blume of Tennis Express, which presented the fashion show.

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