Serving Up the World
by Donna Parker
JoAnne Russell served up an NCAA women’s doubles title in 1975, while a student at Trinity University. Two years later, she netted the Wimbledon women’s doubles title and reached 11th in singles world ranking.
Most would consider that, ‘game, set and match,’ but not this Fighting Illini Women’s Tennis Coach, who sold her winning racquets to raise money for Project Nepal, an orphanage and school run by the sister of Head Coach Sujay Lama.
“It’s nice to think of someone else besides yourself and $200 a year provides school supplies for one child.”
When she was young, going to matches around the world, her mother made her promise to set aside one afternoon to ‘see things along the way.’
“If you came to my house, you’d see it’s very eclectic. I used to go places like Paris and buy paintings or pick up Aboriginal art from Australia, because I wanted to learn about culture,” she says.
She indulged that love of culture as she traveled the globe. In 1984, NBC courted this champion to broadcast matches beside industry giants Dick Enberg and Bud Collins. JoAnne says they became good pals and took exciting side trips while covering events such as the ’88 Olympics in Seoul.
Still, it’s her love of the game that keeps her on the court. At 50, continues to play
in the U.S. Open Master’s Event.
“I’m a driven person. I want to win,” she says.
It’s a quality learned in college when her mother shipped her to Texas with a book of stamps, expecting a letter home once a month.
“One thing Trinity provided me was a sense of confidence and independence,” says this tennis ace, who worked her way through college by serving in the kitchen on a work study program.
“You know how to find happiness within yourself,” she says, “and I’m in that place.”