Tennis: A Great Match for Katrina Adams

At the age of 6, Katrina Adams joined a Chicago Park District program in her West Side neighborhood that offered tennis instruction for kids. It wasn’t that she was particularly interested in tennis. “I just stumbled upon the sport,” Adams says. “I didn’t look for it.”

Serendipity can be a great thing.

A Park District coach thought she had potential, and that winter she started showing up on weekends at the Washington Park field house at 7 a.m., because that’s when you could play for free. At age 7, she competed in her first tournament.

Later, as a student at Whitney Young High School, she won the Illinois State High School Championship in singles as a junior and a senior. That’s when she caught the eye of the Northwestern coaching staff.

“I wanted to go to UCLA or USC, but no one realized that I was a senior in high school because I was a young senior at 16 years old,” Adams says. “I decided on Northwestern immediately after my recruiting trip.” She quickly made her mark.

Adams and her doubles partner Diane Donnelly Stone set school records that no other Northwestern tennis players had topped until recently. In 1986 the pair had 26 victories. The following year, they were unbeaten, winning 21 consecutive matches. They took the NCAA doubles title and both were voted All-Americans.

“Northwestern was never known as a sports school,” Adams says. “I was proud to add a national title to the school.”

Adams’ collegiate successes led her to consider playing on the professional tour. With the encouragement of coach Sandy Stap Clifton and others at the University, she left Northwestern in January 1988 and turned pro.

In her rookie year (1988) Adams made it to the Round of 16 in singles at Wimbledon before losing to Chris Evert. In 1989 she was ranked eighth in the world in doubles. In 1995 she advanced to the third round of the U.S. Open in singles.

This year Adams made it to the doubles semifinal round of the 35-and-over event at Wimbledon.

Today Adams works as a color analyst for the Tennis Channel and spends time on the road participating in coaching clinics, putting on tennis workshops, working with the top junior players in the country and speaking to young people. “I try to correlate for them tennis skills with life skills,” she says. “I talk about the importance of education, the importance of good health and discipline.”

They are lessons, she says, that she learned at Northwestern. “In college you become truly independent, your discipline is honed. It has to be there for your studies. It helped make me who I am, and it increased my determination to be the best I could be.”

Adams still follows the Wildcat tennis team and returned to campus for the opening of the Ivan Combe Tennis Center in 2002. She is determined to find a way to earn her Northwestern degree. “I looked into taking correspondence courses or something on the Internet, but it isn’t available,” she says. “But at some point, I plan on finishing there.” — T.S.

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