Written by By Taft Pollack, CNN
Jane Brown Grimes, one of the sport’s most groundbreaking figures, has died at the age of 80, her family told CNN on Monday.
Brown Grimes, who died of cancer on Saturday, was the sole female coach of the US Open for four decades. She started coaching the sport in 1962 and turned around many promising female players including Bud Collins, Tracy Austin, Mary Joe Fernandez and Melanie Oudin, a top 20 player in 2014, who retired from professional tennis.
“It’s hard to imagine the sport without her, it really is,” Oudin told CNN in 2015, the year of the US Open, where she competed alongside Williams sisters.
“She was phenomenal,” Collins told CNN. “You know, there was something about her coaching skills which made the girls play better. They got stronger mentally.”
Grimes coached Oudin at the 2012 US Open tournament and her daughter Carol has taken over the role.
Her first coach was her father, Andromac Brown, who died in January 1996.
Jane Grimes with Caroline Wozniacki in 2017. Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
“The United States has lost a great sports-loving and tennis-loving woman today,” Andy Simons, chief executive of the USTA, said in a statement. “Those of us who knew her know what a pioneer she was in the world of tennis.”
Grimes was an avid tennis player as a youngster growing up in Tennessee, which was then in the Deep South.
“It was so prevalent to have people who were not athletic or not able-bodied that it was considered shameful,” Grimes told CNN in 2014. “If you weren’t going to run in football, you couldn’t play tennis.”
But through her own drive and commitment, she became competitive in her sport and went on to play tennis as a collegiate and then professional player.
After college, Grimes had a short professional career on the women’s pro tour with World Tennis Association tournaments.
Among her accomplishments, Grimes was named the Most Outstanding National Playmaker and Women’s National Playmaker in 1972 by the Association of Tennis Professionals. She was also inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2004.
Grimes was admitted to the Grand Slam Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Association of Tennis Professionals Hall of Fame in 2004.