An annual tennis round robin tournament in Winter Park is supporting female tennis players at Rollins College — all while honoring one special alumna.
Local tennis players will take the courts in the 10th annual Nancy Reed Memorial Round Robin Tennis Tournament on Monday, May 13, at the Winter Park Tennis Center, with entry fees benefitting the Nancy Reed and Patricia Graham Endowed Scholarship for Women’s Tennis at Rollins College.
Kay Merrell, a member of the tennis center who organizes the event, said everyone who signs up will have a chance to play in the tournament, all while supporting the Rollins College women’s tennis team.
“There are many teams that play in the entire Central Florida area of different levels, and it’s a time for them all to come together,” Merrell said. “This enables everybody to come together and play and they really have fun; they really have a good time. Many of them still today remember Nancy.”
The tennis event and the scholarship honors the memory of Nancy Reed — a Rollins College graduate and elite tennis player who died July 25, 2009.
Born in Minneapolis on April 21, 1933, Reed started playing tennis at age 15 and went on to play at Rollins College.
After graduating in 1955 with a bachelor’s degree in biology, she taught from 1956 to 1974 at Western Jr. High School in Maryland and also earned her master’s degree in 1965 from George Washington University.
During the same span of time, Reed continued to develop into an internationally-known tennis player, ranking in the United States Tennis Association Top 25 from 1964 to 1970.
She also ranked No. 1 numerous times for USTA Women’s singles, USTA Women’s Doubles and International Tennis Federation singles.
In 1976, she moved back to Winter Park and continued to pursue her career in tennis — co-founding the Les Grandes Dames Senior Women’s Tennis circuit, working as the Rollins College women’s assistant and head tennis coach, and being named World Tennis Magazine’s Senior Women’s Player of the Year in 1986.
Reed won 96 Gold Balls — the award given to USTA National Champions — and was inducted into the Washington DC Hall of Fame, the Rollins College Sports Hall of Fame, the Florida Tennis Association Hall of Fame, the Central Florida Sports Hall of Fame and the ITA Women’s Hall of Fame.
She lived in Winter Park throughout the rest of her life, teaching tennis at what’s now the Winter Park Tennis Center. Merrell taught tennis alongside Reed for many years, and recalls her offering a class that taught all of the basics of tennis in just a single weekend.
“She had one big belief, and that was that everyone should have the opportunity and learn to play tennis,” Merrell said. “This was not just adults, it was kids, too — she and I taught a lot of kids in our kids program. She truly, truly believed that tennis was so important that everyone should learn to play and participate in it.”
Rollins College women’s tennis coach Bev Buckley also had a close relationship with Reed over many years. She remembers when Reed and her friend and tennis partner Patricia Graham first approached her about establishing a scholarship.
“We were friends and she approached me knowing she had cancer and she wanted to help our program,” Buckley said. “It was an honor to have been her friend. To have her endow a scholarship for the program meant a lot to me because it will always be there, even when I retire. … We miss her dearly. She was just a wonderful person.”