With pigtails¬†flying in opposite directions, Tracy Austin beat Chris Evert to win the 1979 U.S. Open singles title. Austin was 16, then (and still) the youngest singles champion in U.S. Open history, and after spending a celebratory day that included an appearance on Good Morning America, she headed back to her Southern California high school to start her junior year. The following spring Austin beat Martina Navratilova in two consecutive finals and took Navratilova's No. 1 ranking. She skipped the French Open because she was gunning for straight A's and didn't want to miss any more class time. "That might be my biggest regret," says Austin, 43. "Imagine a top player today missing a major because she wanted to do well in social studies!"
Still, those same conventional values may ultimately have saved Austin. Not long after she won the 1981 U.S. Open, at 18, she injured her back. The rest of her career was a swirl of surgery, rehab, comebacks and setbacks, until she retired for good in 1994. In part because she never perceived herself as a star--"I was just a normal kid who loved tennis," she says--she maintained a sunny disposition. "There was some 'Why did this have to happen?'" says Austin, "but there was more 'I'm lucky for what I did get to achieve.'"
Tennis is still a big part of Austin's life. Based in Rolling Hills, Calif., she plays several times a week. She is an outspoken TV commentator at three Grand Slam events. But her greatest passion is her family. She married Scott Holt, who invests in real estate, in 1993, and, like Evert, she has three sons: Dylan, 10, Brandon, eight, and Sean, five. "Being a mom is like tennis in that it's hard work and takes a lot of energy if you want to do it right," she says. "But it's the most fulfilling thing I've ever done."
PETER READ MILLER (AUSTIN TODAY)
RE-'DO -Austin, at home in California, long ago traded in the Gretel look (right, atWimbledon in 1980) for something more chic.