Q. Where were you born?
A. Metairie, Louisiana
Q. How old were you when you started playing tennis? Who were the persons who inspired you to love the game of tennis?
A. I started playing tennis at 10. My parents made it clear that they wanted me to choose a sport and then focus on that sport. Athletes were in my family. My grandfather Oscar Tuero was a professional baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals and other teams. He was also inducted into the Cuban Hall of Fame in 2004. My father was an All Star baseball player in Texas as well as a fine tennis player. My uncle Jack Tuero was a top US tennis player. Tennis seemed to be the natural choice. My father was a Captain for Delta Airlines and arranged his flight schedule to practice with me as much as possible. Without him doing this, I’m convinced my career wouldn’t have gone too far. We would count strokes to see how many balls we could hit in a row and who would miss first. I was 10 and not happy when I missed first, which was of course, all the time. My competitive spirit was already there.
Q. Where did you attend high school? Did you participate in other sports other than tennis?
A. I attended St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Metairie, Louisiana. There was no time to participate in other sports or activities. My parents always stressed grades first. If I didn’t make the honor roll there would be no tennis.
Q. What were the first tennis matches you participated in? How old were you?
A. I entered my first tournament six months after I started playing. This was the New Orleans Recreational Department (NORD) New Orleans City Championships. I won and at that point the idea of “working hard at one sport” made sense. It was then that I decided that I wanted to be the top player in the country.
By July 1964, 3 ½ years later, I won the USLTA National Girls 14 and Under Singles Championships. By the time I graduated from St. Martin’s School I had won six national tennis titles.
Q. Who was your first coach?
A. I started taking lessons from Coach Emmett Pare’ at the New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club, at that time located on South Saratoga Street. He was the key to my success. He taught me, as he called it, the “solid basics.” He believed that in order to become a great player you must “master the fundamentals of the game through drills and play every day”.
Q. What were your first racquets?
A. First a Dunlop Maxfli and then a Wilson Jack Kramer
Q. You were the first female scholarship athlete at Tulane. You were a standout player on the men’s team. Please share with us this experience.
A. Well, I wouldn’t say “standout” except that I was a female. This was obviously not usual and it caused some disagreement with other teams. Coach Pare’ didn’t want any dissention so the choice of whether or not I would play was up to the opposing team. I didn’t go on road trips and ended up playing 9 matches. My record was 8-1.
Q. What did you major in at Tulane?
A. I graduated Cum Laude from Tulane after 3 ½ years in psychology.
Q. What were some of the highlights of your collegiate years?
A. While a member of the Tulane tennis team, I played the women’s professional tennis circuit but to continue as a member of the team I was required to keep my amateur status.
The highlights would be:
- Winning the 1972 Italian Open Singles in Rome
- Winning the 1970 U.S. Open Clay Court Singles with a semi-final victory over Nancy Richey, then considered the top woman clay court player in the world (in 1971 I was runner up to Billy Jean King)
- In 1971 I reached the quarterfinals of the French Open
- In 1969 my World Ranking for Women Under 21 was #1
- In 1972 my World Ranking for Women was #10
- Other highlights were playing on the United States Federation Cup teams in 1972 and 1973, where I served as Captain in 1973 (a competition between world countries); and playing on the Wightman Cup teams in 1972 and 1973 (United States vs. Great Britain). Chris Evert was also on this team.
Just as an amusing side note is that I’m 1-0 with Martina Navratilova. But I must confess she was just 17 and this was her first tournament in America.
Q. Have you visited the site of your win in Rome?
A. Yes, a number of years ago I visited the stadium, which is still in the same location. On the stadium wall is a plaque of all past champions. To see my name was almost unbelievable.
Q. You were inducted into the Tulane Hall of Fame in 1983. You were inducted into the Louisiana Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985. Your fellow inductees were Jack Tuero and Emmett Pare’? You were also inducted into the United States Tennis Association Southern Tennis Hall of Fame in 1995. Please share your feelings/emotions of being honored with these prestigious distinctions.
A. It is a great honor to be recognized and to be included among such prestigious players. This January Coach Pare’ will be inducted into the Southern Tennis Hall of Fame in Atlanta. Of course Mom, my sister Jennifer, and I will definitely be there as well as several of his past players and friends. We’re all looking forward to honoring him.
Q. What are your interests since retiring from your tennis career?
A. In 1975 I married William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist. We had two children, Billy Blatty and Jennifer Blatty. Jenn attended West Point and served as an officer in both Afghanistan and Iraq. As well as being a Captain in the Army, she was captain for the women’s tennis team. Billy currently owns five bar/nightclubs in Louisiana and Texas and produces numerous major events throughout the South.
My second marriage was to Bill Paul, now deceased. We had one son, David Paul.
David is currently in the MBA program at Northeastern University in Boston.
Attending Graduate School was something I had wanted to do and in 2000, I enrolled in the Tulane Graduate School. I was 50 and as nervous as I’d ever been. In 2004 I graduated with a Masters Degree in Anthropology, specializing in Paleoanthropology (the scientific study of the human fossil record). My dream was to excavate in Africa, at the sites of the great hominid discoveries, well known by the Leakeys’. In 2005 I was part of a Rutgers excavation. For four weeks I lived in a tent in dry riverbed in northern Kenya digging and sifting dirt. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
In 2006 I met Dr. Bill Lindsley, a former business school professor and dean, a PhD. from MIT. We married in 2007 and live in Savannah.
Now my passion is Paleontology, the scientific study of past life and fossils. I search for fossils along the Savannah River banks as often as I can and make frequent trips to different sites in Florida. Whatever I find, I identify and catalog. Our den looks like a mini museum. My kids always warn people not to ask any questions concerning either anthropology or paleontology because they say I’ll never stop talking.
Q. You recently visited the new City Park/Pepsi Tennis Center. What is your impression of the new tennis facility?
A. I was so impressed with the new tennis center. I immediately thought of the city park courts as I first knew them. Rita Krupp had a tiny shop that sold rackets, balls, wrist- bands and not much more. We had no place to go if it rained. During the Sugar Bowl we’d wait in freezing weather to be called for our matches. What City Park has now is a first class tennis facility. The courts are beautiful. I love that they are the color blue. I love the landscaping. The Club House has everything you could want or need. I can see the making of a lot of champions right here on these courts.