Trans tennis star looks back at life in public eye

Christopher Hayes February 19, 2007
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Renne Richards, a former tennis player and one of the world’s most famous transsexual athletes, has admitted that she regrets the fame that she attracted.

Richards made a life-changing decision in 1975 to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

Talking to Reuters, she said it was the events that followed her operation that had the biggest impact on her lifestyle.

In 1976 she took the United States Tennis Association to court after she was banned from playing in women’s events at the U.S. Open, still one of the biggest tournaments in the tennis year.

She famously won her lawsuit, attracting international attention.

Richards, now 72 and immersed in her new life as an ophthalmologist, admits that her actions had life-changing consequences.

“I made the fateful decision to go and fight the legal battle to be able to play as a woman and stay in the in the public eye and become this symbol,” she told Reuters.

“I could have gone back to my office and just carried on with my life and the notoriety would have died down. I would have been able to resume the semblance of a normal life. I could have lived a more private life but I chose not to.

“I have misgivings about that. I am nostalgic about what would have happened if I had done it the other way.”

Prior to her sex-change, Renne, then Richard Raskind, went to Yale University and played tennis, captaining the men’s team in 1954.

She went on to reach the final of the men’s national 35-and-over championships in 1972.

After her sex-change, she played professional tennis from 1977 to 1981 achieving a ranking as high as 20th in the world.

Off the court, Richards admits to having a difficult personal life.

Before her surgery she married and fathered a son, Nick, whose struggle with education and employment admits Richards, were partly attributed to her lifestyle crisis.

“I am sure that [Nick’s struggle] had a lot to do with the chaos I went through in his childhood,” she told Reuters.

Richards also admits that it was difficult to form relationships after her public rise to fame.

“With my first romances, they didn’t know who I was but then I was found out,” she said.

“You have to be a pretty strong character to have a relationship with someone who has been a man originally, and famous. I haven’t had any romance in a number of years.”

Richards reached the US doubles final in 1977.

After retiring from tennis at the age of 46, she went on to coach Martina Navratilova to two Wimbledon titles.

Her autobiography, Second Serve, was made into a TV movie starring Vanessa Redgrave.

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