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USTA Florida honors Mary Joe Fernandez and other leaders as part of 75th Anniversary

USTA Florida honors Mary Joe Fernandez and other leaders as part of 75th Anniversary

USTA Florida kicked off a series of 75th Anniversary Celebrations last Thursday by honoring its roots in Miami and paying homage to the many legendary players and volunteers who have helped make the Sunshine State the gold standard for tennis. More than 100 Florida tennis supporters convened at the Biltmore Hotel in Miami, which serves as a key stop on the Florida Tennis Trail. Mary Joe Fernandez was the guest of honor for the event, which also served as a tribute to past leaders and commemorated the induction of longtime volunteer Susan Allshouse into the USTA Florida Hall of Fame. 

"We have such a rich history with USTA Florida, I am so blessed to be the president at this time because I've been able to meet so many people that have made such a difference in the tennis world, the history here is just so rich," USTA Florida President, Phil Girardi said during his opening remarks.

From left to right: Chuck Gill, Dana Andrews, Mary Joe Fernandez, Phil Girardi, and Adam Ross. Source:  USTA Florida.

Mary Joe Fernandez, former Top 5 professional women’s player, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, and ESPN Analyst, has been an inspiration on and off the courts. From her early days as a junior player, when she won four straight Orange Bowl Junior Championships to her professional career, where she is a two- time doubles Grand Slam champion, success has come often for her.

USTA Florida honored her achievements at the Biltmore Hotel, with congratulations from former and current pro tennis players including Ben Shelton, Frances Tiafoe, Coco Gauff, Jim Courier, and others. Fernandez has been a member of the USTA Florida Hall of Fame since 1999, inducted during the organization’s 50th year.

Above: A look at the amazing Mary Joe Fernandez. Source: USTA Florida.

With tons of success on the court, Mary Joe credited that to being able to grow up in the Sunshine state and having some of the best resources to grow her game. "Florida was the ideal place to start my tennis career. The weather, the access to all the courts, the competition, all the legends who have come through here," Mary Joe said. "And I think we have the best coaches in the country here [in Florida].

At Thursday’s event, USTA Florida inducted the late Susan Allshouse into the Hall of Fame. Allshouse served on a handful of committees in Florida and nationally, including the Community Tennis, Youth Tennis, 10 and under and Leadership Development committees. Susan was also a Grant Reviewer and on the Foundation Board. She received many awards, such as Volunteer of the Year and USPTA Service Awards, she wanted to change lives on and off the court and was an excellent mentor in the tennis community.

Above: Susan Allshouse in inducted into the USTA Florida Hall of Fame. Source: USTA Florida.

"Susan was a true giver to the game, she gave all of her time, her effort, and it didn't matter who you were. She was a coach, a mentor, and truly embodied what it meant to be a volunteer in USTA Florida," Girardi said, as he inducted her into the hall of fame.

Unfortunately, Allshouse passed away on November 5, 2020. Her legacy will live on forever as part of the USTA Florida Hall of Fame.

USTA Florida paid tribute to the past 75 years of tennis in the state, highlighting the growth of the organization from the beginning of the Florida Lawn Tennis Association in 1949 to becoming USTA Florida. Through the decades, USTA Florida has been a place where competition shined, legends are made, and a place where the courts are open for all.

Above: USTA Florida honoring the past 75 years. Source: USTA Florida.

Mary Joe narrated USTA Florida's story of the past, as the organization took a trip down memory lane of the past 75 years. Mary Joe was honored to do the voiceover as she remembered everything that makes USTA Florida great. "It reminded me of all the volunteers, Past Presidents, Board of Directors, just how much work goes into making this section the best section in the country."

In recognition of Women’s History Month, Marian Green, the first female president of the organization, was honored as a trailblazer of the sport.

"We've had eight women presidents, three of them who I am honored to share the spotlight with tonight," Girardi said. "Our section has always been forward thinking and we are honored to keep supporting the women of USTA Florida."

The organization also took time to honor some legendary members of the Florida community, who sadly passed away. Local journalist and founder of Florida Tennis Magazine, Jim Martz who passed away in December of 2023, and longtime University of Florida Women’s Coach, Andy Brandi, who died in February of 2024.

To conclude the event, USTA Florida Board President, Phil Girardi announced that the organization will be hosting the next 75th Celebration in Orlando in April, where the boom of Florida tennis today will be recognized. For more details about that event, the Florida Tennis Trail, hosting your own celebratory event, or other 75th Anniversary festivities, visit


Written by: Jaret Kappelman, Marketing & Communications Coordinator for USTA Florida. Be sure to check out USTA Florida, the governing body of amateur tennis in Florida, offering tennis programs for all ages and ability levels. 

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