Albert "Allie" Ritzenberg has lived an incredible life, and it has revolved almost entirely around the game of tennis. Born in 1918, he grew up playing on the public courts of Washington, D.C. After being the top-ranked junior in the mid-Atlantic states, he played No. 1 for the University of Maryland.
His teaching pro career was interrupted by World War II, but he returned to D.C. to build his coaching reputation and improve the sports' popularity in the nation's capital. He famously gave lessons to Jackie Kennedy, helping kick off a news frenzy and tennis renaissance.
In the 1960s, Ritzenberg would found the St. Albans School Tennis Center, which served as a tennis hotspot for the JFK administration and was the first private club in the area to integrate.
"No one got a title at the courts," the 98-year-old Ritzenberg says. "It was purely tennis."
As a fan of the game for so many years, Ritzenberg collected one of the largest collections of tennis artifacts in the world. You can see most of it the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.
Ritzenberg also kept competing, retiring as the No. 1 player in the world in the 85 and Over age group.
"My vision on tennis that people should have fun," he says. "And the idea is to instill the love of the game to the people who play."
Here's are some highlights of Ritzenberg's story:
- Born on Nov. 11, 1918, also known as Armistice Day
- Graduated from the University of Maryland in 1941, and taught at the Woodmont Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland
- Served in World War II
- Founded the St. Albans Tennis Club in 1962
- Taught tennis lessons to Jackie Kennedy and the Kennedy administration's defense secretary Robert McNamara, historian Arthur Schlesinger and military advisor Walt Rostow, to name just a few
- Competed against the likes of Bobby Riggs, organized exhibitions with legends like Althea Gibson and Roy Emerson and watched Don Budge play
- Won dozens of tournaments, including many USTA national senior titles, and was No. 1 in the 85 and Over division
- Built a collection of over 2,600 tennis artifacts, which were eventually sold to the International Tennis Hall of Fame