Richards, Renée : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Richards, Renée

Richard Raskind

Raskind was a unique player: the first to compete in both the men's and women's professional tour. As Richard, this nationally ranked men's player, underwent a sex-change operation; and, as Renée Richards, subsequently played from 1977 to 1981, achieving a ranking in the low 20's. After his/her playing career ended, she coached Martina Navratilova, arguably the greatest player in the history of women's tennis.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. Aug. 19, 1934

Career Highlights:
Raskind was captain of the Yale men's team in 1955. In 1959, he graduated from the University of Rochester Medical School, and became an eye surgeon. In August 1977, Richards won a case in the New York Supreme Court to become the first reassigned female to play on the women's tour after being a man for the first 40 years of her life.

In her first professional event as a female, Renée was a finalist in women's doubles (with Betty Ann Stewart, in 1977), and continued to have a successful career afterwards. She was ranked as high as 20th overall (in February, 1979), and her highest ranking at the end of a year was 22nd (in 1977). Richards was twice a semi-finalist in mixed doubles (with Ilie Nastase) at the U.S. Open.

Although devoted to her career in medicine, Renée decided to become a professional tennis player after her sex-change operation, in part to raise awareness about transsexuals. Because she was banned from major tournaments at first, it was difficult for Richards to earn enough money to remain a tennis player. The New York Supreme Court decision allowed her to earn more money, and she gained even greater respect after coaching Martina Navratilova. After Navratilova won Wimbledon in 1982, Richards returned to medicine, and is still an ophthalmologist in New York.

New York City

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PEOPLE Magazine double issue, 3/15/99-3/22/99