Advantage All: Chicago’s Katrina Adams




By Judy Carmack Bross



When she hit her first her ball at six at the courts behind the Garfield Park Conservatory Katrina Adams, who described herself at the time as a “tagalong little sister” to her brothers participating in the Martin Luther King Boys Club program, she knew that tennis was the sport for her. That has proved an advantage all.


Katrina Adams


On October 5 the International Women’s Associates will honor Adams as Woman Extraordinaire its annual luncheon at the Ivy Room.  “Her international humanitarian efforts in her field advance the welfare of women and children and inspire constructive action in others,” Ria Rorich, luncheon Co-Chair said.


Ria Rorich


“Katrina Adams is the youngest person ever to chair the US Open Tennis Championships, the world’s largest sports event.  She is a global trailblazer for diversity, gender equality, and underserved youth.  She is the first African American to lead the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the first two-term Chairman and President of the USTA, and the first former player to hold that honor,” Rorich commented.  “From player to leader, Katrina has impacted private and public organizations worldwide.” 


The International Women’s Associates (IWA) is a Chicago-based nonprofit cultural and education organization connecting diverse international members dedicated to global understanding through cultural exchange, philanthropy, community service and friendship.  The annual luncheon has introduced women whose intense commitment and courage are reflected in a global arena. 


Adams stood out as a tennis champion at Whitney Young High School becoming one of the school’s greatest athletes.  She returned to Chicago last summer when the refurbished school courts were named in her honor.  The Katrina Adams Tennis Courts stand next to the Michele Obama Sports Complex, named after her fellow Whitney Young student.  The 1985 graduate was particularly proud that day when she spoke about opening the courts to the community as well. During the festivities she hit a few balls with students who were definitely in awe.


Adams won back-to-back Illinois State Singles titles in the 1980s before going on to become a two-time All-American at Northwestern, winning a national championship in doubles before winning 20 doubles titles as a professional. Her best Grand Slam Singles event was in 1988 at Wimbledon where she reached the fourth round. The same year she was a Wimbledon doubles finalist.



A frequent TV commentator on the Tennis Channel, she also appears as a regular sports commentator on the CBS Sports Network. Her book, Own the Arena: Getting Ahead, Making a Difference, and Succeeding as the Only One was published in 2021.


 Her Northwestern reunion coincides with the IWA award occasion.  


“I am looking forward to seeing friends at reunion and getting my favorite Chicago dishes—Home Run Inn pizza and a Chicago hot dog,” Adams said. “My dearest friends and cousins are here, and I am very honored to receive this award from IWA in my city.”


Adams leads humanitarian efforts around the world, encouraging constructive action in others.  She also works closer to home in encouraging youngsters to try tennis.  She serves as an executive director of the Harlem Junior Tennis and Educational Program.


“When I work with youth in Harlem, I encourage them to have fun first.  They should want to do it and not be forced to try tennis.  In the game you are learning skills you will use through your life. You learn to dream big but to also work hard.”


We asked Adams why tennis teaches so many life skills. “It is an individual sport and you have to be tactical, it’s just you out there, you are on your own. To get that winning feeling you have to practice hard.”


Lisa An Wong, Co-Chair, the Woman Extraordinare Luncheon

Founded in 1978 by visionary Doe Thornburg, IWA is a Chicago cultural and educational organization that inspires cross-cultural exchange, community service, dialogue and friendship.  By creating connections among people of diverse international backgrounds through programs and partnerships, IWA works toward a just and peaceful world. Ying Hirsh serves as IWA President.


IWA President Ying Hirsh


Nancy Economou, 2022 Woman Extraordinaire          Photo Credit: Jackie Jasperson Photography


Last year’s winner of IWA’s Woman Extraordinaire was Nancy Economou, founder and CEO of the global non-profit CEO of Watts of Love which are solar-powered lamps she has shared worldwide along with financial literacy training. 


Enjoying the Woman Extraordinaire Luncheon in 2022          Photo Credit: Jackie Jasperson Photography


2022 IWA Woman Extraordinaire Luncheon          Photo Credit: Jackie Jasperson Photography


For further information about the Women Extraordinaire Luncheon, visit