Laura DuPont, 52, tennis star, managed club for Shriver

February 24, 2002|By Heather Dewar | Heather Dewar,SUN STAFF

Laura DuPont, an international tennis champion and former manager of the Orchard Indoor Tennis Club, died Wednesday at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., of cancer. She was 52.

Ms. DuPont, who lived in Lutherville from about 1980 to 1997, was once the ninth-ranked women's tennis player in the world.

She was the U.S. clay court women's singles champion in 1977 and winner of the German Open in 1976, the Argentine Open in 1977 and the Canadian Open in 1979.

On the tennis court "she was unflappable," said retired tennis star Pam Shriver, a Baltimore native who was DuPont's doubles partner on the professional tour.

"Her backhand was her best shot, and she was tactically very smart," Ms. Shriver said. "She knew how to win."

Off the court, she was shy but forthright, with a dry sense of humor and a passion for gardening, friends said. When she moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., five years ago, she dug up one of her cherished tree peonies and took it with her, said longtime friend Jane Grantham.

Born in Louisville, Ky., she moved to Charlotte, N.C., as a teen-ager, graduated from high school there and enrolled at the University of North Carolina. In 1970, she was the university's first woman athlete to win a major title in any sport when she won the National Collegiate Athletic Association women's singles title.

"She was a great natural athlete. She could play anything. She was a really good basketball player, too," said Ms. DuPont's sister, Suzette Wright of Potomac.

She was an avid, lifelong fan of all the university's athletic teams. "She bled Tar Heel blue basketball," Ms. Shriver said.

Ms. DuPont graduated from college in 1971 and immediately joined the women's professional tour. She was a frequent visitor to Baltimore in the late 1970s, where she was Ms. Shriver's regular practice partner.

In 1983, after retiring from the pro tour, she became manager of the Orchard Indoor Tennis Club, owned by Ms. Shriver.

"There were only four indoor courts," said Ms. Shriver of the club on Loch Raven Boulevard. "There wasn't a little bar. There wasn't a health club. It was pretty much strictly tennis. ... She enjoyed teaching there, and she was really a very good teacher."

In 1997, after the club was sold, Ms. DuPont moved to Chapel Hill to manage a tennis club there. Breast cancer was diagnosed soon afterward and she defeated the disease once, only to see it recur, her sister said.

In November, Ms. DuPont will be inducted into the National Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame, her sister said.

A memorial service was held in Chapel Hill on Friday.

Other survivors include her mother, Pauline DuPont, brothers Paul DuPont, Greg DuPont and Mark DuPont, and eight nieces and nephews, all of Charlotte, N.C.

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