Induction Year: 2023
Cindy Benzon grew up in Utah and took up tennis at age six with a goal of
winning a trophy like she coveted at her neighbor’s trophy shop. Goal accomplished when she played junior tournaments and became nationally ranked. SMU dangled a scholarship in front of her racquets, which brought her to Texas. She repaid the favor by helping them win the Southwest Conference her freshman year, and when she graduated, she was an NCAA All-American.
After college, she worked the front desk and taught a little at the Copperfield Racquet Club in Houston. Her lessons and drills became legendary, and she developed a big following, especially among the higher-level lady league players (the movers and shakers of club hierarchy). Eventually, she was promoted to Director of Tennis and then, as one colleague reported, “she just ran the whole club!” Meanwhile, she continued competing and in 1992 was the National Women’s 35s Clay Court Doubles Champion, the National Women’s 35s Hardcourt Singles
Champion, Women’s 35 Indoor Finalist, and at year-end attained the #1 World Ranking in Women’s 35 Singles.
In 2005, USTA Texas hired Benzon as a Tennis Service Representative. Her territory was Houston, and she served that hotbed of tennis players well, but she couldn’t be contained. She went to the powers that be in USTA Texas and begged to be put in charge of Wheelchair and what would become Adaptive Tennis.
Benzon’s first tennis coach was in a wheelchair, so she was familiar
with this population. Besides the knowledge, she had the determination and the desire to serve people with disabilities. Though this wasn’t in her job description and no other Service Representative had ever taken on additional responsibilities of this type, she was allowed to go for it. Of course, she jumped in and made a difference. That’s the Cindy Benzon way. Dr. Michael Cottingham is director of Adaptive Athletics at the University of Houston, which is the largest wheelchair tennis program in Texas and one of the biggest in the country. He has hosted some of the largest USTA and ITF wheelchair tennis tournaments in the US, the ITF Junior Camp of the Americas and weekly practice for adults and juniors. He says, “Without question, we could not have accomplished any of this
without the support of Cindy Benzon. While her professional help has been amazing, her personal investment and commitment is far more important. She changes the lives of wheelchair tennis players, investing in their games and their quality of life.
Wheelchair tennis and its athletes thrive in Texas because of Cindy Benzon.” Then there’s Adaptive Tennis. The name Cindy Benzon is synonymous with Adaptive Tennis, and it would not exist or thrive in Texas without Cindy’s involvement, not because it was in her job description but because it is in her heart to serve those with disabilities. Her list of “firsts in Texas” is massive and includes:
Start and sustain Blind and Visually impaired tennis
Start and sustain Standing Adaptive Tennis and bring its TAP
World Tour Tournaments to Houston and then Dallas
Grow and sustain tennis for those with intellectual disabilities
Developed and supported stroke survivors’ programs in multiple cities,
Created numerous veterans’ programs, clinics, playdays
Special Olympics – changed the way SO athletes play the game and influenced the whole country, has been State Games tournament director for more than 15 years
Assists and is active in the USTA National Adaptive Committee’s
National Adaptive Championship Tournament
Raised significant sums of money for USTA Texas to support all this
Cindy Benzon not only did all these things, she taught others to do them as well. If one could add up the number of tennis pros, volunteers, and players she trained through seminars, workshops, camps, and clinics to attempt to do what she has done for years, the number would be staggering. And she did this not only in Texas but throughout the National USTA network across the country. Her impact will continue for generations, and Texas and tennis is so much better.