On June 23, 1972, President Nixon signed Title IX into law, prohibiting gender discrimination in educational institutions receiving federal funding. Title IX was largely considered the springboard for high school and women’s collegiate sports to get where they are today — but the battle for equality is far from over. Every Thursday evening at 10 p.m. in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of the bill’s adoption, 13 Sports will honor the women who changed the game for girls and women’s sports in Kansas.
“IX at 50: The Pioneers of Women’s Sports in Kansas”
LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) – Rebecca Jensen DiIanni attended a tennis camp in Kansas when she was only 12 years old. Little did she know that less than a decade later she would make history as Jayhawk.
“It was the best decision I could have made,” she said.
The Michigan native became the first Kansas tennis player to achieve All-America status in both singles and doubles in a single season.
Her junior year, expectations for her and her doubles partner, Nora Koves, were high.
“In my mind, Nora and I were the best,” DiIanni said. “I didn’t think, ‘Is it possible? Can we win it?’ We were going to win. I felt so confident in Nora and I felt good with the coaching staff and like the team-mates who always support us. So I felt like we had this. And so it wasn’t a goal anymore. was just something that we were going to get to by the end of the year.”
The pair did just that in 1994, becoming the first KU tennis players to win a national championship.
“As if that’s insane,” DiIanni said. “I still don’t believe it. That is amazing.”
After winning the title, the duo earned a wildcard draw to the US Open, where they advanced to the second round.
DiIanni turned pro the following year, following in the footsteps of her twin sister and two brothers.
“I was like, ‘Why not? Why don’t you join the rest of the family, give it a try and see what happens?'” she said. “And I did it for six, seven years and it was great.”
She and her brother Luke reached the quarterfinals of the mixed doubles at Wimbledon.
She also played at the US Open with her brother Murphy.
“I was living the dream,” DiIanni said. “I have to play all over the world. I have to play with my, my sister. I have to play with my brothers. I have to play in the Grand Slams. Wow. We are the only family in tennis history with four people, four brothers and sisters playing the Grand Slam at the same time. Where we come from, if you put the work ethic in it, and if you put the faith in it, sky’s the limit.”
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