SAN FRANCISCO — Tennis professional Wendy Turnbull, currently the world's third-ranked woman player, was neither a rich kid nor a child prodigy when she joined the international tennis tour.
At the age of 15, Turnbull had to quit school and work in a bank to cover the costs of developing her game. Six years later, at the age of 21, she joined the international tennis circuit.
It took her three years to climb to near the top of the ladder, but that's where she remains at the start of the 1985 season.
Turnbull's difficult climb has given her a unique perspective in viewing the youth movement on the women's tour.
It's a movement, she says, that has run into a few problems.
"When I started playing professionally on the international level, there really wasn't much of a tour to speak of," the 32-year-old Australian said. "There weren't trainers to tape you and tournament directors to show you around. There also wasn't that much money."
Since that time, professionals Billie Jean King, Chris Evert Lloyd and others have used their abilities and high profiles to help transform the loose confederation of women's tournaments into the Women's Tennis Tour. Each year the purses have grown.
"For the players who are 16 to 20 years old, the money has always been there," she said in a telephone interview from Florida. "They don't appreciate what we have now and, more annoyingly, they don't realize they have to get something back to tennis."
Turnbull said the tour players council is also currently in the process of adopting standards that would limit the number of tournaments that young players--aged 14-17--could play in.
"Players like (Tracy) Austin and (Andrea) Jaeger, played too much, too soon," Turnbull said. "They just weren't physically or mentally ready to play that many tournaments. When Chrissie (Evert Lloyd) started out she was only 16, but she only played in a couple of tournaments.
"After playing in the tournaments, she went to school and did the normal things young girls do. When she started playing tennis full time, she was more able to mentally handle the pressure."
Turnbull currently is playing in the International Players Championships in Delray Beach, Fla. She will then come to the San Francisco area to compete in a tour tournament in Oaklandthe week of Feb. 17.