Norine Karen (née Simpson) (-Alter) Collins
Born: January 14, 1966 (Sarnia, Ont.)
Died: October 17, 2013 (Chicago)
Member: Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame (2011)
Rene Simpson was a grinder, a battling, baseline belter who could be a pest to superior players but found it difficult to put away lesser rivals.
Rene (pronounced REE-nee) grew up next door to the Sarnia Riding Club, so spent much of her childhood wielding a tennis racket. With her father as coach, she won three junior national titles. She graduated with a degree in accounting from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, where as a Horned Frog she was voted All-American in singles and doubles in 1988.
She turned professional in 1988 at age 22. “I’ve played tennis for so ling I want to see how I would do as a pro,” she told the Toronto Star. “I’m either going to make it and support myself on the tour, or quit and get a job in my major.”
As a pro, she rose as high as No. 70 in the world rankings. Her highest doubles ranking was No. 32.
Her best performance in a Grand Slam event was to fight her way into the third round of the French Open in 1989. A personal highlight for her was competing at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
For a decade, she competed for Canada in Federation Cup competition, with a 20-16 record, then served as coach for three years, then as captain for another decade.
Collins experienced spasms in her left toes. This led to a diagnosis of a pinched nerve in her neck. When the spasms became more frequent and more severe, she underwent an MRI during which three tumours were found in her brain. She died 13 months after the diagnosis. She was 47.