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September 28, 2013 12:13 PM

AliceLadas_(2)If you happen to glimpse Alice Kahn Ladas on a tennis court, it’s likely you won’t forget her.

At age 92, this tiny woman will be the first to say she is not as fast afoot as she used to be. She can, however, still place a tennis ball just about wherever she wants.

It is not merely her court know-how that makes Ladas a memorable sight. When she plays, she carries on her a tank of liquid oxygen that weighs approximately 10 pounds. If you think that is easy to do, try sticking two or three bricks into a back pack, running a line up to your nose and then chasing a yellow ball for a couple of hours.

Ladas is more than an athletic marvel. In fact, she has lived a Forrest Gump-like life. She is a best-selling author who holds a doctorate from New York’s Columbia University, where Margaret Mead served as her dissertation advisor. She dined with Franklin D. Roosevelt, spent an afternoon with Pablo Picasso and learned to play the piano from the Oscar-winning composer Elmer Bernstein.

A licensed psychologist and therapist, she continues to see five to 10 clients each week at her home-office in Santa Fe.



How hard was it to get used to playing with an oxygen tank?

It was different, but I’m quite used to it now.

Have tennis players questioned the fairness of you having oxygen?

Nobody has ever told me personally that I had an advantage.  Believe me, I don’t. Because I play in USTA league matches, I wrote the USTA and explained my condition. They sent me a letter okaying oxygen while I play. I carry that letter in my tennis bag.

Why do you need the oxygen?

I had a blood clot in 2004 and it was misdiagnosed.  It started in my leg and went to my lungs, permanently damaging one lung.  I used to be a skier, but I can’t go up to 10,000 feet anymore.

Do you wear the oxygen when you’re not playing tennis?

I wear it only for aerobic activities, such as tennis and bicycling.

How tall are you?

Five feet.  I used to be 5-2½ .  I weigh 98 pounds. I used to weigh 115.

You look quite fit.

People ask me why I’m in such good shape.  I always say I was lucky.  I was never hit by a Mack truck.  I was never caught in a tsunami. I take an exercise class at Fort Marcy Park twice a week.  I do a lot of balancing routines. I do yoga and I stretch and tone.

How about your diet?

I started eating organic foods years ago and it was one of the best things I ever did.

What is your tennis rating these days?  

I’m about 3.0.  I make up for a lack of speed by focusing on the court. I strategize.  I watch who is moving where.

Did you grow up playing tennis?

No.  I went to the Fieldston School in the Bronx, and I didn’t play there. Gladys Heldman was a schoolmate and I knew her. She was Gladys Medalie back then. I didn’t play at Smith College either. I didn’t start playing tennis until I was 25.  I had a boyfriend and he showed me how on some public courts in the Bronx. Tennis is a game of control and restraint.  It’s hitting the ball where they ain’t.  I didn’t take the game seriously for years, however.  I began to play competitively when I was near 70.  I was still living in New York City then, and I was on a USTA team that played on Roosevelt Island. I had a 3.5 rating in those days.

When did you come to Santa Fe?

My husband died in 1989 and I moved here from New York in 1991.

Did you get involved in tennis immediately?

I joined the Sangre de Cristo Racquet Club in 1992 and I still belong. I played on a women’s 3.0 team and a 40-and-over team. Monica McLin holds a clinic on Sundays at the Alto Park courts and I hit balls with them. And Saturday mornings at Salvador Perez Park is my regular mixed doubles group.

GSpotBookjacket_(2)Your book, The G Spot and Other Recent Discoveries About Human Sexuality, caused a stir when it was published in 1982. In it, you write of a distinct erogenous zone in women which sex researchers such as yourself believe exists but others call a myth. Do people today know who you are?

Some do. Word gets around.  “Are you the author?” they’ll ask.

The book did very well, didn’t it?

It was on The New York Times best-seller list for eight weeks. It’s been translated into 18 or 20 languages. Hebrew, Norwegian, Afrikaans, Japanese. I’ve lost track. There were three authors, so we didn’t make all that much money because we had to split things three ways.  But I still get royalty checks.

What’s your tennis goal?

I want to play in the Senior Olympics. Maybe singles 85-90, 90-95.  I might even play in the 75s. I want to play doubles, too, so I’m looking for a partner 80 and over.

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