Former WTA Player Jolene Watanabe has passed away at the age of 50 after a two-year battle with cancer. Watanabe retired in 2001 after playing on the WTA Tour for more than a decade. Watanabe reached as high as No. 72 in the world rankings in February 1997 and No.
153 in the doubles rankings. Watanabe competed in the Australian Open on six occasions from 1994 to 2000, besides the other Grand Slams - she reached the second round of all the four Grand Slam tournaments. One of her career's biggest wins was over Jennifer Capriati in the first round of the 1997 Australian Open.
Watanabe also put the UNLV women’s tennis program on the map and played for the Rebels from 1987 to 1990. She was the Winner of the Big West Conference Player of the Year Award in 1990 and became the first UNLV women’s player to qualify for the NCAA singles championship in 1990.
She went on to coach the New York Buzz of World TeamTennis from 2003 to 2007 and was a U.S. Tennis Association certified high-performance coach. She was the head pro at the Smith Stearns Tennis Academy in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
Current UNLV coach Kevin Cory said in a statement, "Jolene was a great friend and will be missed by many. She was an amazing lady who was not only a great tennis player but also a mentor to so many young players who were fortunate enough to call her coach”. Watanabe is survived by her husband, Sylvain Elie. Funeral arrangements are currently pending.