LOS ANGELES -- Vic Braden, a tennis player in the late 1940s and early '50s who became one of the nation's top tennis teaching professionals, has died from complications of congestive heart failure. He was 85.
Braden died Monday at his home in the Orange County city of Trabuco Canyon, according to his wife, Melody Braden.
He began playing tennis in grade school in his hometown of Monroe, Michigan. In high school, he won the Class A state singles title in 1946 and '47.
Braden was a 1951 graduate of Kalamazoo College in Michigan, where he was captain of the tennis team and later inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame. Standing just 5-foot-6, he was one of the top players on teams that won the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championships in each of his four years.
Braden turned pro after college at a time when there were only a few professional tournaments. He eventually joined Jack Kramer on Kramer's fledgling pro tour. Among those Braden played with were Jimmy Evert, the father of Hall of Famer Chris Evert, and George Richey, the father of future pros Cliff and Nancy Richey.
"Rest in Peace, Vic Braden.," Chris Evert wrote on her Twitter account. "Innovative, cutting edge kind of guy. Will miss his enthusiasm and knowledge of the game. He'll be greatly missed."
Braden and Kramer later co-founded the Jack Kramer Club in Rolling Hills Estates, California, where future Hall of Famer Tracy Austin learned to play tennis as a child.
"So sad to hear of the passing of tennis coach Vic Braden, a pioneer, innovator, & true legend in our sport!" Austin tweeted.
In 1971, Braden opened the Vic Braden Tennis College in Coto de Caza, California, an instructional facility for tennis players of every range of ability, from beginners to pros. The college has other locations in Kissimmee, Florida, and St. George, Utah.
Braden became known for his innovative teaching methods, and his application of technology to the basics of tennis instruction. He wrote several books and articles on tennis instruction. He was a licensed psychologist in California.
"Tennis has lost a treasure," Billie Jean King wrote on Twitter. "he was always on the cutting edge of science in tennis & is an all-time great in our industry."
Besides his wife of 43 years, Braden is survived by children Kory Braden-Hittelman, Kristen Paul, Troy Davis and Shawn Davis, and four grandchildren. His daughter, Kelly, died 12 years ago from complications of lupus.
"Vic always had a smile on his face. He was a very, very happy person," Melody Braden said Tuesday. "That happiness and caring and love just emanated from his body."
Melody Braden said her husband's body was donated to the University of California, Irvine, for research purposes.
A memorial service will be held later.