Phoenix native overcomes assault to become most decorated racquetball player in America

Posted at 1:45 PM, May 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-15 16:45:38-04

A record nine national singles titles. Two world championships. Four U.S. Open Championships. Ranked the world’s #1 player four times. An eight-time winner of the Female Athlete of the Year award.

Simply put, Arizona’s Rhonda Rajsich is the most decorated racquetball player in America.

She began learning the sport at the former La Mancha Athletic Club in Phoenix, and she did so at a very young age.

"I've ben playing racquetball since I was two,” Rajsich said. “My parents joined the health club when I was two. They stuck me in a nursery, I found a way to sneak out, and when my dad was in between games I'd run up, steal his racquet, run around and chase that ball around on the court."

Fast-forward 36 years to April, when Rhonda knocked off the No. 1 player in the world at the Pan-American Championships in San Jose, Costa Rica.

It was an emotional victory, but certainly not her first.

In 2008, while walking in Hermosa Beach, California, she was jumped by two men with brass knuckles. They shattered the right side of her face. Rhonda had to have reconstructive surgery just six weeks before Team USA was scheduled to depart for World Championships in Ireland.

"I had convinced the head coach of the team to let me go,” Rajsich said. “A, because it was my spot, I earned it. And B, I said ‘Dave, I don't need my face to hit.’"

And you know what? She was right. Not only was Rhonda able to compete, but she won gold at the 2008 World Championships.

"It was a very emotional win for me because all I could think about the whole time was, ‘I'm not supposed to be here,’" she said.

At this point in her career, Rhonda says she's won everything there is to win -- at least twice. But the mark she'd really like to leave on the sport is to help grow its popularity here in the States.

"It's just a great game. It's not how many tournaments I win or whatever records I may or may not set," she said. “It's the mark that I want to leave a better future than I had to look forward to since I was that little 2-year-old chasing it in the court, following after my dad."