For our sixth annual Heroes Issue, we’ve selected passages from the last 50 years of Tennis Magazine and TENNIS.com—starting in 1969 and ending in 2018—to highlight 50 worthy heroes. Each passage acknowledges the person as they were then; each subsequent story catches up with the person, or highlights their impact, as they are now. It is best summed up with a quote from the great Arthur Ashe, that was featured on the cover of the November/December issue of this magazine in 2015: “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”
The day prior to the ceremony, after taking a tour of the Hall of Fame’s museum, Stich said he had thoughts in his head and people he wanted to praise. But true to his creative, all-court style, he admitted his speech would be like his game style: open and improvisational. Stich delivered on his promise, beginning with an emotional pause. With awareness for the coolness with which he had won so many matches, on this day, his heart was beating loudly – Joel Drucker / July 2018
The year was 1992, and 24-year-old Michael Stich had just collected $2 million for capturing the prestigious Grand Slam Cup with a win over Michael Chang. As the German took post-match questions from the press, one stuck with him: “How do you intend to contribute to charity now that you’ve won $2 million?”
“Most 24-year-old kids don’t think too much about giving all the money away that you just earned,” Stich says today. “But the question stayed with me and planted a little seed. That’s how the whole process started.”
Two years later, Stich became the youngest charity founder in Germany, and one of the first on the ATP tour, when he launched the Michael Stich Foundation to help German children with HIV and AIDS. Through the organization’s funded camps, special events and Christmas programs, Stich has over time been able to reach nearly every child in his country with the disease.
When he started his foundation, Stich was just three years removed from his 1991 Wimbledon run, where he stunned the tennis world—and countryman Boris Becker—to take home just his second career title. He would go on to collect an Olympic doubles gold medal, become ATP World Champion, help Germany to a Davis Cup crown and reach Grand Slam finals at the US Open and Roland Garros before injuries forced his
retirement in 1997.
“The reason I played tennis is because I loved the game,” Stich said. “It was not because I wanted to be professional, because I didn’t know what it meant.”
Stich’s on-court accomplishments were rewarded in 2018 with the sport’s ultimate honor: induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The 50-year-old admits he’s still waiting for the honor to sink in, but he has plenty to keep him busy in the meantime.
“It’s great to look back on my career in tennis, but the foundation is having its 25th anniversary next year, and that’s something that lasts your whole life,” Stich says. “They aren’t just memories. They are present projects that are challenging and rewarding.”