C’mon! The International Tennis Hall of Fame has announced its class of 2021 inductees.
Two-time major singles champion Lleyton Hewitt, the revolutionary Original 9, and renowned coach Dennis Van der Meer will all receive their sport’s highest honor this July in Newport, R.I., alongside 2020 selections Conchita Martinez and Goran Ivanisevic following the cancellation of last year’s festivities.
Hewitt, the ATP’s year-end No. 1 in 2001 and 2002, joins an extensive Australian lineage that includes Rod Laver, Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson and Davis Cup-winning teammate Patrick Rafter. The Adelaide native, who celebrates his 40th birthday Wednesday, brought home 30 singles titles during his 18-year stint on tour.
“I am hugely honored to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. When you are competing, you’re so focused on training and your results that week or that year, you don’t really look ahead to something like this,” Hewitt, this year's lone Player Category recipient, said in a statement. “But when that is all compiled up and deemed deserving of becoming a Hall of Famer, well, it’s just the ultimate recognition for a player, and I’m so honored.”
On September 23, 1970, in response to significant gender disparity in pay and opportunity, Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Judy Tegart Dalton, Julie Heldman, Billie Jean King, Kristy Pigeon, Kerry Melville Reid, Nancy Richey and Valerie Ziegenfuss all signed $1 contracts with promoter Gladys Heldman. These trailblazers ultimately proved their male counterparts wrong through the success of Heldman’s Virginia Slims circuit, and later, King’s founding of the WTA Tour. As a result, the Original 9 are fittingly the first group to be enshrined.
“This is one of the biggest honors we've ever had. We're all so excited because of what we went through together,” said King. “The nine of us were willing to give up our careers for the rest of our lives and never play again for this opportunity to start something. Now, to be honored together for having an impact on tennis history and being part of the International Tennis Hall of Fame together is just terrific.”
Like the Original 9, the late Van der Meer was also voted in from the Contributor Category. Having dedicated more than 65 years to his sport, the Namibian native, who later became a U.S. citizen, is universally regarded for growing the game thanks to his innovation in standardizing teaching methods and certifications. In addition to his time as a coach, Van der Meer founded the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR), which today boasts in excess of 16,000 certified members in more than 125 countries. He passed away in July 2019 at 86 after battling a lengthy illness.
“To know that Dennis will go into the International Hall of Fame this July gives me great joy,” said his wife Pat Van der Meer. Dennis would be so honored and happy to be inducted with his great friends in the Original 9. I know he cherished that time in his life and was so proud of what they accomplished.”
Plans are in the works to serve up a range of in-person and virtual events throughout the induction weekend. The ceremony honoring both the 2021 and 2020 classes is scheduled for Saturday, July 17, 2021.