This year’s inductees into the International Tennis Hall of Fame features a diverse group of players. Three men who contributed much in helping to form the ATP tour, a legendary player from Australia and a former No. 1 who continues to have legions of fans worldwide.
Despite being a controversial figure in women’s tennis right up until her retirement in 2007, Switzerland’s Martina Hingis certainly deserves to be included in the Hall of Fame. Nicknamed the “Swiss Miss”, Hingis burst onto the tennis scene as a teenager at the age of 14 and went onto to become the youngest No. 1 player ever at 16 back in 1997.
She won five Grand Slam singles titles (Wimbledon, U.S. Open, and three Australian Opens) along with being twice runner up at the French Open. Hingis is also only one of five women in WTA history to hold the No. 1 ranking in singles and doubles at the same time in a career that saw her win 43 singles titles and 37 doubles titles.
Though her accomplishments on the court were numerous, Hingis made just as many headlines off the court as well. She made several public verbal jabs from everyone to Serena Williams, Amelie Mauresmo and Steffi Graf. A positive test for cocaine use in 2007 forced her to take a two-year ban from the sport even though she continues to deny that she ever used the drug. But now at age 32, Hingis seems more content about her legacy in the sport despite not being able to retire on her own terms.
“Being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame is a tremendous honor. It is truly a privilege to be part of such an exclusive group of tennis icons,” Hingis said in a statement. “I am looking forward to the enshrinement weekend in Newport and to being welcomed in by the other Hall of Famers.”
Cliff Drysdale may be one of the longest running and most recognizable tennis television commentators today, but his tennis career is much more than just his on camera work. South African born but now a U.S. citizen, Drysdale rose to as high as No. 4 in the world and was one of the first successful players to hit with a two handed backhand.
After his playing days ended, Drysdale took a leadership role in helping to launch the modern ATP Tour back in the 1970s. In that same decade, he began what would be his most recognizable work in anchoring live tennis for ESPN. His first broadcast was a Davis Cup match between the U.S. and Argentina in 1979 and from then on he has remained a presence on the network for over thirty years.
With his handlebar mustache, Ion Tiriac may be one of the most recognizable men in the sport though some may wonder what he does. A lot, and in fact the Romanian Tiriac has earned more success and wealth after he retired from being a successful doubles player back in 1970s.
Since then, Tiriac has been a manager for many players including his most high-profile role in helping to guide Boris Becker to multiple Wimbledon titles. Tiriac has also been extremely important in bringing tennis to television as well as serving as a tournament director, a tournament promoter and a tournament owner of his namesake BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy event in Bucharest.
Tiriac, who helps run the Mutua Madris Open event, created controversy last year when he introduced blue clay courts to the displeasure of many of the players. The blue clay will be gone this season, but expect Tiriac to continue to make his presence felt in the sport for years to come.
American Charlie Pasarell was a standout player in the 1960s that included him reaching No. 1 in the U.S. back in 1967. In the 1970s, Pasarell played a key role in helping to launch the ATP Tour and served on the ATP board as a tournament representative until 2012.
Pasarell’s biggest role was his 30 years working on the BNP Paribas Open event in Indian Wells that helped transform it from a struggling tourney back in 1981 to now the largest combined ATP/WTA event on the calendar. He also helped start the National Junior Tennis & Learning program in the U.S. that introduces the sport to at-risk youth and helps them stay in school.
Thelma Coyne Long is a legend of Australian tennis. From 1938 to 1958, she won over 19 Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Long achieved the rare feat of winning an Australian trip of all three events at the Australian Championships in 1952.
Reaching a career high of No. 7, Coyne is considered one of the great Aussie players and at age 94 remains active in the sport.
The induction ceremony will be held in Newport, Rhode Island on July 13, 2013.
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