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Sat, Oct. 19

Column: Past, present and future at International Tennis Hall of Fame
'My Point'

From left to right: Winners Rajeev Ram, Pak Qureshi stand with finalists Matt Reid and John-Patrick Smith at the International Tennis Hall of Fame Open on July 23 in Newport, Rhode Island. (Adriana Armesto-Howard/Courtesy)

From left to right: Winners Rajeev Ram, Pak Qureshi stand with finalists Matt Reid and John-Patrick Smith at the International Tennis Hall of Fame Open on July 23 in Newport, Rhode Island. (Adriana Armesto-Howard/Courtesy)

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Hall of Fame inductee and former No. 1 player in the world Andy Roddick speaks at the International Tennis Hall of Fame Open on July 23 in Newport, Rhode Island. (Adriana Armesto-Howard/Courtesy)

It’s a bit of a trek from Prescott to Newport, Rhode Island, but every couple years it’s worth the time, effort and money to help honor the best of the best in the world of tennis. From players to contributors, innovators - inventors... special leading personalities who have made an impact over-and-beyond the norm in dedicating much of their life’s passion to the game. The people inducted have influenced history on and off the court in many ways.

From July 16 to the 23 of July the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open takes place on the hallowed grass courts of the Newport Casino, the original site of the U.S. Lawn Championships which began in 1881. Singles consists of 28 players and a 16 team-draw in doubles, where making it to a first round in singles match wins you a quick $5,420 and as the champion $95,495 dollars to take home. This particular men’s ATP men’s tournament has been in existence since 1976.

Wrapped around this tournament is the annual “Enshrinement Weekend”, where each years inductee’s are brought in to the fold of over 250 members. The International Tennis Hall of Fame touts one of the two best tennis museums in the world and has been in existence since 1954 when the Casino was saved from decay and destruction by Jimmy Van Alan.

The museum is a beautiful building of over 2,000 tennis objects, 25,000 artifacts and hundreds of thousands of images, videos and publications. If you have a thing for tennis, spending a couple hours at the museum is a must.

This year (2017) there were 5 new inductee’s for the Enshrinement which is a real happening in itself.

Player Kim Clijsters who won four major singles championships and reached No. 1 in the world; Andy Roddick also a former No. 1 and winner of the U.S. Open in 2003, Davis Cup Olympics and over 30 singles titles; Monique Kalkman van den Bosch (Wheelchair) four-time Paralympic Medalist, Steve Flink - a very distinguished tennis historian and journalist; and the one and only Vic Braden who wore more hats in the game of tennis than maybe anyone person ever as, player, promoter, coach, teacher, sports scientist and researcher, psychologist, writer, commentator, founder of the first real tennis colleges, and the list continues.

Being at the full day of events for the enshrinement begins with a mid-morning interview with all the inductees by the press. President Stan Smith conducts a history of the inductee’s lives, their achievements, asks them questions and then it’s turned over to the press for a Q&A along with a photograph session.

When that ends they go to lunch just off the horse-shoe court patio where it’s a who’s who of the tennis industry and special contributors to the Hall.

At noon they all line up and march into the Bill Talbert Center Court where everything is set up for family members and special friends to watch while being inducted and covered by the Tennis Channel.

It’s a sold out stadium of fans to hear their stories, feel their emotions and how honored they are to be brought into the ITHoF fold of tennis infamy.

Each inductee gets to choose a person to speak in their behalf before given the microphone - and many times are brought to tears, laughter and very tangible moments of what made this journey special and memorable to them. At each conclusion they are given jackets and medallions as keep-sakes.

Chris Evert said of Steve Flink, “He knows tennis the way few others do.” Steve who honored many others in his speech made us laugh with, “When giving a successful talk, Be Bright - Be Brief - Be Gone.”

Monique talked about how magical and powerful the game of tennis is and how tough it was to work full time and fit in her tennis workouts around that time frame, but how happy she is to see how far wheelchair tennis has come.

Clijsters who was one of the most liked people on the tour and had her longtime coach speak of how she wasn’t one to count her trophies - but was always there for her friends and family. Her thoughts went to three main areas - dedication, optimism and passion to reach the heights she achieved.

If Vic Braden (who died in 2014) had been able to enjoy the afternoon, he probably would have been asking each inductee the who, what, where and why of their lives. Always with thoughts, questions and action to help the game garner it’s next rung.

Andy Roddick was pretty dog-gone insightful. He said, “Tennis doesn’t get the credit it deserves with all it offers a person.” He said he really enjoyed getting to know his hero’s at very unexpected moments.

He continued, “I’m not the best of all time. I’m not going to win Wimbledon. I’m not the best of my generation. I’m not the most well-behaved. I’m not the most polished. I’m also never going to take this honor for granted. I’m never going to forget those who paved the way before us. I’m never going to forget the innocent parts of this game we all love.”

“I may not be a lot of things, but from this day forward, I’ll never be anything less than a Hall of Famer. I thank you from the deepest parts of my heart.”

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@gmail.com.

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