Each year, Dan Mastous, a tennis aficionado from the U.S. whom I’ve known for many years now since he visited Cebu several years back, never fails to attend the Tennis Hall of Fame Awarding. Here’s Dan’s email report to me a week ago…
This year’s Hall of Fame crop was a group that, although relatively unknown may have (collectively) the largest Grand Slam title total in Hall of Fame induction history. In all the five main player inductees have 72 grand slam titles and 309 major titles to their names.
Inducted as modern player Hall of Famers this year were the doubles teams of Mark Woodforde/Todd Woodbridge from Australia and Gigi Fernandez (USA/Puerto Rico)/Natasha Zvereva (Belarus), and as a Past Champion, Owen Davidson, also from Australia.
Also inducted as tennis contributors were Brad Parks who was one of the founders of the wheelchair tennis tour, and Derek Hardwick who was chairman of the British Lawn tennis associate when it was decided to open it to professional players, thus helping usher in the modern age of tennis.
Many question the logic of inducting doubles “specialists” into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. No one can question the numbers. It helps that all four modern players also reached at least a Grand Slam semifinal, and were ranked in the top twenty as singles players (Zvereva peaked at no 5, and was an 0/0 looser to Steffi Graf in the 1988 French Open final). But at doubles they were special. They were a collective 2807 wins to 475 losses. That’s an 83% clip. As a comparison, all time great and future Hall of Fame locks Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have each posted a 76% winning clip, and Pete Sampras won just under 71% of the time.
Here is the tale of the tape:
Owen Davidson kicks in with 11 Grand Slam Mixed Doubles titles, mostly with Billie Jean King. He is the one of a small group to have won the Grand Slam in mixed doubles, winning all four titles in the same year.
Doubles is an integral part of tennis now and historically. In the past, many of the greatest singles players also played doubles, John McEnroe being the clearest example along with Martina Navratilova. Doubles is by far the most common form of tennis in the recreational area, and requires every bit the skill and talent that singles does. It is the poor step child now only because the media doesn’t give it the focus that singles gets. It’s treated as a specialized sport and a team only gets press when they are either very dominate, like the Bryan Brothers, or wacky, like the Murphy Brothers. Why that is, I don’t know. The International Tennis Hall of Fame has taken at least a step in the right direction by recognizing some of the all time great doubles teams. As an avid doubles player, I welcome this induction and hope more doubles players can be recognized for their skills in the same way as singles players do.
On a side note, it was only due to some international political negotiations that Natasha Zvereva was able to attend. Apparently there is a VISA restriction on Belarusians in the United States. She was given an exemption, possibly due to the fact that she doesn’t look too much like a terrorist.
Next year it will back to normal with Andre Agassi eligible for induction in July 2011. Book your tickets quickly. Videos of the acceptance speeches can be seen here: http://www.tennisfame.com/node/980