Fifty years ago this week, nine brave women took a stand against a growing disparity in prize money and playing opportunities for women in professional tennis by signing $1 contracts for the purpose of forming a new tournament for women. Two days shy of the fiftieth anniversary of this historic moment, the International Tennis Hall of Fame announced today that tennis’ Original 9 are among seven tennis greats who have been nominated for tennis’ highest honor – induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021 ballot features five accomplished athletes in the Player Category, and two nominees in the Contributor Category, which honors those who have made a transcendent impact on the sport.
On the Contributor Category ballot, the Original 9 are the first ever group to be nominated, as the honor has previously only been presented to individuals. The nine women who comprise the Original 9 are Americans Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Billie Jean King, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey, Valerie Ziegenfuss, and Australians Judy Tegart Dalton and Kerry Melville Reid.
Also nominated in the Contributor Category is Dennis Van der Meer, legendary coach and “teacher of teachers,” who recognized the need and developed a universal manner of teaching tennis in order to grow the sport. Van der Meer, the founder of Professional Tennis Registry (PTR), is nominated posthumously.
In the Player Category, four ATP Tour greats and an accomplished WTA doubles specialist have been named as candidates on the ballot for the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021 in recognition of their outstanding careers.
The Player Category nominees are:
US Open and Wimbledon champion and a former world No. 1, Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt
United States’ Lisa Raymond, winner of 11 Grand Slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles
2003 French Open Champion and a former world No. 1, Spain’s Juan Carlos Ferrero
Sweden’s Jonas Björkman, winner of nine major doubles titles and former doubles world No. 1
Two-time, back-to-back Roland-Garros champion Sergi Bruguera of Spain
Billie Jean King, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the Player Category in 1987, commented, “In a time where defying the odds and having a voice is more important than ever, it’s extremely rewarding to see the impact the Original 9 made 50 years ago can still be felt around the world today. There were three things we wanted for future generations. First, that they would have a place to compete. Second, that they would be recognized for their accomplishments, not just their looks. And, finally, that they could make a living playing professional tennis. Today’s players are living our dream. I was honored to stand with those eight women 50 years ago and am thrilled to see the Original 9 recognized by the International Tennis Hall of Fame today.”
I’d also like to add my congratulations to the other 2021 nominees. My friend and coach Dennis Van der Meer was a brilliant tennis mind and instrumental in our sport’s growth. Lisa Raymond, Lleyton Hewitt, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Jonas Björkman, and Sergi Bruguera are all champions, and I congratulate them on their nomination.”
Player Category nominee Lleyton Hewitt commented, “I’m incredibly honored and grateful to receive this nomination. I had so many great Australians to look up to while I was coming up in the sport. To know that my career is up for consideration to be recognized alongside the likes of Hall of Famers Tony Roche, John Newcombe, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Ken Rosewall, and so many other greats who I admired is just an amazing honor.”
TENNIS' ULTIMATE HONOR
Induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame is the ultimate honor in tennis, representing a sum of the honoree’s achievements and impact as being at the highest possible level in the sport.
“This year’s nominees, players and contributors, have all made a tremendous impact in and around the sport of tennis in their own unique ways, on and off the court,” said ITHF President Stan Smith. “All five Player Category candidates have achieved incredible results on tennis’ biggest stages - Grand Slam titles, Olympic medals, and topping the world rankings. Dennis Van der Meer’s lasting impact is seen in work of thousands of coaches and teaching pros around the world every day.”
He continued, “Additionally, as we approach the 50th anniversary of the Original 9’s brave actions to create a opportunities for women to compete and have professional career in tennis, and we look at the sport’s massive success in the past 50 years thanks to their courage, it is truly my honor to be able to announce that the Original 9 have been nominated for the Hall of Fame.”
The Player Category recognizes ATP and WTA players who have achieved a distinguished record of competitive achievement at the highest international level.
Five of this year’s candidates are nominated in the Player Category. Hewitt, Ferrero, and Raymond are new to the ballot, and Bjorkman and Bruguera are returning nominees, as the ITHF policy is such that a player candidate remains on the ballot for up to three consecutive years, unless voted in, per the ITHF Enshrinement Policies and Procedures.
The youngest player to ever claim the No. 1 spot in men’s professional tennis, Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt did so at just 20 years of age in 2001, fueled by his victory at the US Open where he defeated Pete Sampras in straight sets. Hewitt won his second major title in 2002, when he was victorious at Wimbledon. He was also a finalist at the Australian Open in 2005. Hewitt maintained a ranking in the top-10 for more than five years and won 30 career singles titles. Twice he helped Australia win the Davis Cup – in 1999 when he was 18 years old, and again in 2003.
Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero reached his first major final at Roland-Garros in 2002, upsetting then world No. 4 Andre Agassi and No. 2 Marat Safin en route. He fell in the final to compatriot Albert Costa. Ferrero returned to the final one year later, winning the 2003 Roland-Garros title. Later that year, Ferrero reached the final of the US Open. His success in 2003 propelled him to the world No. 1 ranking, and he spent 139 weeks inside the world top-5. In 2000, Ferrero became a hero of the first-ever Spanish Davis Cup championship team when he won the final point in Barcelona against fellow nominee Lleyton Hewitt.
American Lisa Raymond won 11 major titles with six different partners over the course of her career. Raymond won six in women’s doubles, where she has a career Grand Slam, and five in mixed doubles. She also earned a bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics with her mixed doubles partner, Mike Bryan, and was a member of a championship United States Fed Cup team. Raymond was ranked world No. 1 in doubles for 137 weeks and reached a career high of world No. 15 in singles.
Former world No. 1 doubles player Jonas Björkman of Sweden won nine major titles and achieved a doubles career Grand Slam. He was twice a champion at the ATP Tour Year-End Championships, and he captured 54 doubles titles in all. In singles, Björkman reached a career high of world No. 4 and was a semifinalist at both the US Open and Wimbledon. A dedicated team player, Björkman played a major role on three Swedish Davis Cup championship squads.
Spanish clay court great Sergi Bruguera accomplished a massive feat when he won back-to-back titles at Roland-Garros in 1993 and 1994. His first title came against two-time defending champion Jim Courier, after Bruguera came back from being down 2-0 in the fifth set. Bruguera reached a career high ranking of world No. 3 and won 14 titles in all. He earned a silver medal at the 1996 Olympic Games.
The Contributor Category recognizes a true pioneer, visionary leader, or individual / group that has made a transcendent impact on the sport. This Category is considered once every four years.
The Original 9 - Americans Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Billie Jean King, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey, Valerie Ziegenfuss, and Australians Judy Tegart Dalton and Kerry Melville Reid - took action 50 years ago when they refused to accept the growing disparity in prize money and playing opportunities between women and men in the sport.
On September 23, 1970 the Original 9 signed what would become iconic $1 contracts under the leadership of tennis promoter and World Tennis Magazine publisher Gladys Heldman in order to compete on their own terms.
By creating their own non-sanctioned event, they were faced with expulsion by the sport’s governing bodies, which would mean they would be stripped of their rankings and eligibility to compete at the Grand Slams or on national teams. The Original 9 risked their livelihood for equality in the sport, but they were prepared to do so because they envisioned a better future for female athletes.
The first tournament was such a success that it led to the creation of the Virginia Slims Circuit the following year, featuring nearly two dozen tournaments. The Original 9 and their colleagues took active roles in promoting and growing the circuit, ultimately paving the way for today’s thriving WTA Tour, where women’s tennis flourishes as the world’s leading global sport for women.
Dennis Van der Meer, legendary coach and “teacher of teachers," was a successful junior player who turned his attention to teaching at age 19 and then spent more than 65 years dedicated to working in the sport. As a young teaching pro, Van der Meer quickly recognized a need to develop a universal manner of teaching tennis in order to grow the sport. He sourced input from the finest tennis educators and assembled manuals and videos on teaching techniques. Van der Meer then set out to standardize group teaching methods and to develop a teaching certification. He was the founder of both the Van Der Meer Tennis University and the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR), a leading tennis industry organization that works to educate, certify, and serve tennis teachers and coaches. PTR became the first international tennis teaching organization and it now has more than 16,000 certified members in more than 125 nations.
Van der Meer is nominated posthumously, as he passed away in July 2019.