Former world No. 1 and two-time major champion Lleyton Hewitt, the trailblazing Original 9 of women’s professional tennis, and innovative coach and tennis teacher Dennis Van der Meer will be the recipients of the ultimate honor in tennis this year, induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Hewitt, who amassed 30 singles titles during his 18-year career on the ATP Tour and was instrumental in two Davis Cup victories for Australia, will be inducted in the Player Category. In addition to being elected by the Hall of Fame's Official Voting Group of media, historians, and Hall of Famers, Hewitt also came in first place in the Hall of Fame’s Fan Voting, a global vote among a ballot of five candidates which took place late in 2020.
On September 23, 1970, the Original 9 took a bold action that would forever change the course of tennis history. In a stand against the growing disparity in prize money and playing opportunities for women in professional tennis they signed $1 contracts with World Tennis Magazine publisher Gladys Heldman to compete in a new tournament for women. Eight of the women entered the draw, Rosie Casals claimed that first title, and the resounding success of the event led to the creation of the Virginia Slims circuit and paved the way for today’s WTA Tour, where women’s tennis flourishes today as the world’s leading global sport for women.
The Original 9 are the first ever group to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, 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.
Van der Meer, a Namibian native who later became a U.S. citizen, was a legendary coach of top players and a teaching professional who recognized the need for, and subsequently developed, a standardized manner of teaching tennis in order to effectively grow the sport. Known as a “teacher of teachers”, Van der Meer founded 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. Van der Meer will be inducted posthumously, as he passed away in 2019.
“It’s a pleasure to welcome these tennis greats into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Lleyton Hewitt always competed hard until the last ball was hit, and this is very apparent in the Hall of Fame resume he built, which includes a Wimbledon trophy, a US Open trophy, two Davis Cups, and being world Number 1,” commented International Tennis Hall of Fame President Stan Smith. “The Original 9 were true trailblazers in tennis history. It took a lot of courage to do what they did, and we have today’s incredible WTA Tour to thank for it, as well as opportunities for women in so many other sports. It’s also a pleasure to celebrate Dennis Van der Meer, who was a tremendous coach, teacher, and real visionary for the future of the sport.”
INDUCTION CEREMONY & CELEBRATION
IN-PERSON & VIRTUAL
The Induction Ceremony for the Class of 2021 is scheduled to be held at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. on Saturday, July 17, 2021. The 2020 ceremony was cancelled due to Covid-19, and therefore the induction ceremony will also honor Class of 2020 inductees Goran Ivanišević and Conchita Martínez.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame will offer a variety of in-person and virtual events and experiences throughout the induction weekend, July 16 – 18, 2021, to ensure that fans across the globe can safely participate in paying tribute to these legendary players and leaders in the sport.
“As we look ahead to the summer months, we are moving forward with plans for a terrific celebration in Newport to honor not just one, but two inspiring induction classes of Hall of Fame greats. We are planning these events with the health and safety of all guests as the top priority. In addition to the traditional in-person ceremony and celebration, we are developing a variety of virtual programs so fans around the world can easily and safely participate,” stated Todd Martin, CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Planned virtual celebrations include access to virtual q & a chats with the inductees, a pre-ceremony red carpet show, behind-the-scenes museum tours with the Hall of Famers, and access to view the ceremony itself, among other programs.
In person and virtual ticket packages are available to purchase now on tennisfame.com/enshrinement.
ABOUT THE INDUCTEES & REACTION
Player Category: Lleyton Hewitt
“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. 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.
“The Hall of Famers are people who I admired so much throughout my career – especially people like Rochey and Newk and Rocket and so many others. They were all motivating factors in my career and to be recognized alongside them in tennis history is an incredible honor.”
Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt wowed in his first year on the ATP Tour, when, in 1998, as a wild card entry into his hometown tournament in Adelaide, he swept through the draw, defeating Andre Agassi in the semifinals and ultimately winning the title. Hewitt entered the tournament ranked world No. 550 and never looked back. The youngest player to ever claim the No. 1 spot in men’s professional tennis, 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, and closed out the year in the top sport for the second time in a row. 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. A fiercely dedicated Davis Cup player for his country, Hewitt twice helped Australia win the Davis Cup – in 1999 when he was 18 years old, and again in 2003. Today, he remains Australia’s record holder for most Davis Cup ties played (43) and most total wins (59-21), and he serves as the team captain.
Contributor Category: Dennis Van der Meer
Pat Van der Meer, wife of the late Dennis Van der Meer:
“To know that Dennis will go into the International Hall of Fame this July gives me great joy. Dennis would be so honored and happy to be inducted with his great friends in the Original Nine. I know he cherished that time in his life and was so proud of what they accomplished.”
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. Additionally, Van der Meer served as a coach to top pros, including Billie Jean King for a time.
Van der Meer will be inducted posthumously, as he passed away in July 2019.
Contributor Category: The Original 9
The Original 9 - Americans Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Billie Jean King, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey, Valerie Ziegenfuss, and Australians Judy Tegart Dalton AM 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.
The Original 9: In Their Words
Billie Jean King
“This is one of the biggest honors we've ever had. We're all so excited because of what we went through together. 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.
“I’d also like to add my congratulations to rest of the Class of 2021. My friend and coach Dennis Van der Meer was a brilliant tennis mind and instrumental in our sport’s growth. Lleyton Hewitt always gave 100% on the court and he is a true Hall of Famer.
Billie Jean King on the impact of the Original 9
“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 were really focused on achieving. Number one, that any girl born in this world, would have a place to play and compete. Number two, that women would be appreciated for our accomplishments, not just our looks. And number three, that women would finally be able to make a living playing professional tennis.
Today, every time a woman gets a check for competing in a Grand Slam or the WTA Tour or gets to play in a pro tournament, you can trace it back to that day, to September 23rd, 1970, when we signed the $1 contract with Gladys Heldman. That was the birth of women's professional tennis, the way you know it today as the leading professional sport for women.”
Rosie Casals “It’s very exciting to be able to go into the Hall of Fame with the Original 9. All of us have been friends for a long time, competitors for a long time. That makes it extra special to be able to share this moment with them.
“The Original 9 were courageous and brave at a time where we could have given in. As a result, I think people paid attention to women in sports. From that came title IX. From that came one of the most exclusive and the biggest largest prize money ever for women's tennis and Virginia Slims. The impact we made was that, yes, we can, we can do this. We can earn a living. We can have a career in sports and eventually go to college and pursue academics as well as a sport. That did not exist prior to 1972 and prior to the Original 9 doing what they did to put women's tennis on the map. History speaks for itself when you look at the WTA Tour is now and where it's come from. We've come a long way, baby.”
Kristy Pigeon “I'm profoundly honored that the International Tennis Hall of Fame has elected to induct us. I guess you could say we were women's tennis suffragettes in a way. We made huge changes that are being realized now. When you look at the prize money that the women are making, and the fact that little girls playing tennis are popular and recognized, and not going through what I went through, like being teased when I went jogging. And, that it’s really cool to be an athlete and that strong is beautiful and not a negative quality in a woman, for example. I think there's still a lot more work to be done, but I think we set the course.”
Julie Heldman “Being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame is the highest honor in tennis. I'm thrilled and excited and proud that the women who stood up for the future of women's tennis are being recognized at this time.”
Judy Tegart-Dalton “For us to be given this honor is really something special and I think it's great recognition for what we did. It means a lot. One of the main things is that we achieved was recognition for women's tennis, but also for women's sport as a whole really. I think that for all of us, we worked so hard and when we took such a chance, but we didn't realize how significant it would be 50 years on.”
Kerry Melville Reid
“I think it's so great that the Hall of Fame agreed to put us in the Hall as a group. It means a lot. It was a long time ago, 50 years ago that we broke away from the men and started the women's tour. We had a goal and we just worked really hard. Those early tournaments, we barely had time to practice even. We were doing so much PR, clinics, and everything else to try and promote the tournament. It took a lot of dedication, to do that. But I think we did a good job for women's tennis and women in general as it turned out.”
Valerie Ziegenfuss “We were believers. We believed in ourselves, our product, in Gladys Heldman. We believed in Virginia Slims as a sponsor. We believed in Billie Jean as our leader. Looking down the road we wanted to further ourselves as a product. We believed that we could get more prize money, and that people would come and watch women's tennis. At the time, somebody had to do it. And it was us. It means the world for us to be recognized by being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.”