Hewitt and Original 9 to be inducted into International Tennis Hall of Fame

  • Tennis Australia

Former world No. 1 and two-time major champion Lleyton Hewitt and the trailblazing Original 9 of women’s professional tennis will be among the 2021 inductees into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Former Wimbledon, US Open and Davis Cup champion Hewitt will be inducted in the Player Category.

The 40-year-old Australian also came first in the Hall of Fame’s Fan Voting, which took place late in 2020.

“I am hugely honoured to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame," he said.

“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 honoured.

“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 recognised alongside them in tennis history is an incredible honour.”

The Original 9 are the first ever group to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The nine women who comprise the Original 9 are Australians Judy Tegart Dalton and Kerry Melville Reid, plus Americans Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Billie Jean King, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey, Valerie Ziegenfuss.

In 1970, the group took a stand against the growing disparity in prize money and playing opportunities for women in professional tennis when they signed $1 contracts with World Tennis Magazine publisher Gladys Heldman to compete in a new tournament for women.

“For us to be given this honour is really something special and I think it's great recognition for what we did. It means a lot,” said Judy Tegart-Dalton.

“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 realise how significant it would be 50 years on.”

Kerry Melville Reid added: “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.”

Also set to be inducted is innovative coach and tennis teacher Dennis Van der Meer, a Namibian native who later became a U.S. citizen.

Van der Meer was a legendary coach of top players and a teaching professional who recognised the need for, and subsequently developed, a standardised manner of teaching tennis in order to effectively grow the sport.