The International Tennis Hall of Fame is located in Newport, Rhode Island, in the United States. It was established to honour major players and other men and women who have made a major contribution to the development of the sport.
Situated in a former casino, the complex includes a 13,000 square foot museum, grass tennis courts, an indoor court, and a real tennis facility. The museum is home to a vast collection of memorabilia, including videos, photographs, sound recordings, trophies and tennis equipment and apparel, designed to highlight the history of tennis from its earliest origins up to the present day.
Origins of the Hall of Fame
The Hall of Fame was the brainchild of James “Jimmy” van Alen, who was a US national singles and doubles champion in court (real) tennis. Amongst his other achievements is the introduction to the game of the system of tie-breaks, putting an end to some of the marathon matches of the past.
After visiting the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the early 1950s with his wife, Candy, van Alen realised that there should an equivalent to honour those who had made a similar contribution to the world of tennis.
In 1954 the van Alens lobbied the USLTA (United States Lawn Tennis Association) to establish a tennis hall of fame, and it was sanctioned a year later.
Summer residents of Newport, they chose the casino as the venue for their new establishment – an iconic building which had fallen into disuse, their intervention saved it from being demolished as part of a redevelopment project.
The Hall of Fame was officially recognised by the International Tennis Federation in 1986.
Amongst its current governors are former players Stan Smith, Todd Martin and Katrina Adams, whilst Life Trustees include Billy Jean King and Rod Laver.
Current Global Ambassadors for the Hall of Fame are Martina Hingis and Michael Chang.
Inductees to the Hall of Fame
The first four players inducted in 1955 were all men, Oliver Campbell, Joseph Clark, James Dwight, and Robert “Bob” Wren. Until 1975, the Hall welcomed only Americans, but that was changed in that year when Fred Perry was added to the list of those honoured.
Since then the number of people inducted into the Hall of Fame has swollen to 257 men and women from 26 countries (and counting).
The most recent inductees, the class of 2019, featured former players Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Li Na, Mary Pierce and Michael Stich. And, later this year Goran Ivaniševiċ and Conchita Martínez will become the latest names welcomed into the Hall and added to the role of honour.
The players inducted into the Hall in the past is a veritable “Who’s Who” of former champions, and includes names such as Andre Agassi, Bjorn Borg, Margaret Court, Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Steffi Graf, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, John Newcombe, Ken Rosewall, and Pete Sampras to name but a few.
New Members to the Hall of Fame
For a player to be nominated to the Hall of Fame, they need to have been active as a competitor in the last twenty years, but should not have been playing at the top level on either the ATP or WTA tour within the last five years (ruling out current players like Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal).
Singles players need to have won at least three major singles titles and been world number one for a total of 13 weeks, or to have won five major singles titles.
Doubles players need to have won at least 12 major titles and been world number one for a total of 52 weeks, or to have won 15 major doubles titles.
Consideration is given to integrity, sportsmanship and character also when considering nominees.
Those eligible to vote for new inductees include global media representatives, historians and industry leaders who are highly versed in the sport and its personalities. In addition, large number of alumni from the Hall of Fame takes part in the voting process.
To be elected into the Hall a candidate must receive an affirmative vote of 75% from those taking part in the poll for that year.
Any member of the public can propose new members, and the voting process for 2021 is already in full swing.
The Hall of Fame Open (more information here)
The Hall of Fame Open is the only grass court tournament on the ATP tour currently played outside Europe, and concludes the grass court season. It is held in July, immediately after Wimbledon and takes place the same week as the induction ceremony for new Hall of Famers.
The championship has earned the nickname “The Curse of the Casino” on account of the fact that it has never been won by the number one seed in its history, which stretches back to 1976.
Among the players to have won the Hall of Fame Open are Vijay Amritraj, Greg Rusedski, and Mark Philippoussis. The defending champion is John Isner who has won the event more time (four) than any other player.