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Hewitt, Original 9 to tennis Hall of Fame

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Hewitt, Original 9 to tennis Hall of Fame
Australia tennis captain Lleyton Hewitt before the ATP Cup tie with Greece, February 3, 2021. (Reuters)

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Wednesday was quite the memorable birthday for Lleyton Hewitt.

The two-time major champion will be inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame this year as results were announced the same day Hewitt turned 40.

Hewitt was the lone competitor among five nominees in the Player Category to be voted into the Class of 2021.

He defeated Pete Sampras in the final of the U.S. Open in 2001 and ascended to No. 1 in the ATP rankings. Hewitt captured the Wimbledon title the following year and was a finalist at the Australian Open in 2005.

“I am hugely honoured to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame,” Hewitt 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 Original 9 of women’s professional tennis – comprising Americans Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Billie Jean King, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey and Valerie Ziegenfuss as well as Australians Judy Tegart Dalton and Kerry Melville Reid – and innovative coach Dennis Van der Meer will also be inducted.

“It’s a pleasure to welcome these tennis greats into the International Tennis Hall of Fame,” Hall of Fame President Stan Smith said. “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 No. 1.

“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.”

King applauded the decision for the Original 9 to serve as the first group to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“This is one of the biggest honours we’ve ever had,” she said. “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 honoured 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 percent on the court and he is a true Hall of Famer.” (Reuters)