Former World No. 1 and two-time major champion Lleyton Hewitt will be inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame this year.
Hewitt, who amassed 30 tour-level singles titles during his 18-year career on the ATP Tour, 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.
“I am hugely honoured to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame,” said Hewitt. “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.”
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 semi-finals and ultimately winning the title. Hewitt entered the tournament ranked No. 550 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and never looked back.
Hewitt became the youngest player to claim the No. 1 spot at just 20 years of age in 2001, fueled by his final victory against Pete Sampras at the US Open. Hewitt won his second major title in 2002, when he was victorious at Wimbledon, and closed out the year in the top spot for the second time in a row. He was also a finalist at the Australian Open in 2005.
“The Hall of Famers are people who I admired so much throughout my career – especially people like [Tony] Roche and [John] Newcombe and Rod [Laver] and so many others,” said Hewitt. “They were all motivating factors in my career and to be recognised alongside them in tennis history is an incredible honour.”
The trailblazing Original 9 of women’s professional tennis, and innovative coach and tennis teacher Dennis Van der Meer will also be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
“It’s a pleasure to welcome these tennis greats into the International Tennis Hall of Fame,” said International Tennis Hall of Fame President Stan Smith. “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.”
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 honour 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.
“This is one of the biggest honours we’ve ever had,” said Billie Jean King. “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 per cent on the court and he is a true Hall of Famer.
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 recognised the need for, and subsequently developed, a standardised 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 organisation that works to educate, certify, and serve tennis teachers and coaches. Van der Meer will be inducted posthumously, as he passed away in 2019.
“To know that Dennis will go into the International Hall of Fame this July gives me great joy,” said Pat Van der Meer, wife of the late Dennis Van der Meer. “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.”
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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, 17 July, 2021. The 2020 ceremony was cancelled due to Covid-19, and therefore the induction ceremony will also honor Class of 2020 inductees Goran Ivanisevic and Conchita Martinez.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame will offer a variety of in-person and virtual events and experiences throughout the induction weekend, 16-18 July, 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 honour 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,” said Todd Martin, CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.