Every spring in the old American city of Newport, in New England, the names of the new members of the International Tennis Hall of Fame are announced. The laureates do not receive any trophies, except for an honorary diploma, they do not rely on any bonus payments, but the very opportunity to enter your name next to the greatest legends of world tennis is truly priceless. The name was taken from the Italian “casino”, which means “small house”, that is, the purpose of this “casino” suggested not a gambling establishment, but a public club. Its squares were originally used for such events as exchanging opinions over a cup of tea for all sorts of events, holding summer concerts and performances, flower shows, playing cricket, lounges, bowling, lawn tennis, archery, and equestrian sports. For example, the Newport Casino Tennis Club is the oldest in the United States, and great champions are honored at its walls every year.
Hall of Fame for tennis players
The most interesting thing is that the official recognition of the Hall of Fame by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) took place relatively late – only in 1986, when the institution itself was already thirty-two years old. Previously, all the ceremonies associated with it were held under the patronage of the United States Tennis Association (USTA). The Institute of the Hall of Fame itself is a purely American invention, practically all kinds of sports that are popular overseas have their “pantheons”. That is why James Van Alen (by the way, the man who invented the tie-break) in 1954, organizing his Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, did not invent anything new this time.
Now the Newport casino covers an area of 2.4 hectares (initially almost twice as large), on which, in addition to the club and museum buildings, there are 13 grass courts, 1 dirt court and an indoor court. In 1881, Newport Casino became the venue for the first US National Championship, which was held on its courts until 1914 inclusive. From 1915 to 1967, the best amateur tennis players gathered at the Newport Casino Invitational. In 1921 and 1991, it was here that the Davis Cup matches were held. Since 1956, a match meeting between the men’s teams of the USA and Great Britain has been held every two years. The teams met in turn in Newport and in London (on the courts of the “Queens Club”).
It is not surprising that here, in the ancient buildings, built in Victorian style, is located one of the oldest tennis museums in the world. At the moment, the museum’s collection includes thousands of memorable exhibits located on 1,200 square meters of exhibition space. However, we are now talking about the Hall of Fame for top tennis players. Each year, before April 1, applications are submitted for inclusion in the cohort of great new legends. Admission is held in three categories: recent player, master player, as well as for his contribution to the development of tennis.
In order to be eligible to be nominated in the category “Recent Player”, a tennis player must play for the past twenty years from the time he was nominated, but no less than five years have passed since the official end of his career. Also, the player must have the appropriate career achievements, and at the same time serve as an example of a real athlete.
In November 2012, there was a precedent for excluding a player from the honorary list of members of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. They became the Australian Bob Hewitt (not to be confused with another Australian Lleyton Hewitt), which he has been a member of since 1992. At the end of his playing career in 1982, the person involved was engaged in coaching, during which he was convicted of sexual harassment of his girl wards several times. This, in the end, was publicized, although so far without legal sanctions, but with the appropriate response of the Committee of the International Hall. As for the nomination “Contribution to the development of tennis”, here candidates can be nominated in four categories at once: administration, media, coaches and functionaries. At the same time, the nominees can continue their active work in tennis at the time of their nomination.
In the nomination “A recent player,” the vote is conducted by the so-called International Tennis Media Board, consisting of reputable tennis journalists. In turn, the election in the nominations “Player-Master” and “Contribution to the Development of Tennis” is held by the board of the International Masters Panel, which includes current members of the Hall of Fame, as well as recognized connoisseurs of tennis history. The procedure for selecting new members is quite complicated and lengthy. Each year, candidates are presented to the commission in three categories: a player (male or female) who has completed a career in the past 5–20 years; a player who ended his career more than 20 years ago; tennis functionary. Criteria for players are significant successes in major competitions, as well as the involvement of an athlete in the development of tennis, its nobility and sporting spirit.