(July 22, 2017) Former No. 1 Andy Roddick, four-time major winner Kim Clijsters, six-time Paralympic medalist Monique Kalkman, journalist and historian Steve Flink and tennis instructor and broadcaster Vic Braden (posthumously) were inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday in Newport, RI.
Here of the speeches from the inductees of the Class of 2017.
STEVE FLINK: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to let you know at the outset I plan to follow what are the essential three B’s of speech making: be brief, be bright, be gone (laughter).
I must thank Chrissie for her eloquent remarks. She was an exemplary champion, celebrated for her willpower, unwavering concentration, impeccable ball control, but Chrissie’s memory of what she accomplished was, as she just acknowledged, a little bit cloud. I think it was incumbent upon me to interrupt on a regular basis to just set the record straight whenever she fielded questions about her career. Someone had to clarify those facts. It was up to me.
The reason I think her memory was clouded was that she was a champion focused on the future. She didn’t dwell on her achievements, how many titles she’d won, when she last played a particular opponent, or any individual accomplishment. That was understandable. I was the historian, but she was a great player, and she knew what her priorities were, and that was to always think of the next major.
But I do appreciate very much the mutual respect we’ve always had for each other, and I thank her for coming today.
I would not be at this podium right now without the unflagging support of four men who took me graciously under their wings, three of these individuals, Herbert Warren Wind, Ted Tinling and Jack Kramer are no longer with us, although I am convinced that they are here in spirit today.
Wind was this nation’s preeminent golf writer, we became close friends when he covered the US Open tennis every year. He was my biggest booster.
Tingling was ubiquitious, a renowned dress designer and later chief of protocol at the Grand Slam events. Down through the vast corridors of time, Ted was an unimpeachable tutor for me and for many others.
I met Kramer in 1972 when I was working as a statistician at CBS, he was a commentator. He in my view was the man of the 20th century because of his multifaceted and far reaching roles in tennis. Jack told me frequently, Kid, I like your thinking a lot, I’ll help you any way I can. And did he ever help, much more than I ever knew.
The same is true of my old friend Tony Trabert, former Hall of Fame president, champion player Davis Cup player, who I’ve known for more than 40 years.
Now I’d like to salute of couple of my fiercely steadfast allies through the years. This country’s most multifaceted sportswriter, Scott Price of Sports Illustrated, and the distinguished Brad Faulkner, formerly of the Tennis Channel. They have often believed in me more than I believed in myself. Just by hanging around Price over the last couple of decades at the majors, my stock rose in my trade significantly. Scott has been my modern day Herbert Warren Wind.
These towering individuals did everything they could to enlarge my reputation. But I’ve had someone in my corner for all 65 years of my life who used his profound communicative skills to give me the best possible chance to succeed. My 93-year-old father, Stanley Flink, has been with me every single step of the way. Yes, give me a nice round of applause.
Let me add, I made a bit of a mistake right there. Let me call him 93 years young. But I would not have landed here without his guidance. He was an outstanding journalist and broadcaster working for Time and Life, writing on luminaries, including Marilyn Monroe, who once said he was the nicest reporter she ever knew.
He covered Kennedy and Nixon on the campaign trail and played doubles with none other than Bill Tilden in California less than a week before that legendary American died back in 1953.
My gregarious father introduced me to Pancho Gonzales, Stan Smith and many others. In 1969, he brought me around to the pressroom at Wimbledon to meet a man who would become an indispensable colleague throughout my career, the renowned Bud Collins.
I very seldom get the chance to publicly praise my father for the vital role he played in enhancing my career, but I very happily do so right now.
Meanwhile my wife Frances, son Jonathan and daughter Amanda have been pillars by my side as I pursued this tennis obsession. I married Frances in 1979, and she’s been my Hall of Famer. Now a gifted artist, she’s masterfully arranged our family life immaculately. Jonathan has admirably gone into the EMT field. Ten years ago, here in Newport, when Pete Sampras was inducted, I asked him to urge Jonathan to stop driving me bonkers by going for second-serve aces.
Sampras looked at my son sternly and said, Give the other guy a chance to miss. Pete then nodded at me, thinking he’d succeeded. I asked my impish son later if he would change his audacious ways after listening to a champion he revered like no other. Jonathan said, Not a chance.
My daughter Amanda, now about to attend graduate school in France, she told me with characteristic sensitivity, she’s envious a found a passion in tennis that has carried me with undiminished professional joy across more than four decades. Amanda would become exasperated as a kid when I would shout at the players and offer advice from the living room while watching sporting events on television. Dad, she would say, don’t you understand they can’t hear you.
What I do understand is the magnitude of this honor. Only nine previous people have previously been inducted here at least partially because they were writers. I learned immeasurably from many of them. John Barrett was a critical advisor. I joined forces alongside David Gray on daily sketches for the Wimbledon program, and worked for Gladys Heldman at World Tennis and Gene Scott at Tennis Week who both wrote penetrating editorials for years on end, imploring the game’s movers and shakers to think out of the box.
I’ve been one fortunate fellow, witnessing the evolution of this sport from the mid ’60s all the way up to today, from Rod Laver to Rafa Nadal, from Billie Jean King, to Serena Williams, from wood racquets to the current frames. Tennis is the ultimate test of character in sports that puts a premium not only on physical durability, but also mental toughness and emotional equilibrium. In essence, it is a contact sport.
My old friend John Roberts, the stylish former tennis correspondent for the Independent in London, told me recently, Steve, you have loved tennis longer than you can remember. You’ve expressed this passion through writing and broadcasting about the great and not so great at the major tournaments. Now here you are among the illustrious of the sport on an occasion that is one of the highlights of your life, receiving an honor which for you in all humility is like winning a Grand Slam championship.
Roberts got to the heart of my feelings with that assessment. I’m a journalist, first and foremost, but a part of me remains fundamentally and unabashedly a tennis fan. I stand here today immensely humbled, exhilarated and gratified by this ineffable accolade. Thank you very, very much.
MONIQUE KALKMAN van den BOSCH:
Wow. Luckily you’re not wearing mascara like I am. I hope I keep it dry. Thank you, Marc. Thank you so much, International Tennis Hall of Fame.
It’s an unbelievable, incredible honor to be here today. I am so proud and deeply honored and humbled at the same time to become part of this tennis family, and to join Kim, Andy, Steve and posthumously Vic Braden. Congratulations. You are such great champions, each in your own field of tennis.
You gave me many moments where I was able to admire you after my career, because you guys are much younger than I am, so I had time enough to admire you guys.
Especially, Kim, I admired your splits (laughter). But the dress party in your doubles match last week at Wimbledon, that beat everything. That was so hilarious.
How magic and powerful is tennis? I think the answer can be found right here at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. I was totally impressed and totally overwhelmed yesterday when I entered the museum. There is so much culture, so much history preserved in this place. This is by far more than I expected.
I’m so fortunate to have tennis in my life. It’s been magic and powerful to me, as well. At the age of six, I picked up my first racquet. I was still running around the court. As a teenager, I looked up at tennis icons and role models like Chris Evert and like Martina Navratilova. They were my source of inspiration. They gave me my dream of becoming a top player. I wanted to be like them.
Thank you, Chris. That means the world
But at the age of 14, when I was fighting cancer, it looked like that dream was shattered, that it was shattered to pieces. I went back on the court in my hospital chair, and my friends raced me around so I could play a rally on the court. But a match, there was no way I even thought about playing a match at that time. I thought I would never play again.
I wasn’t aware of wheelchair tennis until Peter Seegers, my first Dutch coach, introduced me to my new heroes Brad Parks and Randy Snow. They brought over the game to Europe, and I was so impressed how they raced around the court, when I was still sitting in my hospital chair, just getting out of it. I was so inspired by these guys driving their own chairs rather than being pushed around.
Thank you for that, for bringing wheelchair tennis, across the globe. Thank you for that, Brad.
I was so impressed how that time went by in the beginning. After six years of table tennis, I picked up my racquet again, and I went for wheelchair tennis, the love of my life.
Early in my career, I traveled to California for the first time. Six weeks to train and to play tournaments. I was so excited. I arrived at LAX on the other side of the world on my own, and I picked up my huge fancy hire car and off I went, on my own, proud, committed, and eager to learn from the best: U.S. wheelchair tennis players.
I wanted to be the best wherever it would take me and whatever it would take. Behind the wheel on the six-lane American highway, I was still exploring the new car, how everything worked, how the hand controls operated, until a traffic jam all of a sudden popped up in front of me. I pushed the hand controls as hard as I can, but instead of braking, I accelerated because the pedals work opposite of how they work in Europe.
In a split second, I pulled the car onto the hard shoulder, overtake three cars, and pull it back on the highway (laughter). I continued my trip. But still I feel on top of the world. My heartbeat was 180, I think. But those seconds probably were symbolic for the flow of my tennis life.
You’re passionate about a dream, there are highs, there are lows, there’s success, but there’s also failure, and there’s celebration, there’s disappointment, there’s resilience, there’s dedication. But the glass is always half full, especially when you’re a daughter of a bar owner (laughter).
Always aiming for gold, but be thankful with less. That was important to me. And tennis has made me who I am today, and for that I am so grateful.
I want to thank my family, who is represented here by my elder sisters. They were always there to support me, encourage me, and to taxi me wherever the sport would take me before I was that danger on the road on my own.
Justin, you’ve not been a part of your father’s and mum’s joint tennis years, but we already liked you by that time as well. But I hope you get a good impression now of what tennis means to us. You mean the world to us, darling.
To my coaches and trainers, a big thank you. But Marc, you especially. We made the biggest part of this journey together. First as a coach, later as a husband, the journey full of learning, laughing, and love. Marc, you meant and will always mean everything to me.
When I met Todd in Australia in the beginning of the year, he told me this induction is going to feel like a wedding. I think you’re right, Todd.
So, Marc, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, yes, I do want to play mixed doubles with you for the rest of my life.
Thank you, Carl, very much. I really appreciate your kind words. I’m grateful for everything that you’ve done for me in my career, and that you’re still doing for me now in our academy that we run. We try to send the passion that we have for tennis through to the next generation.
He’s been not just only my coach, but also a family member, like a big brother. He was there in my life when my mother got sick when I was a teenager, when my father passed away. I feel very honored and happy and proud that we share these moments in our lives together. So thank you very much for this.
Well, this is an incredible moment for me and for my family, my husband’s side of the family being here. But first of all, I would like to thank the International Tennis Hall of Fame. I’m very, very honored to be an inductee, and honored to join all the past inductees and my fellow members of the class of 2017, each of whom have left a major mark on our sport in distinct and unique ways.
Monique, you are a champion and incredible competitor. It’s been so nice getting to know you personally in these last few days. Congratulations to you and your family.
Although I personally didn’t know Vic Braden, it’s incredible to see all that he did in such a very important area as instruction and research. I was able to meet his wife, and saw her walk around at the museum, get to see how emotional she got about this. This is why we do this. This is why I feel very honored to share these moments. So congratulations to the family of Vic, as well.
Steve, congratulations. The same holds true for writers like you. You bring sports to life for people all over the world. I’m listening to your speech, the way you talk. To me, it’s very inspirational. I would like to learn as I’m maybe taking on a new role as a commentator for tennis. Like Chrissie said, I would like to have a few chats with you later.
Andy, I have the tissue ready. We’ve known each other for a long time. We grew up together playing juniors, playing at the highest level. I remember as a teenager, early teenager, coming from a very small country of Belgium, and it was in Japan, we saw the American squad arrive. They were all dressed up in the colors of the country. They were talking English. They were loud, I remember (laughter). But there was this admiration immediately, and you stood out. You stood out because of your personality. That is something that over the years I’ve enjoyed seeing. I’ve missed it over the years.
I remember your great style of play, your interviews, your sarcastic answers in press conferences. They made me laugh and I loved them. So thank you for everything that you’ve brought to tennis, to my career. You’ve been an inspiration.
When I saw you win the 2003 US Open, it was a moment where I felt like, Oh okay, I’ve lost a couple of finals, I’m going to try to work hard like Andy and make a dream come true.
I have to admit there were a few matches in his career that I’ve cheered against him. I was dating a fellow tennis player at the time (laughter).
There are a few matches that I wasn’t really going for you, but…
I hope you forgive me. But when I heard about us sharing this moment together, I have to say I couldn’t be any more happy that I was able to share this moment with you. It’s so nice to see where you’re at, with your family, as a father. It’s an honor for me. Thank you very much.
Tennis has been so great to me. It has given me so many opportunities, and it’s taught me so many lessons, lessons that are applicable both on and off the court, lessons I often talk with the students at my academy. I would like to describe them in eight words: dedication, caring, optimism, patience, respect, sacrifice, tolerance, passion. Of those eight words, there are really three that are the most important to me and to all that’s happened and that has brought me to this special place here today.
The first is optimism. That is having the right attitude. As you deal with adversity and negative moments, it’s important to stay positive. I’m not just talking about tennis, but in life overall.
The second is dedication, taking the time to really devote yourself to whatever you want to accomplish, fitness, mentally being ready, all the extra effort that it takes to succeed. That has been very important to me as well.
Finally, but most importantly, comes passion. You can be optimistic, you can be dedicated, but most of all you have to bring that special energy and desire to anything that you do. Everyone that has stood on this stage before me and will stand here after me has had a passion for the sport of tennis. I found mine when I was five years old, and I dedicated to — I’m dedicated to pass it on to the next generation.
Those three words are so meaningful. I’ve learned them through my upbringing, my experiences, from the many matches I’ve played, the many people I’ve known and met through tennis.
There are a few others that I would like to thank. My father who passed away in 2009. I was actually sitting there, with the heat burning on us, he probably would have been sitting right under the roof right there because he didn’t like the sun. He was a world class athlete and I learned so much from him, about so many things every day, big things and little things. I know a day like today would have made him very, very proud, and would have been very meaningful for him.
The same holds true for my mother. She’s not here today, but she played a major role in my development as a human being and as an athlete. She showed me even when life doesn’t go as you would like it to go, you have to hang in there, and good things will happen. She was a gymnast, so maybe it’s true that being able to perform the splits is genetically acquired (laughter). Thank you for everything, mom.
My American family and friends who made the trip down to be a part of this special day. My father-in-law, Richard, who has been a big fan from the first day I met him, or even probably before I knew him. Brian and I only had just met, weren’t really sure where our relationship was going. All of a sudden I get a phone call, and Richard, my father-in-law, wanted to come and watch me play at Wimbledon. I was like, Okay. This is a different way of dealing with things. But he’s been a great support.
My mother-in-law, Mary, she’s an incredible person, a great grandmother. I feel very lucky to have you in my life as a friend, as well, so thank you.
Nicole and Jeanine, Nicole has been traveling with me when I came back on tour after I had Jada. My husband and I took on this adventure. We couldn’t have done it without your help. I trust all three of our kids now completely in your hands. You do an amazing job. So a huge thank you to you and for everything that you’ve done not just for me, but for my husband and our kids. Thank you.
My best friend Caroline is here today. She flew in all the way from Belgium to be here. Thank you, Caroline, for your support. I’ve known her since I’m 12 years old, I think. To have her here on this special day means a lot. She’s given me the most belly laughs I can remember. She’s always been there for me.
Thank you to Vanessa for being here, as well. Thank you.
Sam, he’s not here today, but he was my osteopath and my fitness coach, my mentor, my go-to guy for many years. Thank you for being you. I would have never been able to achieve all the things that I did without you. I look forward to all the many new projects that we have together.
Finally, I’m very excited to share this moment with my husband Brian, with Jada, Jack and Blake here today. They all mean so much to me. When Brian and I started this adventure, after we had Jada, it was amazing. Playing again and winning the US Open so early on, it was a unique experience. Jada is now nine years old, Jack is almost four, and Blake is eight months. But I’m so, so honored that I get to share this moment with them. This is really special, not just for me, but for all of us, so thank you.
So again, just to round it up, thank you to the International Tennis Hall of Fame for giving this humbling experience to me and to my family. We really appreciate it very much. Thank you to everybody who has come out here today. Thank you to tennis for making my dreams come true and for giving me so much. It’s now our chance to give back. So thank you, everybody, very much.
This is going to be a test for my sweat (laughter). Thank you, Doug. Thank you, everybody at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
For the better part of a year since Todd and I met in the office up here, he would let me know that I was going to be nominated for the International Tennis Hall of Fame. I’ve been trying to connect the pieces. I’ve asked myself how the seven, eight, nine-year-old version of myself, who was this insane tennis fanatic, and the people inside of those walls are super heroes to me, have become my reality.
So get comfortable (smiling).
It’s an extraordinary honor. It fills my heart to be standing in front of you. To be a Hall of Famer is a dream come true. I know I’m here. I know they’ve given me the jacket. It’s too late to take it back. But I’m not sure it will ever be real in my mind.
The best part for me is sharing it with my close friends, tennis fans, my team and my family. As I said to them when I learned I had been voted in, I said, We’re all getting into the Hall of Fame.
As I mentioned, I met with Todd a year ago. I got to be honest, I’m surprised that I’m standing here as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. You can look at the numbers of the people who are in, I knew I had a shot, but to be honest, I don’t know that I was that concerned about when it happened, I hoped it would.
When I knew that Kim Clijsters was the other person being voted on, and obviously she was going to get in, it really made me want to get in this year to share this weekend with Kim. I have a very simple way of putting it. If you have a problem with Kim Clijsters, I blame you (laughter).
In our careers, Dougy mentioned unfortunate wardrobe choices I wish I could still make, we all have moments we’re not proud of. We all have — you know, throwing things and saying words we probably shouldn’t have said. Kim didn’t. You’re really just showing off from the word ‘go’. You never made a mistake. Maybe you did. Maybe I’ll ask Brian about it.
I would like to congratulate the other inductees also. Mr. Braden, I watched Vic videos
growing up. So I’m really happy here in spirit and here in spirit and represented by his great family.
Monique, just what an inspiration. Your story here today, I didn’t know when the tears would come, but they came earlier than expected. It’s amazing. You’re a true inspiration to us.
Steve, tennis thrives, it’s a family, we travel around the world. It’s a selfish existence sometimes. At the end of it there’s always this sense of family. We didn’t spend much time together during my career, but then you land in Australia when they announce the inductees, we get to spend a little bit of time together. We speak the same language.
So I thank you all for making this such a great experience for me so far. Cheers to Mr. Braden, as well.
As all of us can truly attest, you don’t get here alone. You need a lot of help. It takes a village. As I referenced before, it is a bet of a selfish existence. I was fortunate enough to have amazing people in the orbit of my career.
I was always appreciative, but that appreciation has grown as I’ve moved away from tennis. I realize they took years out of their lives and spent time away from their families to help me achieve my goal.
To Doug Spreen who introduced me. When you spend 260 nights eating together a year, you spend more time with Doug than you do family and your best friends, they eventually become your best friends.
But stim, shoulder, ice, wraps, all that time adds up. First you were a trainer, then a trainer and a friend, then a trainer-friend-therapist. I don’t know how to define it. I’m appreciative and thankful you were here to introduce me today.
To my brother John, you helped make the tennis world smaller for me. When you’re a kid, you’re nine and ten years old, the tennis world and these pros, it just seems so out of reach. Having the opportunity to see John on a junior national team, see him play Kalamazoo, to get to go to the junior slams to watch your brother, it was easier to deal with when I got there. Seeing the hours of training. I had already seen a lot of these hurdles that are massive. You were my first tennis super hero.
Karen Planter, I’m not sure where you’re sitting, but I owe you, like, years of sleep. You can’t buy that on a gift card. You’d lose in Beijing, you’d call her at 3:00 in the morning. Basically, okay, I messed up here, can you fix my life for the next week, make sure I know where I’m going? So I thank you.
To my coaches, and I’ve had a lot of coaches. It’s what happens when you’re not very talented. BG is here today somewhere. I’m not sure exactly where. I’m surprised we haven’t heard him. There he is.
What a tennis mind. The way you’re able to simplify terms, make them within grasp very quickly. I wouldn’t be here without you. If you ever get over that shyness problem, you’d be a great coach.
Dean Goldfine, I want to talk less about the on-court stuff because I learned from you there, but I learned more from watching you away from the tennis court. You were a model for me for a long time. I think the world of you.
I have Connors written, but I’m talking about him later.
Lance Hooton, my strength coach, who wasn’t on the road with us, didn’t need the credit. It was just pulling up to Club Field or Travis Track, wherever those terrible places were where you made me work out. A lot of sweat equity involved. You’re the man behind the scenes.
I don’t miss traveling. I don’t miss a lot of things about the tour. This is kind of the weird psychosis of me. I drive by a track at 7:30 in the morning, and I miss that. I miss the structure and I miss our days together. I appreciate you.
Larry, if I had to start playing again tomorrow, I’d beg you to coach me all over again. A lot of coaches will take what they did well, and they try to put that on their player. That’s their specialty.
You worked with a lot of different people. You worked with a lot of different personalities. McEnroe, Rios, Henman, Gonzales, people that came in, people that stayed back, people that were cerebral, people that were nuts. Was that funny (laughter)?
You were always able to look at tennis through the player’s eyes. It was a real honor being around you.
Phil Myers, my father’s business partner, my de facto business coach. A lot of cautionary tales about the pitfalls of athletes. Phil has helped protect me from so many of those. I thank him.
It’s obvious the things that tennis has given me. What’s not obvious is how the legends of the game have shaped how I view the world. It’s touched every part of my life. Growing up a tennis fan was a lot of fun. It was also an education.
Absolute icons of our sport that were never scared to stand for something they believed in, from Martina, to Arthur, to Andre, to Billie Jean King, Roger’s work with UNICEF. There are a million other examples. But tennis does not get the credit it deserves for the social changes that it’s helped curate over the years.
The lessons keep being taught. I’ve been around Rod Laver a couple times this year, in the vacuum of the Hall of Fame process, and I dare you to find a more humble icon in any industry. He’s just a great representation of everything that tennis is. It’s been real fun to get to spend time with him.
American men’s tennis. It was my greatest responsibility, along with James and Mardy, who are here today. The toughest thing about my career was following the giants of American tennis. It motivated me to work as hard as I possibly could in their very, very long shadows. I took the responsibility of taking the torch that they tried to pass, and take very seriously what they built every day of my career. I was never going to live up to those guys. I’m thankful for their successes because it was directly responsible for any success that I had. It gave this childhood tennis fanatic a lifetime of memories. Most people don’t get to have personal memories with their heros.
1989, the quarterfinals in the French Open, Michael Chang and Lendl. I look at you because you know everything about every match ever (laughter). Just to give you an example of kind of the connectivity of how I view tennis, then somehow it became a reality. The first match I ever watched was Chang-Lendl, hit the underhand serve and everything. Michael Chang cramped in that match, ended up winning. That’s when I knew I was going to win Roland Garros (laughter). I actually wrote ‘pause for laughter’.
Fast forward to 12 years later. 2001, I’m playing my first main draw in Roland Garros, I go up against Michael Chang. Fifth set, young kid is cramping again, but it’s me. We’re at the net shaking hands. He’s giving me advice on how to overcome cramps. He won the tournament, I lost the next round.
Johnny Mack I’ve gotten to know a little bit. Even though he’s a bit of recluse, and you don’t hear from him much these days (laughter), it’s been a bunch of fun playing against him on the Power Series Tour the last couple years. I get a sly little grin when he does something amazing with the tennis racquet. He’s also told me what I should have done in my own career to be dominant. I should have played guys 25 years older (laughter).
I got to know Pete Sampras pretty well, right? They don’t know that that’s not easy. I snuck into the players lounge at the US Open in 1991 where they would take the trash out, no one was paying attention to credentials, I found my way in. If you’re an eight-year-old and you look like you know what you’re doing, I guess you don’t pose much of a security threat. I got to play video games with him. I didn’t say a word, I was so scared. That was a great memory.
Fast forward 11 years later, I’m on a Davis Cup team with him. Who gets to do that?
It is last year we were flying to an event together. We’re on a small little plane and he couldn’t go anywhere, so I had hip trapped. I got to talk to him for an hour about the way he viewed tennis, matchups, what he thought about today, what he thought about the guys he was playing against, what his special sauce was for being able to throw down a 127 ace, not thinking about it. Those are the moments that I just loved over the course of my career. The matches, tournaments, those are all great, but getting to know your heroes is another thing.
Andre Agassi, practice sessions when I was 17 years old. Unbelievable ability to put complex issues into very short sentences. I was complaining about the heat one time in Australia. He was like, You only got to feel cooler than one guy.
All right (laughter).
He was the inspiration for our foundation. He let me ask him a bunch of questions. I asked him what his biggest regret was, not knowing at the time that might have been a loaded question. He said he didn’t start his early enough, and off we went.
Jimmy Connors. I watched him at the US Open. We were flying over, this is for my ninth birthday, the same one I snuck in the players lounge. The matches are still going on at 1:00 in the morning. I was going to go out and party in New York, but… past my bedtime. But I remember seeing the lights on. I just couldn’t believe what the stadium looked like. If it’s that big when you’re flying over in a plane, I can’t imagine what it’s being like when you’re down there. That was the match he beat Patrick.
Fast forward, we’re making a run to the finals in the ’06 US Open, he’s telling me to use the crowd. Let them be a part of it. The master of the US Open was trying his best to pass it down. It was a surreal moment.
My good friend Jim Courier. He’s probably the player I most identified with because we both had horrible backhands. He agreed with my logic that it’s not wrong if you’re correct. We were up against the Mt. Rushmore of our sports. We were grinders, we worked hard and we tried hard to figure it all out. I consider myself lucky to lean on him for very, very, very frank advice. Thank you, Jim.
So 1992, Switzerland plays the USA in the Davis Cup Final. I think we won some raffle at our club and we got to go. That changed my life forever. Agassi, Sampras, McEnroe, Courier. Sampras and McEnroe didn’t play singles.
The best Davis Cup team of all time. It began a love affair. James, Mardy, Bob, Mike, Mardy, Sam, John, Robby, we were all on this ride together. It culminated in us achieving a dream in 2007. Also created a lifetime of friendships. I appreciate you guys so much, your support. I’m happy we got to do it together. Patrick and Jim, thank you for being our captains. An apology to all of the practice partners.
Mardy, some people you know in juniors, some people you travel with for a bit. People come and people go. You lose touch with people when you retire. Mardy has been there through all of it. We shared a lifetime of tennis. Been pretty fun, hasn’t it?
The lighter side of it. Just to give you kind of an understanding of how tennis dominated my everyday existence when I’m eight, nine years old. I bought my mother, I think I was seven years old, I bought her a Chrissie Evert tennis card for Christmas. She still has it. At the dinner last night, Chrissie spends time, spending time with my mother and brother talking. It was a surreal time that was awesome. It kind of connected it. I still don’t believe that this is all real.
I made all the unfortunate wardrobe choices right with Andre when I was nine. Maybe a little bit of foreshadowing. Found a T-2000 at my neighbor’s garage sale for four bucks. He didn’t know what it was. I realized that was my first no-brainer investment opportunity. Hitting thousands of balls inside our garage against imaginary versions of Becker, Edberg, Lendl, being undefeated against them. Thought the Pro Tour would be a bit easier.
Spending summers trying to win lunch from adults at Caswell Tennis Center in Austin, almost winning a club tournament with Millie Darymple (phonetic) when I was seven and she was 79 (laughter). She was complaining about the stamina late in the day. I told her to suck it up, no excuses (laughter).
At Christmas, it was pretty much a pass/fail course on how I judged gifts. They got a pass if they were related to tennis. Harshly, they ran the risk of being a big fat fail if they weren’t. I was probably a little too direct with my opinions. It started very early.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to talk about some future Hall of Famers who have been so important to me. I got to watch two girls named Venus and Serena before the rest of the world. Seeing what they’ve turned into, people see them now, probably looks easy for them a lot of the time. I watched those two practice five and six and seven hours a day as a kid. They believed in their destiny. They also knew what it might take to get there. All the while, people would whisper about how they couldn’t make it without playing tournaments. Its hype, craziness. How would they ever learn grit or learn how to compete. Sometimes it’s important to learn from what we didn’t know.
I can’t wait to see Serena become a mother. I can’t wait to watch them play in the Wimbledon final in 2030 (laughter).
’95 Orange Bowl, World Championship. Dave Martin was the No. 1 American kid. He’s the kind of guy who had a beard when he was 11. He was seeded No. 1. He was going to walk through the tournament. All of us other Americans who would lose in the quallies, first and second round would watch Dave’s matches afterwards. Third round he came up against a skinny little kid who went through qualifying. Dave wins the first set no problem, all good, go America. Loses the second. Loses the third set. I’m convinced that I just watched the biggest upset in tennis history. Could not believe it.
It was the first time I saw Roger Federer
I can’t believe the level of tennis that I got to see in my career. The shots hit, the records that were broken, the records that continue to be broken. Thanks to Murray, Novak, Roger and Rafa for playing the game at a higher level than it’s ever been played. It sucked being in your vacuum at times. I still consider myself lucky. I got to guard Jordan, I went the distance with Ali, I pitched to Babe Ruth. I feel like I know what it must have been like to watch Picasso. I saw it all. I won a couple times, not a lot, but a couple.
I’m proud to say that no other sport has benefited from having such great people at its leaders. The big four guys really pissed me off most of the time when I played them. But I’m absolutely proud to have my life and career associated with such quality individuals.
Now is the hard part. There are some people who were as invested in my life and success as anybody whoever could be, who aren’t here today. My agent Ken Meyerson was as loyal as anyone has ever been to me. Ken passed away in October 2011. At that point I had never had anyone close to me pass away before. It rocked me. I miss Ken every day. I’m sure a lot of you have a story about Ken. Some might be good, some are definitely bad. The majority of them are most likely hilarious.
So happy that Ken’s wife Claudia and their beautiful, intelligent daughter could be here today. He would have absolutely loved to have been here. It doesn’t feel right without him. I hope he can still see it.
My family are workers in every sense of the word. Humble beginnings on a farm in Wisconsin. Lawrence had it pretty tough. John had it a little less tough. I was lucky. I was the spoiled baby who had every opportunity. I also knew the cost of those opportunities, not in a financial sense, though that’s definitely part of it. I was always aware of sweat equity, all of those minor moments and decisions that could potentially lead to a major moment.
My parents busted their asses for us. My mother Blanche literally got in our car at 5:00 a.m. on most days. It was a long day of different school drop-offs, pick-ups, tennis practice here, some sort of other lesson there, different locations all across Austin, juggling everyone’s ridiculous schedules, breakfast, lunch, dinner. To be honest, it’s the kind of thing you completely take for granted as a kid.
Mom, I hope you know how much it’s meant to Lawrence, John and me. You always put us first. We’re not here without you and we love you.
Some of you don’t know that my father Jerry died suddenly on August 8th of 2014. It was the toughest day of my life. He was a man who always invested in the long game of respect. He didn’t need you to like him in a given moment. If he thought a lesson was worth teaching, he would accept the temporary scar tissue it might create. Every couple of months now I smile to myself because I just figured out why he did something the way he did. Maybe it took fatherhood for me to understand the methods.
Although he’s gone, I can tell you how he would have acted today. He wouldn’t have been the center of attention, he wouldn’t have needed the credit. He would have been cruising around the periphery of these events quietly, most likely holding my mom’s purse. He would have been proud. He would have taken it all in.
He would have enjoyed conversations with most of you (laughter). He would have waited for a quiet moment with just of two of us to tell me how proud he was of me. Not so he could get a big emotional moment or a cool photo op, it would have been meant the world to me to know he approved of the way my life turned out. I would have loved hearing it. It won’t happen, but I stand here knowing he would have been proud and satisfied. He wasn’t an easy man to satisfy.
I wish you would have met Hank. That’s probably the hardest part for me. I don’t know how to express the love I feel for that little dude. I’ve experienced emotions in the last two years I didn’t know I had.
My wife Brooklyn, most people don’t know you’re kind of nuts. You’re my partner in crime. In a life full of good fortune, being around you has been by far the luckiest part. I’m a better human for us having met ten years ago.
What started with me stalking you has progressed to marriage and kids. Who would have guessed. Maybe it wasn’t stalking. I call it persistence. People don’t actually know that I wrote Legend’s song All of Me. I let him sing it and he takes credit for it, tours, wins Grammy’s. Chrissie thinks it’s about her. Awkward.
Brooke, I don’t know how you juggle it all. I see it every day and it still doesn’t make any sense to me. You’re an unreal artist, businesswoman, mother, wife, sister and friend. You hear a lot of guys who find it very tough to walk away from professional sports. You’re the reason why my personal transition into a quasi normal, everyday life has been gratifying and full.
Hank will someday realize how lucky he is. Our daughter that’s coming will also realize she has the best mother on earth. Simply, thank you for being you.
I want to thank the International Tennis Hall of Fame, firstly for making the criteria for first ballot induction a lot tougher for after the year I was voted in (laughter). Todd, John, Stan, Diane, the team have been amazing. There have been so many great moments over the last year since Todd secretly told me in the office that I was up for induction. I thank you. I look forward to many more years and memories together here at the Hall of Fame.
I’m not the best of all time. I’m not going to win Wimbledon. I’m not the best of my generation. I’m not the most well-behaved. I’m not the most polished. I’m also never going to take this honor for granted. I’m never going to forget those who paved the way before us. I’m never going to forget the innocent parts of this game we all love.
Thanks to my friends who are always there during the laughter and the tears, my team who gave me so much of themselves, to my now peers at the Hall of Fame for voting me into this esteemed club. You’ll never know how much it means to me, but please know your support is appreciated. Most importantly, the tennis fans around the world for making this game so important on a global level.
I may not be a lot of things, but from this day forward, I’m never be anything less than a Hall of Famer. I thank you from the deepest parts of my heart.