June 26, 2016

Jimmy Connors and Monica Seles to serve as presenters at International Tennis Hall of Fame Class of 2016 Induction

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(June 22, 2016) NEWPORT, R.I.,  – Tennis legends Jimmy Connors and Monica Seles will return to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island this summer to serve as presenters at the Hall of Fame induction festivities.

The Class of 2016 Induction Ceremony will see the sport’s highest honor be presented to former world No. 1’s Marat Safin of Russia and Justine Henin of Belgium. In addition, Class of 2015 Hall of Famer Amelie Mauresmo will be honored during the ceremony. Mauresmo was unable to attend last year’s ceremony due to the birth of her child.

“It’s very fitting to have the great champions of the Class of 2016 be welcomed into the International Tennis Hall of Fame by two of our sport’s all-time greats, Jimmy Connors and Monica Seles. We’re looking forward to a fantastic Rolex Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend in Newport in July to celebrate Justine, Marat, and Amelie, and their remarkable accomplishments,” commented Todd Martin, CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Along with the inductees, Connors and Seles headline a star-studded weekend in Newport for the festivities, with the induction ceremony set for July 16 and additional events throughout the weekend, including PowerShares Legends Newport, a one-day legends tournament featuring Safin back in action.

Connors, an eight-time major champion, will serve as the presenter for Safin at the ceremony. In the ceremony, the presenter traditionally introduces the inductee before they are officially inducted, providing a look back at their career accomplishments and contributions to the sport. Although they played in different eras, Connors and Safin, both fiery competitors, have long been admirers of each other’s tennis careers. Connors was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1998.

Seles, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, will present Henin at the induction ceremony. Seles and Henin’s careers had some overlap with the two players meeting in competition seven times. Both players were bolstered by notable baseline games and fierce backhands, and the two legends also approached the sport with a mental toughness that made them nearly untouchable at times.

During the ceremony, Amelie Mauresmo will be presented by her longtime manager and friend Micky Lawler, who now serves as president of the WTA.

International Tennis Hall of Fame President Stan Smith, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987, will play an active role in the induction ceremony. Hall of Famers Rosie Casals, Vic Seixas, Owen Davidson, Butch Buchholz, Donald Dell, Peachy Kellmeyer, Charlie Pasarell, and Jane Brown Grimes, will all be in Newport for the event. Additional notable tennis guests joining the celebration will include former world No. 1 Dinara Safina, sister of Marat Safin; retired WTA player Jill Craybas, who is a Rhode Island native; and former ATP stars Vijay Armritraj and Jimmy Arias.

On Sunday, July 17, when the newly inducted Marat Safin will be back in action on the tennis court. Safin will be competing in PowerShares Legends Newport, a special one-day tournament featuring three matches and one eventual champion crowned among retired tennis greats. In addition to Safin, the event will feature Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Mark Philippoussis.
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Capriati and Kuerten Highlight Emotional Hall of Fame Inductions

Gustavo Kuerten photo by Ben Solomon

By Jack Cunniff

NEWPORT, Rhode Island – The skies in Newport were dry, but the eyes were not, as Jennifer Capriati and Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten headlined the 2012 class of inductees into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The ceremony was held Saturday, July 14th on Center Court at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.  Capriati and Kuerten, former top-ranked players elected to the Hall of Fame under the Recent Player category, gave stirring speeches that touched the tennis fans in attendance.  Other inductees this afternoon were Randy Snow, the late wheelchair tennis champion and advocate; Mike Davies, in the Contributor category; and Manuel Orantes, in the Master Player category.

Monica Seles, a 2009 Hall of Fame inductee, was selected by Capriati to introduce her at the ceremony. It was a fitting selection as both players burst on the tennis scene just months apart as teenagers, and set multiple “youngest ever” records for women’s tennis.  Capriati, a three-time champion at Grand Slam events and Olympic gold medal winner, was emotional throughout her acceptance speech.  While honored by the Hall of Fame recognition, it closes a chapter in her life that Capriati was not quite ready to close. It signifies that there are no more comebacks in store, and her career would end as the result of wrist and shoulder injuries. But as she did throughout her career, Capriati persevered today. She expressed the joy and pain that tennis has brought to her life, and noted that tennis taught her what hard work and commitment mean. She thanked her friends and family for their love and support over the years, and also recognized the fan support she received throughout her career, a comment that was punctuated by someone in the crowd shouting “We love you!”

Alice Kuerten, Gustavo’s mother, had the honor of introducing her son to the crowd. She spoke not of Guga’s French Open titles or number one ranking, but of his intangible qualities, his role as son and brother, and his philanthropy. Guga charmed the crowd with an unscripted speech, sharing his appreciation for all that tennis has provided him. His father introduced Kuerten to the sport, but passed away when Guga was a teenager. It was tennis, Kuerten noted, that provided him two new fathers in the form of his former coach Larri Passos, and older brother and manager Raphael. Kuerten was very close to his late younger brother Guillaime, who suffered from cerebral  palsy and passed away in 2007, and thus found it fitting to be inducted on the same day as Randy Snow. Kuerten also thanked Mariana, his wife and mother to their five-month-old daughter.

Randy Snow passed away in from a heart attack in 2009, so his father Tom accepted the award on his behalf. A successful junior tennis player when he was paralyzed at age 16, Snow found his success as a wheelchair tennis champion and gold medal winning Paralympian.  Tom thanked Brad Parks, a fellow Hall of Fame member who created the concept of wheelchair tennis, and the various federations who have supported wheelchair tennis.

Mike Davies was awarded for his leadership behind the scenes with tennis. He was the driving force behind several changes in tennis targeted at making it more television friendly. Thanks to Davies, we have yellow tennis balls, blue courts, colored clothing, and chairs on changeovers. Each of these advances made tennis more marketable, and contributed to increased popularity of the sport in the 1970s. Davis thanked his fellow pros and co-workers for today’s honor.

The Hall of Fame president Stan Smith introduced Manual Orantes, and noted Orantes was not only a great champion, but a great sportsman.  Orantes looked back on his 1975 U.S. Open title over Jimmy Connors, and semifinal comeback over Guillermo Vilas earlier in that event, as the greatest matches in his career. He expressed appreciation for his Barcelona tennis club for making him into a champion.

While many tears were shed during the ceremony, the newest Hall of Fame members were all smiles when they took a final march around Center Court.

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