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The seven men and women who will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July 11 showcase a wide range of accomplishments. Joel Drucker takes a snapshot look at the incoming inductees' distinct contributions.
Mark Woodforde-Todd Woodbridge
Is there any nation that grasps the concept of "team" better than Australia? Great doubles players have emerged from Down Under since the dawn of tennis. So it was that Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge joined forces to create the dominant team of the 1990s -- "The Woodies," winners of 11 Grand Slams (including five straight Wimbledons), Olympic gold in 1996 and a record 61 ATP titles. Their meshing was superb, from Woodforde's adroit lefty game to Woodbridge's laser-like returns. At a time when the power of the game was accelerating, the Woodies triumphed with supreme court management, variety and exquisite choreography.
|Natasha Zvereva and Gigi Fernandez won 38 WTA Tour events, including 14 majors, over a five-year stretch.|
Gigi Fernandez-Natasha Zvereva
Gigi Fernandez was a passionate, vocal Puerto Rican. Natasha Zvereva was a subdued, reticent Belarusian. In singles, both could play well -- Zvereva rose as high as No. 5 in the world -- but they were also known to get moody on their own. Together, though, these two played some of the sweetest doubles in tennis history. Commencing business together as a pickup team at the '92 French Open, Fernandez-Zvereva snapped up 14 majors and a total of 38 WTA Tour events over the next five years. Quick reflexes, wise decision-making and the occasional unbelievable shot made them one of the finest teams in tennis history -- clearly a case of one plus one equaling three.
Owen Davidson was yet another great Aussie doubles player -- in this case a crafty, dart-throwing lefty who emerged as arguably the greatest mixed doubles player of all-time. The man nicknamed "Davo" won 10 Grand Slam mixed titles, including an extraordinary sweep of all four in one year (1967). Eight of them came with Billie Jean King; the two swarmed opponents with supreme volleying skills and unsurpassed court management skills. In addition to his prowess in mixed doubles, Davidson won a pair of men's Grand Slam titles, including the '73 U.S. Open with John Newcombe over all-timers Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall, and played a vital role on five of his nation's Davis Cup championship teams.
In tennis, you take what the ball gives you. Brad Parks has done the same in life -- creating something entirely new and powerful. Originally a basketball player, Parks turned to tennis as a form of rehab upon suffering a skiing accident in his teens -- and was soon inspired to launch the National Foundation of Wheelchair Tennis. Eventually, he created and ran dozens of wheelchair tennis programs throughout the world. Today, the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour comprises 157 tournaments in 41 countries.
As helter-skelter as the current politics of tennis are, there was a time when they were even worse. And in the late '60s, men like Derek Hardwick played a vital role in improving the situation. Amateurs competed at prestigious venues such as Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Forest Hills, earning nary a cent. Those who opted to turn pro were banned from these places. In 1968, Hardwick, along with then-USTA president Bob Kelleher and chair of the All England Club Herman David, led the charge to finally make tennis an Open sport. Once this was accomplished, Hardwick continued to serve the game in a variety of capacities, including terms as chairman of the Men's International Professional Tennis Council (1974-1977), the governing body of men's tennis prior to the ATP Tour, and as the president of the International Tennis Federation (1975-1977).
Joel Drucker is based in Oakland, Calif., and writes for Tennis Magazine and Tennis Channel.