Hall Mark: Memories of Newport's Hall of Fame Week
By Richard Pagliaro
Legacy comes to life on Newport’s famed grass courts.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame—the birthplace of American tournament tennis—hosts the most fan-friendly tournament in the nation.
The Hall of Fame Open is a week-long celebration of the sport on the Newport lawn New York Times writer and Hall of Famer Allison Danzig called “the true cradle of American tennis.”
Drive up the hill a few blocks past St. Mary’s Church where senator John F. Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier on September 12th, 1953, turn left onto Bellevue Avenue, and step into history at the Stanford White-designed Newport Casino, home to the Hall of Fame Museum.
The Museum, which overlooks the unique horsehoe-shaped grass court, fuses tradition and technology to show—and tell—the story of the sport.
It's an interactive and inspiring experience that can leave tennis devotees as enraptured as art lovers gazing at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
The first sports hall of fame to achieve accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the Hall of Fame is a multi-media experience featuring audio tours conducted in 10 languages, the world’s leading collection of championship racquets, balls and trophies, a research center with more than 30,000 photos and 3,500 films.
Only in Newport can you watch a throw-back doubles match with competitors wearing the long pants and wielding small wood racquets players used in the first U.S. National Men’s Singles Championships—now the U.S. Open—back in August of 1881, meet a Roger Federer hologram discussing the Grand Slam king’s passion for play then see former champions John Isner, Steve Johnson and all-time ATP ace leader Ivo Karlovic play today’s tennis at ballistic speeds.
Newport’s lawn is America’s most immersive tournament experience where you can rent court time, take a lesson or join a clinic on one of 13 grass courts, indoor hard courts or clay courts.
And you never know who you'll see.
Playing doubles on the grass courts behind the media center a few years back, we turned to see former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt holding a hitting session with his son, Cruz Hewitt, on the adjacent court.
The Hall of Fame is American’ tennis true field of dreams fostered by tennis gardeners and former champions. Todd Martin is Hall of Fame CEO, Hall of Famer Stan Smith is President and several Hall of Famers are Governors-at-Large.
The Class of 2019—Li Na, Mary Pierce and Yevgeny Kafelnikov—will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Here are some of our favorite memories from past Hall of Fame induction weeks.
*Watching Martina Hingis and Rod Laver go nose-to-nose in a pulsating volley exchange was as mesmerizing watching two grand masters create art on a shared canvas.
*John McEnroe’s massive and meandering Finnegans Wake-style speech in his induction that saw him cite virtually anyone and everyone from his career.
*Marat Safin hanging out with his proud parents, sister and fellow former world No. 1 Dinara Safina, and Jimmy Connors reminiscing about renegade life before his 2016 induction.
“I’m a part of the last generation that could enjoy going out together. Gustavo Kuerten, Mark Philippoussis, and Philippoussis paying all the bills for all the nightclubs. What more could you ask forr” said a smiling Safin. “We lived like a family. We traveled like musicians. It was more rock and roll.”
*Andre Agassi moved some to tears with his profound and poignant insight on tennis' power to instruct and inspire.
“Tennis is a lonely sport, probably the most lonely…that’s why tennis players not only talk to themselves, but answer,” Agassi said during his 2011 induction speech. “And yet all that loneliness eventually teaches you to stand alone.
“The high standard that tennis imposes on us, the self-reliance it demands of us, that’s the reason tennis has produced so many of life’s great game-changers.”
And so many call the International Tennis Hall of Fame home.