Original Nine of Women’s Tennis, Lleyton Hewitt, and Dennis Van der Meer to be Inducted into Newport’s International Tennis Hall of Fame

Tennis Hall Of Fame
FILE - In this April 7, 2012, file photo, members of the original nine women, from left to right, Billie Jean King, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Judy Tegart Dalton, Julie Heldman, Kerry Melville Reid, Nancy Richey and Rosie Casals, who helped start the women's professional tennis tour are honored at the Family Circle Cup tennis tournament in Charleston, S.C. Billie Jean King and the other members of the Original 9 who laid the groundwork for the women’s professional tour are the first group elected together to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, joining Lleyton Hewitt and Dennis Van der Meer in the Class of 2021. In results announced Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Mic Smith, File)

Former world No. 1 and two-time major champion Lleyton Hewitt, the trailblazing Original 9 of women’s professional tennis, and innovative coach and tennis teacher Dennis Van der Meer will be the recipients of the ultimate honor in tennis this year, induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Hewitt, who amassed 30 singles titles during his 18-year career on the ATP Tour and was instrumental in two Davis Cup victories for Australia, will be inducted in the Player Category. In addition to being elected by the Hall of Fame’s Official Voting Group of media, historians, and Hall of Famers, Hewitt also came in first place in the Hall of Fame’s Fan Voting, a global vote among a ballot of five candidates which took place late in 2020.

On September 23, 1970, the Original 9 took a bold action that would forever change the course of tennis history. In a stand against the growing disparity in prize money and playing opportunities for women in professional tennis they signed $1 contracts with World Tennis Magazine publisher Gladys Heldman to compete in a new tournament for women.

The Original 9
Eight of the women entered the draw, Rosie Casals claimed that first title, and the resounding success of the event led to the creation of the Virginia Slims circuit and paved the way for today’s WTA Tour, where women’s tennis flourishes today as the world’s leading global sport for women.

The Original 9 are the first ever group to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, as the honor has previously only been presented to individuals. The nine women who comprise the Original 9 are Americans Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Billie Jean King, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey, Valerie Ziegenfuss, and Australians Judy Tegart Dalton and Kerry Melville Reid.

Dennis Van der Meer
Dennis Van der Meer, a Namibian native who later became a U.S. citizen, was a legendary coach of top players and a teaching professional who recognized the need for, and subsequently developed, a standardized manner of teaching tennis in order to effectively grow the sport. Known as a “teacher of teachers”, Van der Meer founded both the Van Der Meer Tennis University and the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR), a leading tennis industry organization that works to educate, certify, and serve tennis teachers and coaches. Van der Meer will be inducted posthumously, as he passed away in 2019.

“It’s a pleasure to welcome these tennis greats into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Lleyton Hewitt always competed hard until the last ball was hit, and this is very apparent in the Hall of Fame resume he built, which includes a Wimbledon trophy, a US Open trophy, two Davis Cups, and being world Number 1,” commented International Tennis Hall of Fame President Stan Smith. “The Original 9 were true trailblazers in tennis history. It took a lot of courage to do what they did, and we have today’s incredible WTA Tour to thank for it, as well as opportunities for women in so many other sports. It’s also a pleasure to celebrate Dennis Van der Meer, who was a tremendous coach, teacher, and real visionary for the future of the sport.”

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