Photo: Kate Whitney Lucey2013 Hall of Fame Ceremony - Hingis
Martina Hingis headed a distinguished class of inductees enshrined into the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island on Saturday.
The former world No. 1 and five-time Grand Slam champion was joined by Australian tennis legend Thelma Coyne Long and influential tennis industry leaders Cliff Drysdale, Charlie Pasarell and Ion Tiriac in receiving the highest honour in the sport.
At 32 years old, Hingis became the fourth-youngest player to be inducted after Tracy Austin (30), Bjorn Borg (31) and Hana Mandlikova (32). The Swiss told the assembled crowd in Newport how she was “honoured and moved” to be enshrined and went on to deliver a heartfelt speech that underlined the importance of tennis in her life.
“I could repeat the words said so many times before here, our sport has given me everything in my life, and it would be the truth,” Hingis began. “But maybe I can add something special, something to give you a little bit more insight about who I am and what this all means to me.
“I was born behind the Iron Curtain, and my mother wanted to tear the curtain apart for me. That is the reason I played tennis as a little girl. In 1980, my mother had not many choices for giving me a better life and a chance for freedom to see the world. She chose the game of tennis as a way out of the world and the prison we lived in, so thank you, mom.
“She also gave me the name Martina after Martina Navratilova who was a great legend and a symbol of freedom in our country back in Czechoslovakia.
“As the wall came down in '89, also, thanks to this great land of yours, I was already on the way to where life would take me, so thank you, mom, again, you gave me life, you gave me love, you gave me tennis. You gave me everything you could give me.
“Thank you, tennis. You gave me the world, and now I honestly am out of words, because there are no words to explain what I feel as you chose to give me a place here for eternity.”
Hingis was joined by influential tennis industry leaders Cliff Drysdale, Charlie Pasarell and Ion Tiriac in delivering warm words after being honoured.
“It’s a privilege and honour to be a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. And from the bottom of my heart, I thank you,” said longtime ESPN tennis broadcaster Drysdale, while Romanian tennis great Tiriac admitted that his enshrinement had him pinching himself.
“I don't think I deserve it, but I'm going to keep it,” said Tiriac. “If I look over my shoulder, I promise I don't regret one thing with my life, being a tennis player, a coach, a manager, a promoter.”
Tennis promoter and industry leader Charlie Pasarell made a point of thanking the ATP for his award. “To all of my friends from the ATP that I've had the privilege of serving with on the board for all of those years, Mark Miles, Mark Young, Larry Scott, Etienne de Villiers, and our recently deceased friend, Brad Drewett and many more, I'm proud of all the work we did to make this game just a little bit better.”
Australian tennis great Rod Laver accepted Coyne Long’s award on her behalf. “I'm proud to be here to accept this award for Thelma, a very deserving and wonderful lady,” he said of Long, a winner of 19 Grand Slam titles.
Also part of the Hall of Fame Class of 2013, six other individuals were posthumorously enshrined in the Master Player Category – Daphne Akhurst and James Anderson, both of Australia, Wilfred Baddeley, Blance Bingley Hillyard, and Charlotte Cooper Sterry, all from the UK, and Hilde Krahwinkel Sperling of Germany.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame has honoured 234 people from 11 different countries since 1955.