Photo: Lindsay DavenportLindsay Davenport (USA)
Former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport spoke of the “incredible honour” of being one of five people inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday in Newport, Rhode Island as part of the Class of 2014.
The six-time Grand Slam champion, who won 55 singles titles and 38 doubles titles during her career, was presented with the highest honour in tennis alongside five-time Paralympic champion Chantal Vandierendonck, legendary tennis coach Nick Bollettieri, tennis industry leader Jane Brown Grimes, and British tennis historian John Barrett.
More than 15 Hall of Famers and many other great tennis personalities were also present at the celebration on Centre Court at Bill Talbert Stadium Court at the International Tennis Hall of Fame Museum.
"To be up here on this stage and to share it with all the greatness that is up here is overwhelming,” said Davenport. “I was five years old when I first hit a tennis ball and a racquet was put in my hand. I never wanted to learn another sport and I still don't. I loved playing this game.
“I never thought any of this would be possible. It always felt a little bit like an accident. This is an incredible honour for me, an amazing achievement. I will forever be humbled by this.”
Chris Evert had earlier opened the enshrinement ceremony with a speech to introduce tennis industry leader Jane Brown Grimes, who went on to speak about the changes she has seen in the sport since her first involvement in the 1970s.
"There's so many examples in this sport making room for tolerance and understanding in a world often torn by bitter conflict,” said Brown Grimes. “Tennis has grown bigger and stronger and richer, but it has also done what Dwight Davis set out as a goal when he founded the Davis Cup in 1900, to promote goodwill internationally.
"I feel so very lucky to have played a very small role in this amazing story, and to be recognised in this way today on this court in front of so many friends and family and tennis fans is more than I could ever have imagined."
British tennis historian and journalist Barrett was next to be enshrined, admitting that he felt very fortunate to have spent so much of his life working in tennis.
“I've just been so lucky. That's what I tell everybody, I'm the luckiest man in the world,” said Barrett. “In the days I was broadcasting, I had the best seat in the house. I could comment about the game I loved from an early age and they actually paid me for it. What could be more wonderful than that?"
Vandierendonck, the first female wheelchair tennis player and the first Dutch tennis player to be enshrined, became the third wheelchair tennis player to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame behind Brad Parks and Randy Snow.
"I am so deeply honoured that I am inducted right behind my two heroes in wheelchair tennis (Parks and Snow),” said 49-year-old Vandierendonck. “I will cherish this moment for the rest of my life.”
Vandierendonck was the first ITF Wheelchair Tennis Women’s World Champion in 1991 and went on to become World Champion again in 1996 and 1997. She was the world No. 1 women’s player for a total of 136 weeks in singles and 107 weeks in doubles.
Legendary tennis coach Bollettieri drew great applause and laughter from the crowd with his enshrinement speech, encouraging anyone he has ever yelled at on the court to stand up – with many of those seated on the court and in the top of the bleacher instantly standing.
"There is really no way I could ever thank you enough for making my journey such a great one,” said Bolletieri. “Just know that I love you and I always yell at those I love the most. So you can expect to hear this old raspy voice hollering for many more years.”