Original 9, Dennis Van der Meer
Among 2021 Newport Inductees
Victoria Chiesa | February 24, 2021
The trailblazing Original 9 and longtime tennis coach Dennis Van der Meer will be among those inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this summer for their impact and influence on the sport.
The Class of 2021, announced in full on Wednesday, also includes two-time Grand Slam champion and former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt of Australia.
“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 No. 1,” said 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. ADVERTISEMENT 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.”
The Original 9 is the first group to be inducted into Newport, and will be enshrined in the Contributor category along with Van der Meer. The group of seven Americans and two Australians — 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 — were responsible for the advent of women's professional tennis over a half-century ago.
In 1970, the group risked both their present and future in tennis by taking a stand against a growing disparity in prize money and playing opportunities for women in the sport. By signing $1 contracts with World Tennis Magazine publisher Gladys Heldman to compete in a new women's event, the group's efforts paved the way for the Virginia Slims circuit, which eventually became the WTA tour as it's known today.
“It’s extremely rewarding to see the impact the Original 9 made 50 years ago can still be felt around the world today," said King. "There were three things we were really focused on achieving. Number one, that any girl born in this world, would have a place to play and compete. Number two, that women would be appreciated for our accomplishments, not just our looks. And number three, that women would finally be able to make a living playing professional tennis.
"Today, every time a woman gets a check for competing in a Grand Slam or the WTA Tour or gets to play in a pro tournament, you can trace it back to that day, to September 23, 1970, when we signed the $1 contract with Gladys Heldman. That was the birth of women's professional tennis, the way you know it today as the leading professional sport for women.”
Van der Meer will be posthumously inducted following his passing in July of 2019. Remembered as the "teacher of tennis teachers," Van der Meer counted King among his pupils, and also founded the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR), which certifies tennis instructors and coaches, in 1976. PTR became the first international tennis-teaching organization and it now boasts more than 16,000 certified members in more than 125 countries.
“To know that Dennis will go into the International Hall of Fame this July gives me great joy," said Pat Van der Meer, Dennis' wife. "Dennis would be so honored and happy to be inducted with his great friends in the Original 9. I know he cherished that time in his life and was so proud of what they accomplished.”
Class of 2020 inductees Goran Ivanisevic and Conchita Martinez will also be celebrated after their induction ceremony was postponed last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 International Tennis Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which is currently scheduled to have both virtual and in-person elements, will be held from July 16-18 in Newport, R.I.
For more information on this year's event, visit tennisfame.com/enshrinement.