USTA Midwest Section Hall of Fame
October 22, 2019
We are proud to announcee the 2019 inductees to the USTA Midwest Section Hall of Fame! Congratulations to the following individuals on this honor:
Robert "Bob" Ryland, New York City (formerly of Chicago, Illinois)
Ryland began playing tennis at the age of nine through the encouragement of his father and Mrs. C.O. Seames, one of the first nationally-known black tennis coaches, from the Chicago Prairie Tennis Club. Ryland went on to win the Illinois State High School Championship in 1939, beating Jimmy Evert along the way. He also won the ATA Boys’ 18 and under singles championship in 1939.
Following his high school career, Ryland received scholarship offers to play at Xavier University, Wayne State University, and Tennessee A & I. Ryland played for Wayne State University for two years and became the first black man to play in the NCAA tournament, advancing to the semifinals in 1946. ADVERTISEMENT He then went on to play and later coach at Tennessee A & I and twice led the team to national championships. Ryland also won the men’s singles championship in the Detroit Public Parks integrated tournament in 1946.
Ryland went on to win several other singles titles, including the ATA Men’s Singles Championship in 1955 and 1956. He became an admired part of the black tennis community. A 14-year-old Arthur Ashe even said his only dream was “to be good enough to beat Bob Ryland”. His success continued, and in 1959, he broke through the barriers of race and class to become the first professional African American player. Ryland played his first match as a professional in Cleveland.
The Chicago native saw success in both the ATA and integrated amateur tournaments around the country, which made him one of the best-known black players in the United States.
Later in life, Ryland began sharing his love of the game through coaching. He worked briefly at the St. Albans Tennis Club in Washington, D.C. where he gave tennis lessons to some of Washington’s elite, along with coaching at Mid-Town Tennis Club in New York City from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s.
Ryland also coached Venus and Serena Williams when they were juniors, as well as teaching tennis to several celebrities, including Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand.
In addition to being inducted into the USTA/Midwest Hall of Fame, Ryland is currently part of the Wayne State University Athletic Hall of Fame, Black Tennis Hall of Fame, and the USTA/Eastern Section Hall of Fame.
Ryland now calls New York City his home.
Leif Shiras, Laguna Hills, California (formerly of Shorewood, Wisconsin)
Leif Shiras was an accomplished junior player before winning the Wisconsin State High School singles title as both a junior and a senior at Shorewood High School. He eventually became the #1 ranked player in the state for the 18 and under division. Shiras continued his tennis at Princeton University where he was captain of the team and was named All-American in 1979 and 1980. He was also a member of the US Junior Davis Cup team.
Following his graduation from Princeton in 1981, Shiras was a regular on the ATP World Tour from 1982 to 1991. His career wins over Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl, Johan Kriek, and Kevin Curren helped him reach a career-high ranking of #31 in the world. He was the finalist at Queen’s Club, the Wimbledon tune-up in 1984, where he upset Lendl before losing to John McEnroe in a three-set final – one of only two men to take a set off McEnroe on grass that year.
His best singles performance at a Grand Slam event was at Wimbledon when he reached the 4th round in 1989. In 1995 Shiras won the Veteran Doubles Championship at Wimbledon w former Grand Slam titlist Peter McNamara. Shiras was a US Open Mixed Doubles semi-finalist w Kathleen Horvath in 1984. He was also selected by Davis Cup captain Tom Gorman to travel w US teams as practice partner for John McEnroe and Andre Agassi.
Shiras has enjoyed a 30-year career as a tennis broadcaster. He worked at Prime Network, Fox Sports Net, USA Network and Outdoor Life Network covering the ATP and WTA tours with longtime partner Barry Mackay. Shiras is one of the original announcers at the Tennis Channel since its inception in 2003 -- He continues to be a part of their broadcast team 17 years later.
Most recently, Shiras was a part of the USTA’s broadcast team for the 2019 US Open and called the men’s singles championship match.
He now resides in Laguna Hills, California with his wife of 31 years, Maria. He has two grown sons who work in the finance industry: Emmett, who lives in Newport Beach, California and Austin, who resides in Manhattan, New York.
Brian Eisner, Ann Arbor, Michigan
As a Division I Men’s Collegiate Head Coach for 37 years, Eisner boasted a combined win-loss record of 523-231-1 (755 matches). Eisner served as the University of Toledo Head Men’s Coach over six seasons from 1963-1969, followed by his longest coaching stint at the University of Michigan for 31 seasons (1969-1999).
In addition to a deep commitment to the sport of tennis on the coaching side, Eisner also played in college at Michigan State University where he was a finalist in the Big Ten singles championship in 1960 and captained the team in 1961 and 1962.
Through his many years of coaching, Eisner received many accolades and led his teams over the years to victory. Eisner was named Big Ten Men’s Tennis Coach of the Year four different times and won 18 Big Ten Conference championships with one streak of 16 consecutive titles. He won four consecutive Mid-American Conference Championships while coaching at the University of Toledo. Eisner is also responsible for producing 12 collegiate All-Americans and six Big Ten Players of the Year.
Eisner is also a crucial part of his Ann Arbor community, where he still resides. Eisner founded, owns and operates Liberty Athletic Club, which serves as a multi-sport athletic facility with tennis courts and has been a leader in tennis programming for many decades.
Along with his induction into the USTA/Midwest Section Hall of Fame, Eisner is also a member of the University of Toledo Athletics Hall of Fame, the ITA Men’s College Tennis Hall of Fame, and the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor.
SAVE THE DATE
The induction ceremony will take place January 31, 2020 during the Section’s 126th Annual Meeting at the The Alexander in Indianapolis, Indiana. Stay tuned for more information and updates!