tabbed for College Hall of Fame
Sally Milano | March 1, 2017
Two of the game’s biggest names have another honor to add to their already impressive tennis resumes.
Former Top 5 player James Blake and world-renowned coach Nick Bollettieri are among the players and coaches who will be inducted into the ITA Men's Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame. Joining them in the 2017 class are University of Georgia alum Matias Boeker and award-winning coaches Francis Baxter and Bill Otta.
The induction ceremony will be held Thursday, May 25, during the 2017 ITA Men's Collegiate Tennis Men's Hall of Fame Enshrinement Banquet at the Georgia Center, which will take place during the NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Championships, scheduled for May 18-29 at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga.
"This is a very accomplished and interesting class of 2017, and we're very excited about adding all five members to the Hall of Fame," said John Frierson, curator of the ITA Collegiate Tennis Men's Hall of Fame. ADVERTISEMENT "We're inducting two exceptional players, two very successful coaches from the Division II, NAIA and Junior College divisions, and another individual in Nick Bollettieri that would surely be on the Mount Rushmore of greatest and most important tennis coaches of all time.”
Blake played two seasons at Harvard in 1998 and 1999 before turning pro and enjoying a 14-year career on the ATP World Tour. In 1999, the Yonkers, N.Y., native was the top player in college tennis, reaching the final of the NCAA singles tournament, earning ITA Player of the Year honors and receiving All-American accolades in both singles and doubles.
After turning pro following his sophomore year, Blake achieved a career-high ranking of No. 4 in the world in 2006, ending the year as the top-ranked American. He captured 10 singles titles during his career, reached three Grand Slam quarterfinals, including two at the US Open, and helped lead the U.S. Davis Cup team to the title in 2007. Blake retired from the pro tour in 2013 but is still involved in the game, now serving as chairperson on the board of the USTA Foundation.
Bollettieri will enter the Hall of Fame in the Contributor category, and his contributions to the sport of tennis are countless. Bollettieri founded his legendary tennis academy in Florida in 1978, which has trained more than 1,500 collegiate players to date. The IMG Academy, formerly known as the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, was the first full-time tennis boarding school to combine intense on-court training with a custom-designed academic curriculum. Many of his former players went on to become ITA national champions, including David Wheaton (Stanford) and Cecil Mammit (USC), and he has coached more than 25 former players who have gone on to become college coaches at various levels.
Boeker joins Blake as an inductee in the Player category. One of the few Triple Crown winners in history, Boeker led the Bulldogs to the NCAA team title in 2001 and then captured the singles and doubles (with Travis Parrott) championships in the individual tournament, becoming just the third player ever to win all three titles in one year. (Alex O'Brien and Bob Bryan of Stanford were the other two.) In 2002, Boeker became the first player to win back-to-back NCAA singles titles since another Bulldog, Mikael Pernfors, accomplished the feat in 1984-85.
Baxter and Otta will be inducted in the Coach category. Baxter served as tennis coach at the University of Central Oklahoma, heading up the men's program for 36 years (1970-2006) and the women's program for 26 years (1980-2006). While at Central Oklahoma, he led the men's and women's teams to six NAIA District 9 championships in the 1980s, while taking the men to three and the women to one NAIA national tournaments.
Otta is one of most accomplished coaches in the history of community college tennis, coaching at Saddleback College from 1975 to 2000 after founding the program in 1975. He finished his career with an overall record of 383-74 (.836), including a conference record of 254-20 (.927) with the men's program. He spent a total of 22 years as men's coach and three years as women's coach. His men's teams accounted for 17 conference championships, 10 regional championships and eight state championships. After resurrecting the women's program, he finished with a 43-12 (.782) record in three seasons, claiming two more conference titles.
The ITA Men's Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame is housed at the University of Georgia's Henry Field stadium in Athens. Players are eligible for election to the Hall of Fame 10 years after the conclusion of their participation on the team and once they are no longer participating on the pro tour. Coaches are eligible immediately following retirement. The main criteria for election are college accomplishments as well as honors earned after college.