Joe Hunt Invitational
honors tennis hero
Brian Ormiston | September 18, 2018
Each September since 2015, the United States Naval Academy has shined a light on one of the greatest stories in tennis, that of 1943 U.S. National Championships men’s singles winner Joe Hunt. This year, Navy’s men’s tennis team will host the fourth edition of the Joe Hunt Invitational, from Sept. 28-30 in Annapolis, Md., in his honor.
In 1938, while ranked in the Top 5 in the world, Lt. Joseph R. Hunt enlisted in the U.S. Naval Academy, where he competed on the school’s varsity tennis and football teams. Following the Pearl Harbor bombing in December 1941, he found himself on the USS Rathburne, a destroyer warship, after his graduation. Hunt was granted leave in 1943 to compete in the U.S. National Championships, where he memorably defeated Jack Kramer in a four-set final. Kramer himself was enlisted with the Coast Guard in Forest Hills, N.Y.ADVERTISEMENT
Not only did Hunt claim the U.S. National Championships title (the tournament would become the US Open in 1968, with the advent of the Open era), he also captured national 18- and 15-and-under titles, as well as the NCAA singles trophy with Navy and the NCAA doubles trophy with USC (where he was enrolled prior to Navy). He is the only player to win the U.S. boys’ (15 and under), junior (18 and under), collegiate and men’s singles titles, and was named to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1966.
Just two years after his victory in New York, his life was tragically taken when his fighter plane crashed in a practice mission over the Atlantic Ocean.
For much more on Hunt’s incredible journey, see this recent Washington Post story.
“It is a tremendous honor to our great-uncle that the Naval Academy is preserving and perpetuating his legacy through this annual event,” said grandnephew Joe Hunt. “Coach Chris Garner and his staff do an amazing job hosting the tournament, which provides a full weekend of competition for 96 student-athletes to prepare them for their seasons. Matches are played on all courts throughout the Academy Yard, and the intensity of the tennis is tremendous. Joe would be so proud of all competitors, and the Hunt family is grateful to the Academy for honoring his memory in this way.”
On Sept. 27, 2015, Navy dedicated The Joseph R. Hunt Court to commemorate his inspiring service to his country and the game of tennis.
This year, the Joe Hunt Invitational features six singles and three doubles flights, with student-athletes from the following schools competing: Navy, Air Force, Connecticut, Delaware, Fairleigh Dickinson, George Mason, George Washington, Monmouth, Richmond, St. Bonaventure and Temple.