Original 9, Hewitt in Tennis Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021

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Billie Jean King and the other members of the Original 9 who laid the groundwork for the women’s professional tour are the first group elected together to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, joining Lleyton Hewitt and Dennis Van der Meer in the Class of 2021.

In results announced Wednesday, Hewitt was the only one of five nominees in the Player Category who was voted in. He won Grand Slam singles titles at the U.S. Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002, reached No. 1 in the ATP rankings and helped Australia win a pair of Davis Cup championships.

“When you are competing, you’re so focused on training and your results that week or that year, you don’t really look ahead to something like this,” Hewitt said. “But when that is all compiled up and deemed deserving of becoming a Hall of Famer, well, it’s just the ultimate recognition for a player, and I’m so honored.”

The other nominees in that category were Lisa Raymond, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Sergi Bruguera and Jonas Bjorkman.

Van der Meer, who died in 2019, advocated for a universal teaching method in tennis and was elected in the Contributor Category, as were the Original 9.

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of when King, elected to the Hall in 1987 for her accomplishments on the court, and eight other players – Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Judy Dalton, Julie Heldman, Kerry Melville Reid, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey and Valerie Ziegenfuss – took a stand against the disparity in prize money between men and women in the sport at the time.

“I guess you could say we were women’s tennis suffragettes, in a way,” Pigeon said.

On Sept. 23, 1970, they all signed $1 contracts with World Tennis Magazine publisher Gladys Heldman to participate in the first women-only tennis tournament. That set the stage for the Virginia Slims circuit and eventually today’s WTA Tour.

Now all four Grand Slam tournaments offer equal prize money to women and men.

“There were three things we were really focused on achieving,” King said. “No. 1, that any girl born in this world would have a place to play and compete. No. 2, that women would be appreciated for our accomplishments, not just our looks. And No. 3, 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.”

The induction ceremony is scheduled for July 17 at the Hall in Newport, Rhode Island, and will also honor the former players voted in as the Class of 2020, Goran Ivanisevic and Conchita Martinez, because last year’s festivities were called off because of the coronavirus pandemic.

There also will be virtual events marking the occasion in July.

Nishioka beats Shapovalov to win Korean Open

2022 US Open - Day 1
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SEOUL, South Korea – Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka claimed his second career title after beating fourth seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada 6-4, 7-6 (5) to win the Korean Open.

The 27-year-old Japanese, who beat top seed and world No.2 Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals, was impressive in defense and his counter-punching style eventually wore down his higher ranked opponent in just under two hours at the Seoul Olympic Park Tennis Center.

The unseeded Nishioka, appearing in his second championship match this year after reaching the Washington final in August, started the brighter and found his rhythm early to claim the first set.

The second set saw momentum change as Shapavolov found his range from the backcourt to take a 3-1 lead. But Nishioka rallied to take the set into a tiebreak where he held firm to win his first tournament since his maiden title at the Shenzen Open in 2018 – where he also beat Shapovalov in their only previous meeting.

The ATP Tour returned to Seoul for the first time since 1996 after the city was awarded a single-year license to stage the Korean Open.

Mayar Sherif becomes first Egyptian to win WTA Tour event

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PARMA, Italy — Mayar Sherif became the first Egyptian to win a WTA Tour event by beating top-seeded Maria Sakkari 7-5, 6-3 at the Parma Ladies Open.

Besides earning her first career title, Sherif also notched her first win over a top-10 opponent.

Along with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, who reached the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals this year, Sherif is raising the profile of tennis in North Africa.

The 74th-ranked Sherif actually had to win two matches on Saturday, first overcoming sixth-seeded Ana Bogdan 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the semifinals, which were postponed a day due to rain.

The seventh-ranked Sakkari beat Danka Kovinic 7-5, 6-2 in her semifinal earlier Saturday.