One of this year’s major US Open stories is in the numbers. The tournament is the fiftieth of the Open Era and the fortieth time it has been staged at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. But, for a select group of tennis devotees the August 27th until September 9th event is even more significant. It offers a “Lookback” opportunity, in truth a celebration, of Joe Hunt’s championship victory seventy-five years ago.
In 1942, Ted Schroeder slipped past Frank Parker in the US National Championships singles final, 8-6, 7-5, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2. A year later, Schroeder, in the military because of national preparation for World War II, was unable to defend his title. Joe Hunt took full advantage of the situation. In another All-American contest, on a brutally hot and humid afternoon, he defeated Jack Kramer for the title 6-3, 6-8, 10-8, 6-0 on the grass at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York.
When Kramer’s last shot traveled long, Hunt collapsed on the baseline and simply sat there, because he had leg cramps. His opponent, who had his own issues dealing with food poisoning during the tournament, was similarly exhausted. He, none-the-less, hopped the net then sat down next to the winner, and shook hands with him. Many years later, Kramer jokingly commented that although he was weak, if he had been able to last a bit longer he may have triumphed by default.
Seventy-five years ago, the world was different. Beginning in 1939, World War II had devoured borders and changed Europe and Asia, (and not for the better). There were food and production shortages, and lifestyles were frequently altered. From a tennis standpoint, the annual fortnight in New York became a six-day tournament. The singles draws featured 32 players while the doubles had 16 tandems. Since many of the men were involved in military service, those participating in the event were not “match fit”. They hadn’t been competing since it was next to impossible to get leave from military commitments and, coupled with travel and gasoline restrictions, players were not focused on playing tennis tournaments. In fact, the US National Championships, (the only one of the four majors to be held during the war), had to rely on the government to release “limited amounts” of reclaimed rubber so that tennis balls could be made.
(Hunt would subsequently die fifteen days shy of his 26th birthday on February 2, 1945 when his Navy Hellcat, a WWII combat aircraft, crashed into the ocean while he was on a training flight off the coast of Daytona Beach, Florida.)
Hunt’s great-nephew, Joseph (Joe) T. Hunt grew up playing tennis in Santa Barbara, California. He is now an attorney practicing in Seattle, Washington and he takes advantage of opportunities to get on the court regularly. More important, he has led the family’s effort to ensure that Joe Hunt isn’t forgotten.
“I have to really spend some time to gather my thoughts on what the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of Joe’s victory means,” he said. “I have so many of them. Joe was a patriot from what is considered the greatest generation of our nation. He is the only American tennis champion to lose his life serving his country in a time of war. We lost him so early and so young. He never had a chance to reach his full potential, yet he accomplished so much by the age of 25. He was a remarkable young man, devoted to tennis, devoted to his family and devoted to his country. The family lost him, and tennis lost him. Over time, while the family continued to grieve the loss of our uncle, brother and son, tennis seemed to forget and not consider the meaning of this loss to the game.”
Tennis historians credit Kramer for developing the “Big Game” – meaning being a serve and volleyer. According to Bobby Riggs, a contemporary of his, Hunt used the tactic before the iconic Kramer.
“As maybe the first true serve and volleyer, Joe was changing the game itself,” his great nephew said. “He never had a chance to tell his story from his perspective. I feel I have been his only voice in trying to tell the tennis world who he really was and what we all lost.”
The original Joe Hunt was one-of-a-kind not only because of his athletic ability, but also because of his blond good looks and his marvelous charisma. As a junior, he was a star, winning the National Boys’ 15 and 18 titles. By the age of 17, his success on court earned him a US Top 10 ranking. In 1938, he was USC’s top player and didn’t lose a singles or doubles match. He enlisted and transferred to the US Naval Academy. In 1940, he was a halfback (American football) and played against Army that season, earning a game ball for his outstanding performance. The next year, he became the only competitor [ever] from the Naval Academy to win the NCAA singles championship.
Hunt continued, “Joe went out for football at the Naval Academy because he loved that sport too. He also wanted to be part of a team. He was the most famous player on the football team by a mile, and it wasn’t for football.” But, with all his stardom, he spent the hot summer and chilly fall getting pushed into the mud by seasoned players who wanted to make sure he knew he was no ‘star’ on their field. And he was fine with that. When he had the choice of skipping football practice so that he could play Forest Hills and possibly win it, he went to football practice. He would not let his teammates down, even though he was destined to spend more time on the bench than on the field as a backup running back. But, those on the football team respected him for it. They knew Joe’s tennis hands and legs were Davis Cup commodities and they saw Joe give them up for the team they were on. That is why they gave him the game ball for the 1941 Army Navy game, and every teammate signed it for him.
“Now, after seventy-five years, the last remnants of the greatest generation are bidding farewell, and we as a nation are at a moment of moral truth. How are we to say goodbye to them? How are we to remember and honor them? How are we to protect their legacy of saving the world for future generations? Each soul lost in the war effort is a part of that legacy. How will tennis address this? We just saw a great remembrance of the return of the bodies of men who gave their lives in the Korean War. Bringing home, the bodies after so many years was hugely significant to the families and the nation. I think of Joe’s body, never recovered, at the bottom of the Atlantic with his plane. It’s a sadness our family still bears.”
The times were unparalleled, which makes it no surprise that an unmatched backstory resulted. “I know that Joe was not the only player to not have a chance to defend his title, because Ted (Schroeder) won it in 1942 and was not able to defend in 1943,” Hunt pointed out. “They both were Navy fliers stationed in Pensacola, Florida. Neither was granted leave to play Forest Hills so they both entered the local Pensacola tournament held at the same time as the National Championships. Of course, the local tennis community couldn’t believe their lucky stars to have the 1942 and the 1943 champions playing in the tournament. It was billed as the ‘Clash of Net Champions’ and would supposedly determine the true No. 1 player in the country, despite that ‘other’ tournament taking place in New York. Joe and Ted both reached the final where ‘urban legend’ has it that they played their match in front of thousands on September 4, 1944, while Frank Parker was playing Bill Talbert in the final of Forest Hills (and winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3). I have spent hours trying to vet the truth of this story. I know that it is true, I just don’t know if it is 100% true that the two finals were played simultaneously. In any event, Joe beat Ted 6-4, 6-4. Despite what many have written, this was, in fact, the last tournament match of Joe’s life.”
Seventy-five years was too long ago to remember for most of us. Memories and treasures from that time are scattered here and there. Some are lost forever. In the case of Joe Hunt, his accomplishments, along with the individual himself, should not be left covered in dust and diminished by the passage of time.
Great nephew Joe Hunt said, “I think of a young man who stood for literally everything that is true and good in sport. An amateur who wasn’t seeking to profit off his game. He left his immensely successful life in Southern California to enter the Naval Academy, knowing that it would literally make it near impossible to achieve his dreams as a tennis champion. He intrinsically understood sportsmanship, camaraderie and good will. Everyone loved Joe. He played for all he was worth, but never took a ‘win at all costs’ approach to tennis. He put the right things ahead of the game.”
Alexander Zverev Denies Using Phone During Match At ATP Finals
The world No.7 has insisted that he didn’t break any rules at the season-ending event.
LONDON: Reigning ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev has denied allegations that he was swiping through his phone during a sit down in his latest match in London.
A series of Twitter users posted footage of the German placing his hand in his bag. It appeared as if he was using a phone or some sort of electronic device. Using his thumb to either press a button or swipe something. Despite the allegations, Zverev has denied any wrongdoing.
“My phone was in the locker room. I always leave it there. I don’t know what they saw, but it was definitely not a phone.” Zverev replied when quizzed in his press conference.
Under rules set out by the ATP, it is an offence for players to use their phones during matches and they could potentially be penalised. The rule is in place as part of fight against match-fixing in the sport.
“A player is not allowed to use any electronic devices (e.g. CD players, mobile phones, etc.) during matches, unless approved by the Supervisor.” The 2019 ATP rulebook states.
Despite the 22-year-old stating his innocence, questions remain about what he was looking at inside his bag. Which is located next up the chair of the match umpire. Asked to explain, he said it might have been ‘an empty water bottle.’
Zverev was not particularly slick about the phone use either. He’s down a double break in this set, so it hasn’t much helped. pic.twitter.com/9aLb8TL1QN
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) November 13, 2019
Zverev will play his final match of the round-robin stage at the ATP Finals against Daniil Medvedev. He is currently 1-1 in the group after defeating Rafael Nadal before losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas on Wednesday.
“Days like this happen. It’s just how it is in sports.” Said Zverev after his latest loss. “Against Rafa, I played a great match. Today I didn’t. This is just how it is sometimes, even though I have to give credit to him. He played really well.”
“There are a lot of things that I did not do great, and I have to change that to have a chance on Friday.”
There are three possible scenarios in which Zverev can qualify for the semi-finals. The most simple is that if both he and Nadal or Tsitsipas win their next matches. He can also qualify if he loses to Medvedev in three sets and Tsitsipas wins.
If Nadal & Medvedev win:
If Nadal & Zverev win:
If Tsitsipas wins & Medvedev wins in 2:
If Tsitsipas wins & Medvdev wins in 3:
If Tsitsipas & Zverev win:
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) November 13, 2019
Jean Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau beat Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah in the doubles tournament in London
Former ATP Finals champions Jean Julien Rojer from the Netherlands and Horia Tecau from Romania beat 2019 year-end number 1 team Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 6-2 5-7 10-8 after 90 minutes in Max Mirnyi Group of the doubles tournament at the ATP Finals in London.
Tecau broke serve with a backhand crosscourt winner to take a 3-1 lead in the opening set. The Romanian player went up a double break with a backhand crosscourt winner at 5-2 to seal the opening set after 28 minutes.
Cabal and Farah did not convert any of their break points in the ninth game of the second set before breaking serve for the first time in the match two games later to claim the second set 7-5 forcing the match to the decisive set.
Rojer and Tecau went up a 6-2 lead in the Match Tie-Break. Cabal and Farah won four consecutive points to draw level to 6-6. Rojer and Tecau rallied from 7-8 down by winning three consecutive points to claim the Match Tie-Break 10-8.
Rojer and Tecau have now a 1-1 record in Group Max Mirnyi. The Dutch and Romanian team took the re-match against Cabal and Farah, who won their previous head-to-head clash in five sets at Wimbledon en route to their maiden Grand Slam doubles title.
“I am happy with our form. We lost the first match and knew we would need to bounce back against a very good team. We played a very good first set, prior to them making adjustments in the second set. We played a really good Match tie-break”, said Rojer.
Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus secure their spot in the semifinal in the doubles tournament at the ATP Finals in London
Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus beat Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo 6-3 6-4 in the evening’s double match securing their spot in the semifinal with a record of 2-0 in the Group Jonas Bjorkman.
Klaasen earned an early break with a forehand volley to open up a 3-1 lead. Venus and Klaasen dropped just four points on serve and did not face a break point. Venus held serve at 5-3 to close out the opening set 6-3 after 32 minutes.
Both teams held serve until the ninth game, when Venus got the first break at 4-4 with a half-volley winner, when Melo was serving on a deciding point. Kubot and Melo fended off two match points in the next game to force a deciding point and got their first break point of the match.
Venus sealed the win after 71 minutes with a big serve on their third match point in the 10th game. Klaasen and Venus won 86 % of their serve points.
US players Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury scored their first win in the Group Jonas Bjorkman at the Nitto ATP Finals, when they beat Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek 3-6 6-3 10-6 in the Match Tie-Break. The US team improved their ranking to 1-1.
Dodig and Polasek earned the first break in the fourth game of the opening set to open up a 3-1 lead. They saved four consecutive break points in the ninth game, when they were serving for the first set at 5-3. Dodig and Polasek sealed the first set with a service winner after 33 minutes.
Ram and Salisbury did not convert break points in the most crucial moments of the first set. Ram and Salisbury earned their only break in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead and did not face a single break point to win the second set 6-3 forcing the match to the third set.
Ram and Salisbury opened up a 3-0 lead with an early mini-break in the Match tie-break. Dodig and Polasek rallied to draw level to 5-5. Ram and Salisbury sealed the win on the first match point, when Polasek hit a backhand volley into the net at 9-6.
Dodig and Polasek, who won two titles in Cincinnati and Beijing, lost to Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo 10-5 in the Match Tie-Break in last Saturday’s first match.
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