US Open’s Significant Numbers - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

Focus

US Open’s Significant Numbers

Though it was seventy-five years ago, Joe Hunt’s victory is still meaningful.

Published

on

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.”

 

Focus

Daniil Medvedev Suffers Wimbledon Setback In Halle

Daniil Medvedev preparations for Wimbledon suffered a setback in Halle.

Published

on

(ubitennis/Francesca Micheli)

Daniil Medvedev has suffered a setback ahead of Wimbledon after he was beaten in the second round in Halle by Zhizhen Zhang.

The world number five entered Halle having lost in the fourth round of Roland Garros to Alex De Minaur.

Medvedev doesn’t have the best record on grass and that once again was the case in his 6-3 2-6 7-6(5) defeat to Zhang.

The third seed broke serve on more occasions than his Chinese opponent but ultimately lacked quality in the final set tiebreak.

After the match Zhang was happy with the way he handled the tiebreak, “A really tough match. Last time I lost a third-set tie-break [in Stuttgart last week]. And today again, a third-set tie-break. I was thinking, ‘Okay, it’s time. The perfect moment to get revenge’,” Zhang explained.

“I’m super happy that today I handled it to the end.”

Now Medvedev heads to Wimbledon, where he had his best result last year losing to Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile Zhang will now face Christopher Eubanks in the quarter-finals after the American knocked out defending champion Alexander Bublik.

The other quarter-final confirmed will see Arthur Fils taking on Alexander Zverev.

Zverev defeated Lorenzo Sonego 6-4 7-6(5) and said the following after his victory, “Extremely happy with my performance,” Zverev told the ATP website.

“I felt like it was good tennis and I’m happy to be in the quarters. I’m enjoying the moments on these beautiful courts, happy to be playing the way I am. Hopefully I can continue building, continue playing better.”

Continue Reading

Focus

Former Champion Ash Barty To Make Wimbledon Return In Invitational Doubles

Ash Barty is set to return to tennis at Wimbledon.

Published

on

(@ashbarty - Twitter)

Former Wimbledon champion Ash Barty will return to the tennis court at SW19.

The Australian hasn’t played tennis since announcing her retirement from the sport after winning the Australian Open in 2022.

Barty defeated Danielle Collins in the final and stunningly announced that she would retire from competitive tennis at 25 years old.

Since then the former world number one has had a child as well as competing in exhibition golf tournaments.

However, it now seems like Barty is ready to phase herself back into the tennis world as it has now been announced that she will return to Wimbledon to play the invitational doubles.

It’s unclear who her partner will be at this point but it will be the Australian’s first appearance at SW19 since winning the Wimbledon title in 2021.

Fans will be hoping that this could lead to a potential return to the tour just like Caroline Wozniacki did at last year’s Wimbledon before returning a few months later.

That does look unlikely though given Barty’s mindset and comfortability with her current lifestyle.

Furthermore, Barty will also be joining BBC’s punditry team for the actual Championships.

The main tournament will start on the first of July with the invitational doubles starting on Tuesday 9th of July.

Continue Reading

Focus

Andy Murray Retires against Thompson; Third Seed Dimitrov Also Out at Queens

Andy Murray suffered a heart-breaking exit. Taylor Fritz downs Raonic, while Rinky Hijikata also progresses to last eight.

Published

on

(@the_LTA - Twitter)

Former Wimbledon champion Andy Murray retired after just five games against Australian Jordan Thompson with a back injury that has been niggling him for the last few weeks.

He had been trying his best to manage it, but ultimately succumbed to a loss of strength and coordination and control in his right leg.

The 37-year-old Scot has been on the tour for eighteen years and completed his 1,000th match in the round before, but it was evident during his warm up that something was off. He was not stretching up fully when practising serves, whilst also landed tentatively on his feet.

In fact, former five-time champion Murray looked in some difficulty even walking down the steps walking towards the court. “When I walked up the stairs before going out, and in the pre-match warm up, my back was uncomfortable,” said Murray in a BBC interview afterwards. “I don’t know exactly what the problem is. I hadn’t experienced that before. I have no idea how long it will take to get better and what the treatment options are.”

It was clear that Murray regretted choosing to play today. “The atmosphere was pretty awkward on court; everyone can see there is a problem I don’t know whether I should play or stop. It’s disappointing for the crowd and everyone who has paid to come and watch. In hindsight I wish I hadn’t gone out.”

The pair had met once before back in 2017, also at Queens. But Murray had won Wimbledon the year before; his body was seven years younger than now and far less battered and bruised. It remains to be seen whether the former world number one can be fit in time for this year’s Championships.

Meanwhile Sebastian Korda put in a gritty display to overcome an under-par Grigor Dimitrov in three tough sets 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.

In a very even match with winners and unforced errors almost equal, it was former champion Dimitrov who was regularly under pressure in his service games and offered 14 breakpoints in total. He was behind in numerous baseline duels dropping the ball short many times, enabling Korda, who reached the semi-finals last year, to come in and attack first. The American was also very solid from the forecourt winning 73% at net, as well as winning 83% of points behind his first serve.

The third set looked like it was heading to a tie-break but Korda hit a razor-sharp forehand down the line winner at 30-30 in the final game before world number ten Dimitrov overcooked a forehand to hand the victory to his younger opponent.

“It was a big struggle,” said Korda on court afterwards. “We were both serving really well and holding serve and waiting for our chances. There weren’t many but the ones that came, we tried to get one.”

He downplayed his recent wrist injury and instead was grateful to be playing on the centre court grass: “it’s incredible to play at Queens, definitely one of my favourite tournaments to come to, everything is so amazing. I’m very happy with how it’s going so far. I am super happy. Hopefully I can keep playing some good tennis this week and leading into Wimbledon as well.”

In today’s opening match, qualifier Rinky Hijikata squeezed past Matteo Arnaldi 7-6 (7-0), 7-6 (9-7). While the Italian blasted 37 winners, Hijikata remarkably only offered five unforced errors throughout the two sets. The Australian cruised through the opening breaker without losing a point. However, the second set decider was far closer.

Hijikata squandered five match points and a 6-3 lead in the second set tie-break. A wild forehand miss meant the players crossed at six points each and another put him set point down. But he regrouped after a tremendous rally and won the final three points to reach the quarter finals on his debut at Queens.

“I was pretty nervous,” said Hijikata after the win. “I definitely made it tough for myself today but Matteo was coming up with some really good stuff under pressure and he is a quality player and pretty tricky to put away, but I’m glad to get through today. It’s pretty sweet playing on this court, so thank you to everyone for coming out today.”

Hijikata has been struggling for match wins of late and highlighted his resilience and also gave thanks to his coach: “It’s been a tricky couple of months but I’ve been trying to persevere and keep working hard with my coach, so a lot of the credit goes to him. It hasn’t been easy but a week like this makes it all worthwhile. I was looking forward to the grass swing for the last few months and I always love playing on this surface at a tournament like this, let’s see what I can do for the rest of the grass court season.”

In the last match of the day, American Taylor Fritz defeated Milos Raonic, who had smashed 47 aces in the round before, in straight sets 7-6 (7-5), 6-4. There were no breaks of serve in the first set, lasting 44 minutes, while fourth seed Fritz broke to go 5-4 up in the second and then served out a love game and faces Thompson for a place in the semi-finals.

Continue Reading

Trending