US Open Military Appreciation Day - A Story About “Two Joes” - UBITENNIS
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US Open Military Appreciation Day – A Story About “Two Joes”

Annually, the US Open celebrates Military Appreciation Day on what is known as Labor Day, the first Monday in September. This year, the tournament honored a former champion. In 1943, Joe Hunt won the US National Championships singles title. In 1945, as a Navy pilot, he was killed in a WWII training mission becoming the only US champion to die while servicing his country. Recognition as a player and individual has long been overdue, which makes it fitting that there now is Lt. Joe Hunt Military Appreciation Day.

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Joe Hunt and Jack Kramer Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame Museum Newport Rhode Island

In early July, the USTA announced that it would recognize a former champion on the day it annually fetes those who have dedicated portions of their lives to serving the country. There is a great deal more to story about the decision for the US Open to celebrate Lt. Joe Hunt Military Appreciation Day. It is much bigger than resolving to honor the 1943 US National singles champion whose extraordinary accomplishments have, for the most part, been lost to all, but a few who cherish the game. 

 

In truth, this is a story about two “Joes”. But, it is much more meaningful then the days when “Joe” was slang for a good guy. It is more significant than a reference to an American soldier, and it surely does not relate to a mere cup of coffee. These Joes are special. They are distinctly different, yet very much alike. One easily could be a movie character straight out of Hollywood’s “Golden Age.” The other seems to be a regular Joe but has proven to be much, much more.

The first Joe is Joseph (Joe) R. Hunt. He was born in San Francisco, California but raised in Los Angeles. He had it all. Based on his looks alone – he was blond and blue-eyed and built like he worked out at Muscle Beach in Venice, California rather than on the Los Angeles Tennis Club courts-he was ready for the “Big Screen.”

However, there was a problem. He was also a great athlete. He won the National Boys’ 18 and 15 titles. By the time he was 17, his playing ability earned him a 1936 US Men’s Top 10 ranking. Playing No. 1 for USC, in 1938, he never lost a team singles or doubles match. He rounded out the season taking the NCAA Doubles Championship with teammate Lewis Wetherell.

He teamed with Jack Kramer in the 1939 Davis Cup against Australia. With the US leading, 2-0, the youngsters came up short in the critical match. John Bromwich and Adrian Quist, a veteran duo, triumphed 5-7, 6-2, 7-5, 6-2. (Australia, in the only time the country ever trailed 0-2 in the final, ended up claiming the Cup, 3-2.)

At the US National Championships played in Forest Hills, New York, that same year, Hunt was a singles semifinalist losing to Bobby Riggs, the tournament winner, 6-1, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1. In 1940, he was again a semifinals and Riggs again ended his run, narrowly slipping past him, 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.

Hunt was almost too good to be true. Besides his good looks and being a stellar player, he had charisma. And, people really liked him. What’s more, he was exceedingly realistic. He was aware of what was taking place in the world during the late ‘30s. His concerns led him to leave USC and transfer to the Naval Academy in 1939.

Two years later, Hunt was able to garner time from his duties and became the first (and only) player from the Naval Academy to win the NCAA Singles title. His military commitment kept him from participating in the US Nationals later in 1941 and again in ‘42.

But, he returned to Forest Hills in 1943. World War II was ravaging Europe and the Far East, so the US was only Grand Slam tournament held that year. As it turned out, the final between Hunt and Jack Kramer was a contest between two players on “leave”. Hunt represented the Navy and Kramer, the US Coast Guard.

On a brutally hot and humid day, the Naval Lieutenant downed the Coast Guard Seaman 6-3, 6-8, 10-8, 6-0. For both players, it was a heroic performance. When Kramer’s last shot sailed long, Hunt collapsed on the baseline of the worn grass at the Forest Hills with leg cramps. His opponent, who had suffered a bout of food poisoning during the tournament, slowly made his way to where the winner was sitting to shake his hand. It was a dramatic end to an unforgettable match.

Jack Kramer and Joe Hunt Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport Rhode

The second Joe is Joseph (Joe) T. Hunt. He is the great-nephew of the first Joe.  As is the case with almost all of those in the family, he grew up playing tennis. For him, it was in Santa Barbara, California. By trade, he is a lawyer, and practices in Seattle, Washington. He is also a member of the Pacific Northwest, (one of the 17 USTA sections), Board of Directors and serves as the Section Delegate. 

Whenever he has an opportunity, Hunt heads to the court – not the legal one – but the one where he can play. He is as passionate about the game as he has been in leading the family’s effort to ensure that the first Joe isn’t forgotten.

His dedication to this quest has been “Clarence Darrow-like.” As the clever 20th Century lawyer, pointed out, “Chase after the truth like all hell and you’ll free yourself, even though you never touch its coattails.” 

Initially, Hunt sought to have “The Original” Joe’s name added to  the Court of Champions, located between the South Plaza and Courts 10 and 13 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. According to the USTA website, “The US Open Court of Champions celebrates the legacy of the greatest singles champions in the history of the US Open and US Championships. Each champion defines the essence of the talent and the character required to win at tennis’ ultimate proving ground. Inductees, selected by media from around the world, represent the tournament’s all-time greatest “the best of the best” whose electrifying performances have contributed to making the US Open one of the world’s top sporting events.”

The facts reveal that the Court of Champions was launched in 2004 and prior to 2019 only eleven more enshrinements had taken place recognizing ten men and eight women.

Joseph R. Hunt was killed on February 2, 1945, fifteen days before his 26th birthday. He was on a training flight when his Navy Hellcat, a WWII combat aircraft, went into a spin at 10,000 feet. It crashed into the ocean off the coast of Florida. His body and the plane were never recovered.

The second Joe has done his utmost to see that the first Joe would be remembered. It hasn’t been an easy. He has been focused on the task since 2013 and has been aided by the entire Hunt family. Still, it has been a slog. Borrowing from Navy slang, throughout it all, he has always been “Above Board.”

As an example of the way he is, Hunt delighted in revealing,  “I know that Joe was not the only player to not have a chance to defend his US National title. Ted (Schroeder) won it in 1942 and was not able to defend in 1943. They both were Navy pilots stationed in Pensacola, Florida.  Neither was granted leave to play Forest Hills in 1944 so they both entered a 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 a local event.  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 of spectators 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.”

Hunt pointed out, “Joe went out for football at the Naval Academy because he loved that sport too and wanted to be part of a team…”

 

Joe Hunt was a halfback on the Navy football team. Acme Photo

But, as it is with many of the stories about the first Joe, there is much more to the tale…Imagine, in 1939, being one of the best tennis players in the country and, in the world for that matter, then deciding to play football and being assigned to the junior varsity. That’s what happened to Hunt. The next year, he played halfback on the varsity and was good enough to help the team achieve a six win, two loss, one tie season. In 1941, he was a standout on a team that finished with seven wins, one loss and one tie, and ended up ranked No. 10 by the Associated Press. Hunt played so well in the game against Army, (the Midshipmen’s third win in a row over the Cadets) that he was given a game ball signed by the entire team.

As mentioned in the beginning of this piece, Joe R. Hunt’s life, ( his death aside), was fairytale-like. As the second Joe recalled,  “…He left his immensely successful life in Southern California to enter the Naval Academy, knowing that it would make it nearly impossible to achieve his dreams of becoming a great tennis champion… He put the right things ahead of the game.”

All of the Hunts are pleased that US Open Lt. Joe Hunt Military Appreciation Day will recognize a one-of-a-kind former tournament winner. Speaking for the Hunts the second Joe said, “The family of Lt. Hunt will be forever grateful to the USTA and the US Open leadership for taking this action to honor Joe by permanently assigning his name to the annual Military Appreciation Day.”

He further noted, “Connecting a real person to Military Appreciation Day will help the US Open achieve its inspiring purpose for the event, and there is no more fitting figure in the history of tennis to connect with the sport’s ideals of patriotism and sacrifice than Lt. Joe Hunt.”

Joe T. Hunt continues to believe that the first Joe’s life and the sacrifice he made for his country has earned him a place in the Court of Champions…and he also looks forward to collaborating with the USTA regarding how best to memorialize the lost aviator and other military service veterans at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Simply said. during a divisive period in the world, people like Lt. is Joseph (Joe) R. Hunt need to be remembered and not covered by the dust that results from the passage of time.

Lt. Joseph R. Hunt, USN, training at Daytona Beach, Florida, where he was killed when his fighter plane crashed at sea.
Cover of the March 1945 issue of American Lawn Tennis

ATP

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal To Quarantine In Adelaide Ahead Of Australian Open

The world’s best players are set to face off against each other in a new exhibition tournament at the end of this month.

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The highest ranked players in the world of tennis will travel to Adelaide instead of Melbourne to quarantine under a new deal announced by Tennis Australia.

 

Under the terms agreed with the Southern Australian Government, the three highest ranked players on both the ATP and WTA Tour’s will travel to the region. The decision has been made to help ease the pressure on Melbourne who are close to their capacity of holding 1000 players and their teams. Adelaide is set to quarantine around 50 people ahead of the first Grand Slam of 2021.

Under part of the deal, an exhibition tournament will take place in the region as part of an incentive for them agreeing to help. Should all of the top three players take part, the event would feature Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem on the men’s side. Meanwhile, the women’s field will feature home favourite Ash Barty, Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka. The event will be played on January 29 and 30.

“We’re right up to the edge of people that can quarantine in Melbourne so we needed some relief,” Australian Open chief Craig Tiley told the Tennis Channel.
“We approached the South Australian government about the possibility of them quarantining at least 50 people, but they wouldn’t have any interest in doing it because there’s no benefit for them to do it to put their community at risk if the players then go straight to Melbourne.
“But it would be a benefit if they played an exhibition tournament just before they came to Melbourne, so the premier (Steven Marshall) has agreed to host 50 people in a quarantine bubble and then have those players play an exhibition event.”

The conditions of the Quarantine will be the same as it will be in Melbourne with players only allowed to leave their room in order to train during the 14-day period. Should anybody break protocol, they could face up to a AUS$20,000 fine, possible risk of criminal sanction and even deportation from the country.

“We think this is a great opportunity to launch before we go into the season. This a state and city who have just invested $44 million in building a new stadium. So this is a nice way to say thank you,” Tiley added.

Melbourne will still remain the primary location for tennis with the region hosting a series of events both before and after the Australian Open. On the men’s tour, the plan is to hold two 250 tournaments and the ATP Cup during the first week of February. Meanwhile, the WTA is set to stage two 500 events during the week starting January 31st and then a 250 tournament immediately after the Australian Open.

Speaking about Melbourne Park, Tiley is hopeful that between 50% and 75% of its usual capacity will be used by fans. To put that into perspective, last year the US Open was played behind closed doors and the French Open significantly reduced their capacity due to the pandemic.

The Australian Open will start on February 8th.

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Australian Open Axes Hotel Quarantine Contract Following Legal Threat

The decision comes after residents voiced concern that international tennis players pose a potential health risk to them.

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Tennis Australia has been forced to relocate one of their player accommodation venues after residents threatened to take the government to court.

 

Earlier this week a group of penthouse owners at the Westin Hotel in Melbourne confirmed that they were contemplating legal action, arguing that international players posed a health risk to them. The group also claims that they have been given insufficient information about the arrangements which has been disputed by the local government.

Despite assurances by officials that the residents would not be interacting with the players due to part of the hotel being sealed off, it has been decided to no longer use the Westin. It is unclear as to how many players would have been staying at the venue.

“The Australian Open team has been working closely with COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) on suitable quarantine hotel options in Melbourne. Several hotels in Melbourne have already been secured, including a replacement for the Westin, to safely accommodate the international playing group and their team members as well as allow for them to properly prepare for the first Grand Slam of the year. The health and safety of everyone is our top priority,” a statement from Tennis Australia reads.

Lisa Neville, who is the country’s minister of police, said the decision to change venue has been taken in order to prevent the risk of the Melbourne major being delayed once again. Ms Neville said she was first made aware of the concerns on Sunday.

We became aware on Sunday that there were some concerns that had been expressed by the residents in the apartments,” she said.
“We were also concerned this may delay the standing up of the Australian Open so we’ve gone through a process of securing a new site.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, players arriving in the country must quarantine for 14 days before they are allowed to play professional events. Although they are allowed to train during this period. As a result, the Australian Open will be taking place during February for the first time in more than 100 years.

According to abc.net.au, the government will publish a list of hotels that will be used for quarantine next week. Players are set to start arriving in Australia from January 14th.

The Australian Open will start on February 8th.

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Australian Open Facing Legal Action Over Quarantine Plans

Less than two weeks before players are set to enter a mandatory quarantine, residents at one hotel are considering taking Tennis Australia to court.

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The Australian Open is facing a new crisis with a group of apartment owners launching a legal case to not allow players to stay at their premises.

 

Residents at the Westin Melbourne says they were given insufficient information about plans for players to stay at the Westin ahead of the Grand Slam and argue they pose a health risk to them. The venue has been chosen as one of the premises when players from around the globe will stay during a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in the country. During the quarantine, they are not allowed to play professional tournaments but will be permitted to train. Players are set to start arriving in Melbourne from January 14th.

“At 84, I’m in the vulnerable group and it’s shocking the way they tried to ram this through without any attempt to consult with us,” owner Digby Lewis told Fairfax.
“I’m more than happy to toss in $10,000 or $20,000 to help the legal fight, it’s bloody shocking.”

According to The Age newspaper, the legal action is being considered by the 36 owners of penthouse apartments in the hotel, including many who live there on a permanent basis. One of their plans of action could include trying to obtain a last-minute injection which would prevent players from arriving if the court agrees to issue one.

The Victorian government formally approved the quarantine plan on December 18th and apartment owners were then notified on December 23rd. Although they insist that they never agreed to the terms.

“It’s incredibly arrogant to ambush us this way as if it’s a done deal. There are substantive public health and legal issues that have not even been examined,” apartment owner Mark Nicholson told The Age and the SMH.

In a statement issued to Reuters news agency, a representative from The Westin hotel has insisted that residents will not be in contact with players throughout their stay. They will be using separate entrances and lifts into the venue in accordance with their ‘COVID safe’ guidelines.

Their floor will remain exclusive while there will be no reticulation of ventilation between the floors,” the statement outlines.

Jacinta Allan, who is the acting Premier of Melbourne state, has also tried to ease any concerns the residents have. Speaking to reporters on Monday, Allan said a ‘rigorous assessment’ was conducted before the hotel was approved to host international athletes.

“The Westin, like every venue, went through a rigorous assessment, very strict infection prevention measures have been put in place in all of the venues,” she said.
“The very clear advice is that arrangements have been put in place so there is no contact between the existing residents and the people staying associated with the Australian Open.
“There are separate entrances, there are separate floors, there are floor monitors on every floor, there is 24/7 Victoria Police presence associated with every venue.”

The development is the latest setback for Tennis Australia and their plans for the Grand Slam. Due to the pandemic the Australian Open has had to be delayed until February for the first time in more than 100 years. Officials originally hoped for players to arrive in the country from December before the government ruled against it.

The Australian Open will get underway on February 8th.

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