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

Grand Slam

Tennis Australia Face Calls To Honour Margaret Court In 2020 Amid Potential Backlash

The 77-year-old is regarded as one of her country’s greatest-ever tennis players, but has been criticised for a series of homophobic comments she has made.

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Controversial tennis legend Margaret Court has said she wants to be treated the same as fellow former great Rod Laver concerning the upcoming anniversary of one of the biggest milestones she has ever achieved in her career.

 

2020 will mark 50 years since Court won all four grand slam titles within the same season. An elusive achievement in the world of tennis. Only three women in total have managed to complete a calendar grand slam – Maureen Connolly (1953) and Steffi Graf (1988) are the others. Court also still holds the record for the most grand slam singles titles ever won by a tennis player at 24. One ahead of Serena Williams.

Court said she has received no contact from Tennis Australia regarding any plans to mark her milestone. Laver, who is the only man to ever complete the calendar grand slam twice, was honoured this year for his accomplishment. It is the 50th anniversary of when he claimed the four major trophies back in 1969.

“I think Tennis Australia should sit and talk with me (about the anniversary),” Court told Nine News Australia.
“They have never phoned me. Nobody has spoken to me directly about it. I think they would rather not confront it.
“They brought Rod in from America. If they think I’m just going to turn up, I don’t think that is right. I think I should be invited. I would hope they would pay my way to come like they paid for his, and honour me. If they are not going to do that, I don’t really want to come.”

Any move to honour Court at the Australian Open in January is likely to split opinion. The 77-year-old has been criticised for a series of homophobic remarks she has made for many years. In 1990 she once said that Martina Navratilova was a bad role model for children because she is gay. A vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, she said in another interview in 2017 that tennis was ‘full of lesbians’ and those who identify as transgender were ‘the work of the devil.’ In another incident, Court wrote a comment to an Australian newspaper is which she said took a swipe at former player Casey Dellacqua after she announced the birth of her child. Dellacqua is in a same-sex relationship.

There have been calls for Court’s name to be removed from one of the premier stadiums at the Australian Open in light of hew views. Billie Jean King, who is one of the founding members of the WTA, has previously called for the arena to be renamed.

“I don’t feel any of that should be brought into my tennis career,” Court told The Sydney Morning Herald about calls for her name being removed. “It was a different phase of my life from where I am now and if we are not big enough as a nation and a game to face those challenges there is something wrong.
“Many gay people think my name shouldn’t come off it. There are many gay people who don’t believe in gay marriage. They know that marriage is between a man and a woman and they will say that. Then you get the radicals coming at me, you have got these minority groups in every area now having a say and taking on nations and taking on big companies.”

Whilst her comments have triggered controversy, Court has insisted that she has nothing against gay people. Claiming she has members of the LGBT community attend her church. Following retirement from tennis, Court became a Christian pastor.

“I have gay people in the church. It is nothing against the people themselves, I just said what the Bible said. If I can’t say what the Bible says, there is something wrong.”

The ball is now very much in the court of Tennis Australia, who oversees the running of the Melbourne major. Although coming to a decision will not be easy. In June they were named as one of the best sporting organisations for LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the annual Pride Sport Awards in Melbourne.

“As previously stated, Tennis Australia recognises the tennis achievements of Margaret Court, although her views do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion.” A statement from Tennis Australia reads.

During her career Court won 140 titles in the Open Era (1968 onwards). 92 of those were in singles and 48 were in doubles. At the 1963 Australian Open and 1970 US Open she won all three titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

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Grand Slam

Simona Halep To Change Grand Slam Schedule Ahead of Olympics

The Romanian is set to play extra events in the majors in a bid to boost her chances of winning a medal in Tokyo.

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Former world No.1 Simona Halep has her eyes set on winning more than one medal at the 2020 Olympic Games after confirming she will play extra matches during three grand slam tournaments next year.

 

The 28-year-old intends to participate in the mixed doubles along with a yet to be decided compatriot. It will be a rare appearance for Halep, who has only played in two mixed doubles tournaments throughout her professional career so far. Doing so at the 2015 US Open and 2016 French Open with Horia Tacu.

Despite her lack of experience in the discipline, the Romanian is hoping to build some momentum in the grand slams next year. A two-time grand slam champion, she has focused solely on singles competition at every major for over four years.

“I have only Melbourne, maybe French Open, and grass. Grass is a little bit dangerous because the surface is tough and you can get hurt a little bit with the men’s serve.” Halep told reporters in Beijing.
“But the goal is to play all the time mixed doubles with my partner to get used to the game, to be able to achieve a good result at the Olympics.”

Halep made her Olympic debut back in 2012, but opted not to play in the 2016 edition. In London she lost in the first round of both the singles and women’s doubles competition. Halep is bidding to become only the third Romanian tennis player in history to win an Olympic medal. Following in the footsteps of Tecau and Florin Mergea, who won a silver medal together in Rio 2016.

“I want to win any medal in the Olympics to fulfil everything I have done in tennis,” Halep said following her triumph at Wimbledon in July. “It is a chance to play for my country and I have always loved to do that. The disappointment from [losing in Fed Cup] this year really hurt me so to play well to get a medal, it would be a dream.”

The world No.6 has also been confirmed as her country’s flag-bearer for the upcoming event in Tokyo.

Playing through the pain

Whilst her long-term goal has been set out, Halep’s focus for the immediate future is on this week’s China Open. She kicked-off her campaign on Sunday with a clinical 6-1, 6-1, win over Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson. Peterson was her first real test since withdrawing from Wuhan due to a back injury. Whilst the score looks positive, she is not getting too ahead of herself.

“I’m not 100 percent recovered, I still feel pain,” said the sixth seed.
“Always when you have an injury, it’s a little bit risky.
“But I accepted it, I took the risk.”

A former runner-up of the tournament, Halep is hopeful of having a strong run. Beijing is her first tournament since turning 28 on Friday. To mark the occasion, she celebrated the milestone at one of the world’s most prestigious landmarks.

“Every year it’s nice to come back here,” she said. “This tournament’s a big tournament and important for everybody, and the atmosphere is very nice. You can see everyone is focused on their job.
“This year I celebrated my birthday at the Great Wall. It was actually the first time I’ve visited the Great Wall after coming here many years in a row. I think it’s going to be a good week for me—even if I was a little bit injured last week, I feel good now. I’m feeling good to play and to win matches.”

Halep will play Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova in the second round on Monday.

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Roger Federer Can Win Australian Open, Says Laver

The 81-year-old speaks out about the world No.3.

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Roger Federer (@usopen on Twitter)

Tennis legend Rod Laver has back world No.3 Roger Federer to add to his record-breaking grand slam tally in the future.

 

The 38-year-old currently holds the record for most major singles won by a man at 20. However, both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are closing in on that tally. Djokovic is currently on 16 and Nadal in one adrift on 19 following his latest triumph at the US Open. Meanwhile, Federer has only featured in the final in one out of the last six grand slam tournaments. Doing so at Wimbledon in July where he failed to convert two championship points against Djokovic. His last major title took place at the 2017 Australian Open.

Despite the recent lack of major silverware for the Swiss Maestro, Australian great Laver believes he can still challenge for the biggest titles in the sport. Saying that it is possible that Federer could continue playing until the age of 40.

“He seems to be fine and that’s what counts. If you love the game as much as you do, that’s fine.” He commented on Federer’s longevity in the sport.
“I also give Roger a very good chance of winning the Australian Open again in Melbourne in January.”

Laver admits that it is possible that the two other members of the Big Three could end their careers with more titles than Federer. Nadal is five years younger than him and Djokovic is six. However, he believes there is one thing that separates him from the others.

“Nadal, Djokovic and Federer are all big champions. But Roger surpasses tennis, the world of sport, and sports in general in a way that no one in history has done before him. He is the most recognized athlete in the world and a figurehead for this great game.

The first encounter between Laver and Federer took place 13 years ago in Melbourne at the Australian Open. Since then, the two have formed a bond with Laver saying they ‘clicked’ straight away.

The biggest example of the friendship between the two is perhaps best illustrated by the Laver Cup. An annual team tournament where Europe takes on the rest of the world. Similar to that of Golf’s Ryder Cup. Named in honour of the tennis great, Federer is one of the co-founders of the event. Which has since been granted a place within the ATP Calendar. Although no ranking points are on offer.

This year’s edition will be held in Switzerland for the first time. Critics have been quick to point out the disparity between the two teams. Europe consists of all players ranked inside the top 20 compared to one from the world team. However, Laver dismissed the significance.

“I do not think so. The team World has excelled in both Laver Cups in doubles and also celebrated one or two big victories in singles. I expect it to be exciting.” He said.

The three-day 2019 Laver Cup will get underway in Geneva on Friday.

List of players participating

 Team Europe
Captain:  Björn Borg
Vice-captain:  Thomas Enqvist
Player Rank
 Rafael Nadal 2
 Roger Federer 3
 Dominic Thiem 5
 Alexander Zverev 6
 Stefanos Tsitsipas 7
 Fabio Fognini 11
 Team World
Captain:  John McEnroe
Vice-captain:  Patrick McEnroe
Player Rank
 John Isner 20
 Milos Raonic 24
 Nick Kyrgios 27
 Taylor Fritz 30
 Denis Shapovalov 33
 Jack Sock 208

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