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

Wimbledon Set To Change Historic All-White Dress Code Rule

The clothing policy at the the grass-court major, which dates back to the Vcitoria era, has been under increasing scruity in recent years.

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Ons Jabeur (TUN) playing against Venus Williams (USA) on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 3 Wednesday 30/06/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jon Super

It is understood that The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) are having discussions about making changes to its dress code following concerns from female players. 

 

The Telegraph is among a series of sources to report that organizers are speaking with the WTA about changing their policy to address players’ concerns about playing in white whilst going through their menstrual cycle. Whilst no official announcement has been made, it is underwood that there will be a relaxation on what colour underwear and bras are worn. Although the top layer of clothing must remain completely white. 

During this year’s championships, there was a protest shortly before the women’s finals called ‘Address The Dress Code.’ During an interview worth The Guardian, protesters said they wanted to highlight the anxiety women face whilst playing in their whites. 

More recently, tennis coach and former British Fed Cup captain Judy Murray told The Daily Mail that more players needed to speak out on the issue to drive a change to the policy. Murray, who is the mother of three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray, has also called for the inclusion of women in the decision-making panel when it comes to these matters. 

“One of the biggest problems previously in sport was that it was always white shorts, white kit and so on in lots of different sports. Everything was white. Nearly all sports have moved over to colour now.” Said Murray. 

“I think it’s certainly a much more open talking point, but it would probably need more of the players to speak out openly about the trauma it can cause you, if you are wearing all white and then possibly have a leak while you’re playing. I cannot think of a much more traumatic experience than that.”

In a statement sent to The Telegraph, the AELTC confirmed that they are currently looking into making adjustments to the dress code. As it currently stands, the rule states that all players must wear almost all white whilst playing and practising at the Grand Slam. However, around the neckline and the cuff of sleeves can be in colour but no thicker than 1cm. The same applies to Caps (including the underbill), headbands, bandanas, wristbands and socks. 

“Prioritising women’s health and supporting players based on their individual needs is very important to us, and we are in discussions with the WTA, with manufacturers and with the medical teams about the ways in which we can do that.” The AELTC said. 

The all-white policy can be traced back to the 1870s when it was widely considered that white was best at not showing sweat. During the Victorian era, it was viewed as improper to visibly sweat. The tournament has since continued with this tradition. 

Next year’s Wimbledon will begin on Monday, July 3rd. 

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Nick Kyrgios Urges Officials To Allow Djokovic To Play Australian Open

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Nick Kyrgios has lent his full support to Novak Djokovic and his bid to be allowed to return to the Australian Open next year. 

 

Nine-time champion Djokovic is currently waiting to see if government officials will waive his ban from entering the country. Earlier this year, the former world No.1 was deported from Australia following a high-profile dispute regarding the legality of his visa. Djokovic said he was told by Tennis Australia that a medical exemption would allow him entry into the country despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19. Something the border force and government deemed not to be a legitimate reason. After winning his first court case regarding the process of how his detention was handled, a second at the High Court ruled in favour of the government, who decided to deport him. 

Under Australian law, deportations such as these result in a three-year ban from returning to the country. However, Djokovic is hoping his ban will be removed by the latest administration who are said to be more sympathetic to the matter. 

Weighing in on the debate during the opening of the NBA store in Sydney, Kyrgios said it was important for the sport that the best players participate. Citing the recent retirement of Roger Federer, he argues that the remaining members of the Big Three must continue showing their presence at major events. 

I hope he is here, for the sport,” WAtoday quoted Kyrgios as saying.
“We just saw one of the legends leave the sport, Roger, and that’s going to be some shoes that no one is ever going to be able to fill.
“While Novak and Rafa [Rafael Nadal] are still around, we need these types of players. Otherwise, the people of Australia love the AO, Ash Barty brought us crowds, me and Thanasi [Kokkinakis] won it.
“We want to see the best players in the world there. Me being a competitor, I want to see Novak there.“

Djokovic’s potential presence at Melbourne Park would make him one of the key contenders for the title and could make it tougher for Kyrgios to claim his first Grand Slam title. The two locked horns in the final of Wimbledon earlier this year with Kyrgios claiming the first set before losing in four. 

“Of course, you want to have those guys there,” he said.
“He’s some of the reason why I play. As a kid, you want to play the best players in the world in the best stadiums. Hopefully, he is there.
“He’s had a rough run the last nine months and not being able to play here, play here, not being able to play here, hopefully, Australia welcomes him with open arms this time.”

Djokovic has won the Australian Open men’s title more times than anybody else in history. It is unclear when a final decision regarding his participation in the 2023 tournament will be made. 

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‘Unofficial’ Signs Give Novak Djokovic Hope Of Australian Open Return

The tennis star has given an update on his chances of returning to Melbourne Park following his deportation from the country.

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NOVAK DJOKOVIC OF SERBIA - PHOTO: MATEO VILLALBA / MMO

Novak Djokovic says he is cautiously optimistic that he will be allowed to play at the 2023 Australian Open as legal negotiations continue. 

 

The 21-time Grand Slam champion was deported from the country in January following a high-profile legal battle with authorities over his visa. Djokovic said he was told he could use a medical exemption to enter the country despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19. At the time all arrivals needed to be vaccinated. The Australian border Force declared that exemption to be invalid and therefore his visa. Djokovic was then moved to an immigration facility before winning a court hearing over how his case was handled. However, in a second legal hearing, the High Court backed the government’s decision to deport the tennis star. 

As a result of being removed from Australia, Djokovic is currently banned from re-entering for three years. However, there is hope that this ban could be waived with the help of a new administration coming to power which is understood to be more sympathetic to the situation. 

“When it comes to Australia, there are some positive signs, but unofficially,” Djokovic said during a recent interview with Sportal“We are communicating through my lawyers in Australia. In fact, they are communicating with the authorities in charge of my case. I hope to have an answer in the next few weeks – whatever that answer might be, but of course I am hoping for a positive one – so that I have enough time to prepare for the start of the season, if that start is going to happen in Australia.”

Not everybody is thrilled by the prospect of the Serbian being allowed back into Australia. Former Home Affairs minister Karen Andrews has previously described such a move as a ‘slap in the face for those in Australia who did the right thing and got vaccinated.’ 

Djokovic is still not vaccinated against COVID-19 and has repeatedly stated that he doesn’t intend on doing so. In an interview with the BBC earlier this year, he explained that he had reservations about what is injected into his body and was cautious about the side effects. The COVID-19 injection has been deemed safe by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

“I respect that everyone has a different way of thinking in relation to my situation and my circumstances. After all, I have never offended anyone or ever tried to be disrespectful in any way. I always tried to show that it is important for everyone to have the right and freedom of choice.” He said. 
“For the choices I made, I knew there would be certain consequences like not going to America, and that is it. For Australia it was a different case, I had the exception, but in the end it did not work out. We know what happened, let’s not go back. This time I am waiting for the permission again. It is a good thing that they have now opened the borders for unvaccinated foreigners travelling to Australia. I have that ban, I hope it will be lifted. As I said, it is not in my hands, I hope the people in the Australian Government will give a positive answer, that is all.”

Djokovic is the most decorated male tennis player in Australian Open history with nine titles to his name. That is three more than his nearest challenges (Roy Emerson and Roger Federer both won the event six times). It was at Melbourne Park where he won his first major title back in 2008. 

“I really want to go there, I am over what happened this year and I just want to play tennis, it is what I do best. Australia has always been the place where I have played my best tennis, the results speak for themselves, so I am always extra motivated to go there. This time even more, so. I am hoping for a positive answer.” He concluded. 

The Australian Open will start on January 16th. It is unknown when a final decision regarding Djokovic’s participation will be made. 

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