Tennis Hall of Fame Induction Press Conference
Jennifer Capriati, Gaga Kuerten, Manuel Orantes, Mike Davies and Randy Snow
American tennis star Jennifer Capriati won three major titles, an Olympic gold medal, and a Fed Cup championship with the US team. In 1990, her first season on tour, she was ranked in the WTA world top-10, at age 14. In October 2001, she became world No. 1, a position she held for a total of 18 weeks.
Capriati, 36, is originally from New York, N.Y., but she has been a long-time resident of Tampa and West Palm Beach, Fla. In her first season on the WTA, Capriati reached the finals of two of her first three pro events, and she advanced to the semifinals of the French Open before falling to eventual champion Monica Seles. She captured her first tour level victory in her first season on tour, which propelled her into the world top-10 at just 14 years old- the youngest player to ever accomplish this feat. Capriati closed out her first pro season at world No. 8, a fresh, young name etched among an elite group of veteran tennis stars including Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Gabriela Sabatini, and Martina Navratilova. In 1992, she captured the Olympic gold medal at the Barcelona games, defeating both the second-seeded Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario and the top-seeded Stefanie Graf.
Capriati took a break from tennis in the mid to late 1990s, and made an impressive comeback in 1999 and the early 2000′s. She overcame top seed and world No. 1 Martina Hingis at the 2001 Australian Open to capture her first Grand Slam title. She followed that up with a victory at the French Open and she was the only player that year to reach at least the semifinals of all four of the Grand Slam tournaments.
The tennis world was already giving Capriati high marks for a stellar comeback when she went ahead and clinched the image as one of the toughest competitors on tour at the 2002 Australian Open. Once again, she faced Hingis in the final. In brutally hot weather, the score read 6-4, 4-0 in favor of Hingis, when Capriati’s fighting spirit kicked in. She saved four championship points to eventually prevail 4-6, 7-6, 6-2, to claim her third Grand Slam title. The match was widely regarded as one of the greatest comebacks in tennis history, and it was named one of the ten best matches of the decade by Tennis magazine.
Capriati stopped playing at the end of the 2004 season, having compiled a career record of 430-176 and having won 14 career singles titles and 1 doubles title.
One of Brazil’s most beloved and successful athletes, Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten was the world’s No. 1 player for 43 non-consecutive weeks, and he is a three-time major champion, having won French Open titles in 1997, 2000, and 2001.
With his beaming smile, engaging personality, and high energy game, the lively atmosphere that Kuerten, 35, brought to tennis stadiums around the world was nothing short of extraordinary. In 1997, Kuerten was ranked world No. 66 and had just eight ATP World Tour level wins to his name when he entered Roland Garros, and captured the title. In the years that followed, Kuerten became one of the most dominant clay court players of his time. He won the French Open title again in 2000 and 2001, and achieved a total of 20 singles titles and 8 doubles titles. In addition to his French Open titles, he reached the quarterfinals at the French Open in 1999 and 2004, and was a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon in 1999, at the US Open in 1999 and 2001, and at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
In 2000, for the first time in history, the No. 1 year-end position came down to the final match of season. Kuerten defeated superstar Andre Agassi in the match, breaking an eight-year reign of No. 1 finishes by Americans. It was the first time that a South American had ever been ranked world No. 1, a position Kuerten held for 43 weeks over his career.
That same year, Kuerten embarked on another important venture, to which he is still dedicated today. Inspired by his late brother, Guilherme, he opened the Institute Guga Kuerten to help disabled people. The institute is dedicated to providing developmental opportunities, sports, and education, as well as to promoting social inclusion throughout the nation. The institute is located in Kuerten’s hometown of Florianopolis, Brazil, and since its inception, it has assisted more than 40,000 people in over 168 Brazilian cities. Kuerten was awarded the ATP World Tour’s Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award in 2003, and in 2010, he was honored with the Philippe Chatrier Award by the International Tennis Federation.
CHRIS CLOUSER: Good morning, everyone. I’m Chris Clouser, chairman of the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum.
It is my pleasure to be here this morning as we present final absolutely remarkable individuals with the highest honor in the sport, induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, very shortly on the center court.
Please join me in welcoming the class of 2012, Manuel Orantes, Gustavo ‘Guga’ Kuerten, Jennifer Capriati, Mike Davies, and Tom Snow representing his son Randy Snow.
I’m going to turn it over to Hall of Fame president Stan Smith. As you know, Tony Trabert served with distinction for 10 years with the International Tennis Hall of Fame and chairman of the Enshrinee Nominating Committee. We are pleased to have for the first time our new president of the International Tennis Hall of Fame who is also chairman of the Nominating Committee.
STAN SMITH: Thank you, Chris. Tony sends his regards, wishes he could be here, but he’s a little tired of traveling right now but he’s moving on. He’s feeling good and would like to be here.
I’d like to congratulate this wonderful group of great champions and leaders of our sport.
This year in the contributor category we are pleased to honor Mike Davies. Mike has been an influential, behind‑the‑scenes leader in the tennis industry for over 40 years. Over the course of his career, he held positions with the WCT, Association of Tennis Professionals, the International Tennis Federation, and was the driving force behind many new innovations in tennis. He laid the foundation for the high‑profile global sport that we know today.
In fact, Davies negotiated the first‑ever highly successful television tennis contracts. He was in the forefront of negotiating tennis sponsorships and developing professional tours, which I played on a little bit.
Some of the other innovations that are natural parts of the sport today include yellow tennis balls. That was strange. Colored apparel for players. Still not used at Wimbledon until the Olympics, as a matter of fact. Rules such as 30 seconds between points and 90 seconds between games. This developed a consistent pace of play.
Not just a game‑changer behind the scenes, Mike was also quite a player as well. He was a member of the British Davis Cup team, the No. 1 ranked player in the nation in the; 50′s, and until last week Mike was the last British man, I bet some of you don’t know, he was the last British man to advance to the doubles final in 1960 with Bobby Wilson.
After more than 40 years in tennis, Mike is still involved in tennis and serves as the CEO for the New Haven Open at Yale.
From the master player category, Manolo Orantes of Spain. One of the most consistent players in the ’70s and ’80s, he reached the world No. 2 ranking in 1973 and remained in the year‑end top 10 for five consecutive years. He amassed an impressive 33 singles titles and 22 doubles titles during his lengthy career. I faced him a few times. He was not much fun to play against. He played an instrumental role in Spain’s Davis Cup efforts for 14 years.
In 1975, Manuel captured the US Open trophy in a dramatic tournament which still goes down in history as one of the greatest Grand Slam matches ever. He upset both Guillermo Vilas and Ilie Nastase to earn a spot against the No. 1 seed and defending champion Jimmy Connors.
His match against Vilas, he was down two sets to one, 5‑0, 40‑15, and came back to win in five sets near midnight at the US Open, and then went on to decisively beat Jimmy Connors in the finals.
Today we also remember and honor Randy Snow, a remarkable wheelchair champion. He passed away in 2009. Generally regarded as the greatest wheelchair tennis player of his time, he won 22 major tournament titles during his career and achieved the world ranking of No. 2 in singles, No. 1 in doubles.
In addition to his success on the court, he was a tireless advocate for wheelchair sports and athletes and was instrumental in the growth of wheelchair tennis.
Snow earned Olympic medals in three spots, he captured both singles and doubles medals in tennis, as well as medals in basketball and track. He was the first U.S. wheelchair athlete to be inducted in the US Olympic Hall of Fame. Today we’re very pleased to have Randy’s father Tom join us.
In the recent player category, two outstanding champions. Both world No. 1′s, three‑time major champions, I’m pleased to introduce Guga Kuerten and Jennifer Capriati.
One of Brazil’s most beloved and successful athletes, Guga was the first South American to reach the No. 1 ranking on the ATP Tour, a position he held for 43 weeks. A dominant clay court player known for his beautiful backhand, he won the French Open in 1997, 2000 and 2001 and captured 14 ATP world titles over his career. Since his retirement, he has turned his attention towards philanthropic works and is very involved in working with children and disabled people in Brazil.
When young Jennifer Capriati burst on the scene at age 13, she wasted no time in showing the world a star had arrived. In her first season on the tour, Jennifer reached the finals of two of her first three events. She advanced to the semifinals of the French Open before falling to eventual champion Monica Seles.
She captured her first tour level victory in her first season or tour, which propelled her to the top 10 at just 14 years old, the youngest player ever to accomplish this feat.
Braced by powerful groundstrokes, a gutsy playing style, Jennifer established herself as a consistent top‑10 player in the years that followed. In 1992, she captured the gold medal at the Barcelona games.
In 2000 Jennifer added to her growing list of tennis achievements the Fed Cup team. In October 20001 she became the Women’s Tennis Association world No. 1, a position she held for a total of 18 weeks.
Jennifer captured three Grand Slam titles during her career including two Australians and one French Open. At the 2002 Australian Open, which I was fortunate to see myself, Jennifer came back in about 120 degree heat from 6‑4, 4‑All down to Martina Hingis to win the title in an extraordinary match that is still regarded as one of the greatest matches of all times.
Chris, back to you.
CHRISTOPHER CLOUSER: On behalf of the Tennis Hall of Fame, congratulations to each of you.
We’re happy to take the first question for our soon‑to‑be inductees.
Q. (No microphone.)
MIKE DAVIES: Yeah, well, WCT I think was the forerunner of creating professional tennis and having a standard for professional tennis. We were the first really private organization that had players under contract. At one stage we had over 60 players under contract.
We basically tried to do things in a professional, show business like manner. It was during that time that we were able to get on to television. An interesting story about that was when we first got on television, we were going to go on NBC. The first match out, nobody had ever thought about when television was going to take their commercials.
In those days players did not sit down on chairs, did not have any chairs on the court. They walked basically to the umpire’s chair, took a drink of water, wiped down, went to their place to play. All that took about 20 seconds. That’s how they were used to playing it.
Well, when we had commercials, the television people said to me, What are you doing, we have to put our commercials in.
I said, We’re going to have to put chairs on the court and hold the players.
Rosewall and Laver, the first time we did this, they looked at me like I was crazy. Why do we have to stop and sit down? I had explained to them the business side of tennis, and that, Guys, this is so you can get commercials. The television coverage will be able to charge more money for commercials, the more people watch. The more people watch, the more prize money you’re going to get.
It was a learning experience from all of us. We were flying solo out there and we created some of these rules that are in there today.
We didn’t have to ask the ITF or the USTA, because we were a private organization. Basically I was a committee of one. I only had to answer to one person, which was Lamar Hunt. If I could convince Lamar this was good for WCT and tennis, he said, Fine, let’s do it.
Q. (No microphone.)
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: First of all, it’s just amazing to be here. I have not stopped having chills since I’ve been here, just the emotion. Just really taking all the inventory, all the stock of my life, really reflecting on this amazing moment.
Monica has always been someone that I felt I related to on the court. We have quite a history together. It was somebody that I thought about who I wanted to be the one to introduce me. I wanted someone to know me that knew me on the court as well as off the court, because this is what it’s really all about.
You don’t know somebody as well as you do as your opponent when you play them day in and day out. I feel we had such similarities, had a long journey, and she would capture the moment particularly for me. I’m honored she said yes. She was honored, as well.
Q. (No microphone.)
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Otherwise they shouldn’t let me come (laughter).
No, my father is still my highest example in life, her and my father. She is the only one alive, so it was not hard for me to decide that. She’s still my role model ever. The hard thing will be talking after her because she’s a good speecher [sic]. It will be a challenge for me.
Q. (No microphone.)
MANUEL ORANTES: The problem was in ’73 I start to have problems with my back. I went to see a doctor in Barcelona. He said I had to do this, I had to do that. I was playing tennis, but when I was getting to the finals, playing the great champions, trying to play 100%, I was feeling something that I couldn’t do to beat them.
At the end of ’73 I stopped for three months and went to a doctor in Barcelona. He told me (indiscernible) abdominals to protect your back so you will be able to play.
I did that. It was great. After that I could compete 100%. I knew that the matches were getting longer. I could play five sets.
Q. (No microphone.)
MIKE DAVIES: I’m glad you make these questions simple (laughter).
I think today, I really think that the Grand Slams are going to have to look at five‑set matches. I’m not saying that they should change to three sets, but I think they need to shorten the men’s matches.
We are all involved in television. I mean, television drives the business train of all sports. When you have five‑set matches that can last for so long. I mean, the Davis Cup is an example. For instance, five‑set matches that a television network has to dedicate like nine hours on the first day for singles play because it’s best‑of‑five sets. That’s a tremendous amount of inventory and dedication that a television channel has to do that.
Fortunately now we have the Tennis Channel, which is fabulous for tennis. But as far as it going on to a broader spectrum, getting more people involved in tennis, I think that five sets at Grand Slams is something that needs to be looked at.
Maybe you play four sets with a tiebreaker for the fifth, something like that. But I think when you see a five‑and‑a‑half hour match on a clay court at Roland Garros, I think it’s tough for the audience, and I think it’s also very tough for the player to be able to come back after that. It’s pretty strenuous.
Winning a Grand Slam for the men, winning seven matches, best‑of‑five sets, is too tough.
Q. (No microphone.)
TOM SNOW: His mother and I tried to decide where he got it and we don’t know where he got that inspiration.
Randy’s circumstances certainly were different from the players that you see up here today with his accident when he was 15 years old. He was a tennis player at that time. But after that, his rehabilitation, wheelchair tennis, wheelchair sports, were in their infancy. People really thought that we were talking about the Special Olympics, which is a completely different organization from the Paralympics and the contests between athletes with physically impaired problems.
Randy himself, along with a fellow by the name of Brad Parks, who was inducted into this organization two years ago, Brad had started understand allayed the groundwork for getting this movement started about recognizing athletes who only had a physical impairment.
But it’s been a long process. I go back to 1984 when Randy was an in exhibition race in the Los Angeles Coliseum that was on national television. When that race started, 80,000 people were very quiet. They’d never seen people in wheelchairs going around a track out there and they didn’t know what to do. But by the time the race was over, Al Michaels, if you listen to the tape of the race at the end, when they said, Here comes Randy Snow, 80,000 people stood up and started cheering. It was quite a thing to be on national television.
That’s where I put that the after‑burner got started of people recognizing that these guys can do something, might be a new arena for sports to get into. That was 25 years ago.
Well, this gave Randy the motivation. He now then had the inspiration to become a good athlete, which he did. His record speaks for itself. But he and Brad Parks, Al Moore, some of these people have been fighting this battle. It’s been an unbelievable reception they received from the USTA, the IPC, the International Tennis Federation, unbelievable. I predict in the future you’re going to see more and more. You’re going to see the Paralympics on television. People don’t know it, but two weeks later it’s the same opening ceremony, clothing, everything. We never get that on television that people with see that these people are just physically impaired. It’s going to catch fire and be a big thing in the sports world.
A lot of that was Randy’s inspiration to do that. He worked hard at trying to get this education, too, to the world in effect. He knows people all over the world who are working on this.
It gave him, after his accident, a purpose in life and one way he could improve and be a participant at the same time. Maybe it was a little selfish because he wanted himself to improve and be recognized.
Long answer for a short question.
Q. (No microphone.)
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: No. I remember that as being one of the highlights of my career. It was the greatest experience. It was so much fun just to be playing for my country, to be with all the other athletes. There was just such a camaraderie. Even though everyone was competing against each other, really all the differences were put aside. We were there to do just the best we could do at what we did.
You know, I met many athletes from my country, not just the tennis, got to know a lot of them. We just came together. We supported each other, cheered for each other. I never kind of felt that before. So it was just the most fun.
I think that’s why I played so well and I was able to win, is just because I was really like stress‑free. I was just having so much fun. I just couldn’t believe I was there. It really came out in my play.
Q. (No microphone.)
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: It’s cool. It’s great. Yeah, I wish I could be part of it. I can’t wait to watch.
Q. (No microphone.)
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: Yeah, it’s been quite a journey. Here I look back, I look back at all those really great things I have accomplished, the achievements I’ve had, those achievements I’ve made.
You know, there is no mystery. The mystery is just that, you know, it was tough having to leave the game when I did. It was not by choice. It’s like mourning a loved one gone, it’s mourning a relationship gone, a part of yourself. It’s not always easy when something is gone that you love to do and is part of who you are and you’ve done for so long.
It took a long while to accept that and let go. This is so great for me in a way because it’s putting a lot of closure on my career and I’m able to move forward but give things, get the honor, just be honored. It means everything to me, so…
Q. (No microphone.)
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I believe is the surface you have to suffer more. You have to be out there for many hours, use every weapon you can, fight like a warrior. Perhaps sometimes you try to give the juniors or the kids too much, and they don’t understand that they have to go over the limits a little bit. So things start to become too easy for them.
We try to do the same in Brazil. It happened to me. We don’t have a school or amount of players that back to back are playing well as it happened in Spain. We come up with the same problem. Sometimes as much as we don’t want, we have to make things difficult for them, make them understand is not only the final of French Open. You have to raise your life to get there.
Here you can see many life experience to be able to be at the television that Mike were able to put us on. Everybody who look from child think it’s much easy. But our life, to get to this point, you sacrifice a lot. This is a sacred thing for us. The players, on clay especially, they have to understand this a little bit better, to be able to go over their limits.
Perhaps also the type of tennis played here is more aggressive, it’s more for hard and other surface. But in general there’s no reason for American player not being successful on clay.
They try to develop better, but is not that easy, as you can see. France also is trying to get a winner out there. With Rafa around, I believe that we have to target five years from now (laughter). Before that, the players will have a tough time.
CHRISTOPHER CLOUSER: Jose Higueras is helping with the U.S. players on clay. The thing I want to say is this is such an international award, we have Jennifer and Randy, Mike is from England originally, and Manolo is from Spain and Guga is from Brazil. Sorry, Mike is from Wales.
As kids start their career, they play in the 10‑and‑under division, then the older divisions, then they hope to play in futures events. This is all over the world, in Brazil and Spain, maybe in Wales. Then they hope to get into some professional tournaments, futures and challengers, then bigger tournaments, qualifying, then eventually get into a Grand Slam, eventually win a Grand Slam. The ultimate really is being selected to the Hall of Fame, it’s the final step. So this is a special time.
Q. (No microphone.)
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: I don’t think they’re allowed to play anymore at 13, 14.
No, you know, I mean, it’s definitely a rare thing that comes along I think when you’re that young. But I think that so many young girls, you know, they’re eager and they’re hungry to get out there and start early.
But because there’s so much now, there’s a lot of competition, I think it makes it tougher to come that young. It takes a real team. It takes how you started. It takes who is with you when you’re younger, who develops you. So I think it’s rare.
But the game is getting tougher. I mean, it is getting more aggressive. It’s pounding and it’s harder on your body. You can still pace yourself so that you don’t have to start so young that you can peak later on and continue on as you get older.
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: It’s good. If you had another me, I’d be worried (laughter).
Q. (No microphone.)
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I believe no. This is a good thing of being Brazilian. Everything I got extra would be good enough. It’s much harder to be an American player, that if you’re not No. 1 in the world, you know, you miss something, that’s not good enough, another guy who is better.
Being Brazilian, was easy to this point of view. Once I got the slam in France in ’87, it’s like a carnival in Brazil. I could stop playing tennis and would be in the Hall of Fame in Brazil. Is enough for them.
Of course, the opposite is I become like a national idol in Brazil, so I have to understand to deal with kind of pressure, to deal with my expectations. But I always been teached [sic] that I should be satisfied of playing tennis and having the results for myself. We have to understand if it would be good enough for other people and their analysis.
For this way was easy for me to have a hard time after I had my second surgery, not be able to play my best tennis, understand that my body would get me to a crucial point that I couldn’t have any response to get through.
Picturing it now, I believe I was very successful and lucky to be part of all of this. Perhaps it depends a lot how you look at the picture. For me, I’m very optimist and happy, so was not a big trouble.
Q. (No microphone.)
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Can she answer for me (laughter)?
Me, I didn’t had many. In ’97 they want me to change the shirt on the quarterfinal. I said, Not now. If you ask me in the first round, is no problem. But now sometimes I believe the routine make us feel comfortable, not make us win match, that’s for sure. If you think like this, you going to crash. But as far as you do something that it’s working well, why change? That’s how I think.
I didn’t have any particular like Rafa, comparing again, ritual.
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: My routine was just to win. Same routine over and over.
Q. (No microphone.)
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I never because I afraid I would lost (laughter).
No, this is a match, it’s funny, because the most excitement I ever experienced on the tennis court. It’s good to live this because wasn’t any final or best match of my life. Just any other daily match that I had to face. Somehow connecting with the people during the circumstances, I got to this feeling that we all here could flavor. I think perhaps only sports can get you to this feeling.
Jennifer also talked a little bit about how hard it is to be aware away from these feelings. It’s so nice, so strong. Everything comes in a potential that it sticks to our mind the good thing that we can remember these great memories, and for me was definitely the highest emotion I really had on the tennis court. But I really don’t watch twice because I know I would lost (laughter).
Q. (No microphone.)
MIKE DAVIES: When I first saw it, I knew Tiriac was behind it, which was great. We played on a blue court in ’71, ’72. We played on a blue indoor court. In fact, that basically was one of the reasons we changed the color of the ball because I asked NBC, we had a lot of complaints they couldn’t see the ball, the white ball, a lot of complaints. So I went to NBC and asked them, What is the best color to be a contrast to the blue court? They said, Orange. So the first ball we made was actually orange.
Because we play on so many different surfaces, different colors, et cetera, the ball evolved into yellow. But as far as the blue clay that Mr. Tiriac put in, I was all for it, because there was no doubt it was a better television spectacle. You could see the ball better.
Unfortunately, the process of creating that clay, obviously they couldn’t get it as good as a regular clay court and it apparently was very slippery. But I believe they should keep on doing that because if it’s better television, it’s going to be better for tennis.
CHRISTOPHER CLOUSER: We have to get ready for the ceremony. Thank you very much for being here and we appreciate your time very much.
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