Cliff Drysdale – who followed a tennis career that was notable both on and off the court with important contributions as an ambassador for the sport and an ESPN career now in its 35th season – has been elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The announcement was made today in a press conference in New York.
“Cliff is one of the special voices in sports television and few in any sport have combined such an outstanding career in competition with leadership roles off the court and we are proud to call him our own,” said John Skipper, ESPN president.
Drysdale has been with ESPN since the network’s very first tennis telecast: the U.S. vs. Argentina in Davis Cup action in Memphis, Tenn., on September 14, 1979. ESPN had debuted just one week earlier, on September 7. Among current ESPN commentators, only SportsCenter’s Bob Ley, who joined the company on September 9 of that year, has been with ESPN longer.
Drysdale remains one of the most respected figures in the game. In 2011, the esteemed tennis journalist Steve Flink wrote, “Drysdale has long been one of the chief voices of reason and intelligence in the world of tennis. If the various political factions in the sport could ever agree on a Commissioner, he would get my vote in an instant. Drysdale knows the inner workings of tennis as well if not better than anyone.”
The Class of 2013 Induction Ceremony will be held on Saturday, July 13, at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. The Ceremony will be held in conjunction with the annual Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, an ATP World Tour event.
A Champion on the Court
Drysdale, who was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world, was in the top 10 six times, and won 35 singles titles. He won the German Championship in 1965 when he also finished as runner-up in the US Open singles competition at Forest Hills. In 1965 and 1966, he reached the semifinals at both Wimbledon and the French Open. At Wimbledon in 1967, he played Roger Taylor on Centre Court on BBC2 in the first color television program ever in England. He also captured 24 doubles crowns, highlighted by the 1972 US Open men’s championship with Roger Taylor. A veteran of 45 Davis Cup matches, in 1974 he led South Africa to the Davis Cup championship. In 1989, Drysdale was ranked #1 on the Senior Tour.
A Leader off the Court
Drysdale has been an outspoken and influential leader regarding issues on and off the court since long before his playing days ended. One of the first players in the game to use the two-handed backhand, he was instrumental in the founding of the Association of Tennis Professionals and served as its first president (1972-74). During that time, he led the successful 1973 Wimbledon boycott (including 13 of the top 16 seeds), protesting the suspension of Yugoslav Nikki Pilic (who had refused to play Davis Cup). Famed tennis columnist Bud Collins later wrote, “The boycott made the ATP. The players’ message to the ITF was clear: they were finally united in an organization to influence their own destiny.”
In addition, since 2001 he has operated Cliff Drysdale Tennis, a full-service tennis management company. It specializes in tennis program development, daily tennis operations and management for resorts, hotels and private tennis clubs; design and construction consultation for companies interested in building world-class tennis facilities and unrivaled tennis educational programs, clinics and retreats.
ESPN’s Tennis Icon
Noted for his low-key but elegant manner – of Drysdale, tennis legend Rod Laver once said, “(he) could talk a lion into becoming a vegetarian” – along with knowledge and objectivity, the affable and unflappable Drysdale, along with his instantly recognizable voice, has graced virtually every ESPN tennis telecast.
His broadcasting resume includes all four majors – the Australian Open (since 1984), French Open (1986 – 1993 and since 2002), Wimbledon (since 2003) and the US Open (since 2009). In addition, for many years ESPN’s coverage of the U.S. Davis Cup team provided many memorable moments. Drysdale worked the John McEnroe – Mats Wilander Davis Cup match in St. Louis in 1982. The telecast, including their marathon six-and-one-half-hour battle, lasted 9 hours and 17 minutes.
About the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum
Established in 1954, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is a non-profit institution dedicated to preserving the history of tennis, inspiring and encouraging junior tennis development, providing a landmark for tennis enthusiasts worldwide, and enshrining tennis heroes and heroines with the highest honor in the sport of tennis— enshrinement in the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In 1986, the International Tennis Federation, the governing body of tennis, officially recognized the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum as the sport’s official Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is located in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, on a six-acre property that features an extensive Museum chronicling the history of the sport and honoring the 224 Hall of Famers; 13 grass tennis courts and an indoor tennis facility that are open to the public and to a club membership; a rare Court Tennis facility; and an historic 297-seat theatre. Annually in July, the venue hosts the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships for the Van Alen Cup, an ATP World Tour event. The buildings and grounds, which were constructed in 1880 by McKim, Mead & White to serve as a social club for Newport’s summer residents, are renowned for their incredible architecture and preservation. The facility was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987. The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is supported by Official Partners including Alex and Ani, Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards, Chubb Personal Insurance, EMC, and Rolex Watch USA. For information on the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum and its programs, call 401-849-3990 or visit us online at www.tennisfame.com.