Congratulations are in order as the new Class of 2015 has been announced and honored by the Northern California section of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Hall of Fame. They are Bill Jacobson, Marianne Werdel, Matt Mitchell, Peter Wright, and Wayne Ferreira.
With introductions by Dick Gould, the legendary coach and 1992 Hall of Fame inductee, who is currently Stanford University’s Director of Tennis, or as Bill Jacobson called him the “Prime Minister of Tennis,” the celebration ceremony took place on the magnificent sprawling grounds of Stanford, one of the most famous universities in the world and undeniably the most victorious champions of tennis. “I am thrilled to honor five exceptional individuals who contributed so much to the history of the sports of tennis,” said Gould. “Together with 158 members of the USTA’s past Hall of Famers, I am proud to welcome the new 2015 class of inductees.”
Bill Jacobson, a native of South Africa, was among the top tennis players and coaches, representing his country by playing in Wimbledon in singles and doubles. In 1959, Bill moved to the United States where he took up an academic scholarship at Stanford University’s graduate school of business. He brings a unique story to this year’s Hall of Fame class that is unparalleled by others who have preceded him. He did play tennis, but it was his creation of CompuTennis CT120, the world’s first and best tennis analysis computer with a tennis statistics program that put him on the global map. Among his major customers were tennis champions Pete Sampras, Michael Chang, Boris Becker, and Martina Navratilova. He also provided television tennis statistics for ESPN, CBS, and ABC, among others.
“Bill is a true tennis pioneer who transformed the tennis analytics business,” said Charlie Hoeveler, CEO of Nike Tennis Company, and himself a 1999 USA Northern California Tennis Hall of Fame inductee. “Bill is passionate supporter of the game of tennis.”
In 1984 CompuTennis CT120 covered its first Olympic Games in Los Angeles and repeated at the Olympics in 1988 in Seoul and 1992 in Barcelona. Its presence at major tour events led to requests for scouting information from a wide array of players and coaches, among them Arthur Ashe, Stefan Edberg, and Chris Evert. “What began as a quest for better information about a tennis match became for me, an incredible personal journey into the world of tennis,” said Jacobson. “And for that, and for this award today, I must thank you all from the bottom of my heart.”
Marianne Werdel started playing tennis as a four-year old and won her first tennis tournament when she was seven years old. “I loved it. I loved hitting balls and was fiercely competitive as a child,” she said. She enrolled in the world famous Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy and continued her education at Stanford University. Werdell enjoyed an eleven-year career, from 1986-1997, with a career high ranking of 21, with wins over tennis greats Gabriella Sabatini, Martina Hingis, Martina Navratilova, and top-seeded Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario.
“Confidence, resilience, love for fitness and best of all, gratitude, were the characteristics which made Marianne [one of] the tennis champions,” said Coach John Hubbell, himself the 2014 USTA Hall of Fame inductee. Upon her retirement from competitive tennis, Marianne Werdel became very involved with “Advocates for Injured Athletes,” which developed a program called “Athletes Saving Athletes.” In the last year, Marianne has become more involved in the physical training aspect of the sport. “I always went to the best trainers, demanding coaches and pushed myself to be in top physical condition, which gave me tremendous confidence on the court.” She credits her long career to this aspect of her training. She concluded her acceptance speech with this message to the coaches, “If you have a little girl among your students, show her the way and give her the guidance.”
Matt Mitchell’s tennis has always been a major part of his life. Born and raised in Berkeley, Matt quickly made a name for himself in Northern California as the number one player in his age group every other year, while also getting national attention winning four National junior titles. And as all roads lead to Stanford University, Matt was recruited in 1975 to play tennis for Coach Dick Gould where he was a 3-time All-American champion. Off the court, he took his knowledge and passion for tennis and created a radio show which eventually led him to his current blog, Classic Tennis. In 1979 Matt moved into the professional ranks with great success, winning tennis tournaments all over the world. After retiring from professional tennis Matt moved up to New York City to train Fortune 500 executives in tennis while also continuing to write. Matt says that one of the most rewarding parts of his post-playing career has been getting clients to realize the “life lesson” benefits of tennis and how it helps develop character, focus, discipline, and drive. He credits the many great coaches and players who have mentored him over his 50 years in the game, including the five coaches who influenced him the most: Dick Gould, Nick Carter, Neil George, Rich Anderson, and the late Harry Hopman. “Re-work. Re-tool. Re-shape, are the lessons I learned from my coach Neil George,” stated Matt at the induction ceremony.
Peter Wright has been the face of the University of California’s Golden Bears as the head coach of the men’s tennis team for 23 seasons, with numerous accomplishments and accolades during his tenure at Cal Berkeley. Born and raised in Berkeley, Peter gained a top 10 tennis ranking in the NorCal boys 18s, and began his engineering studies at the university. After college, he moved onto the pro tour and joined the Irish Davis Cup team as their captain, while representing the Irish Tennis Team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Returning to Berkeley, he was offered the prestigious post of the tennis head coach at his alma mater, becoming the “winningest” coach of the program. “Coaching is not easy. It’s not just about backhand and forehand,” said Wright in his acceptance speech. “It taught me a lot about tennis, life and the dialogue with a person I coach…. As college coaches, we have the best jobs in tennis on the planet…To be inducted into USTA Tennis Hall of Fame for a Cal coach on Stanford land is a double honor,” added Wright with a smile. “A good rivalry is good for tennis.”
Wayne Ferreira’s world of tennis championships culminated for the first time in 32 years, when South African athletes were finally able to stand on the podium to receive a medal at the Olympic Games due to a ban from competition by the I.O.C. due to the country’s stance on apartheid. The first two to receive those medals for South Africa were Wayne Ferreira and his doubles partner Piet Norval, winning the men’s doubles silver medal for their country at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. As a kid, he played a lot of sports in South Africa including soccer, cricket, badminton, squash, and golf. But he was most drawn to tennis because he liked the individual aspect of the sport. His skills quickly developed and as a junior player he was fortunate enough to be able to travel a lot playing tournaments in other countries. After leaving high school early to serve his country for two years in the Air Force, a requirement at the time, he came back to tennis and was ranked the world’s No. 1 junior doubles player and No. 6 junior singles player, winning the junior doubles title at the US Open in 1989, the year he began his pro career at the age of 18. During his career, Ferreira won 15 top-level singles titles and 11 doubles titles. His career-high world rankings were No. 6 in singles and No. 9 in doubles. Although his career pinnacle came at the Australian Open, he most fondly remembers his first Grand Slam when he played number 16 in the world, Yannick Noah, and beat him on the Graveyard Court at Wimbledon in Men’s singles in the first round. As he accepted his 2015 Tennis Hall of Fame award, Wayne Ferreira shared his motto with a message to his students, “Tennis is the best sport ever invented. Always work hard, play hard, but mostly enjoy.”
For 12 years, the enshrinement ceremony was being held at Stanford University’s Taube Family Tennis Stadium during the Bank of the West Classic Tennis Tournament, the longest-running women-only professional tennis tournament attracting tennis champions from around the globe. The Northern California Tennis Hall of Fame was founded in 1974 by Elmer Griffin, a retired investment banker, and an uncle to Merv Griffin Jr., the television mogul and creator of the long-running TV show, “The Wheel of Fortune.”
Lina Broydo immigrated from Russia, then the Soviet Union, to Israel where she was educated and got married. After working at the University in Birmingham, England she and her husband immigrated to the United States. She lives in Los Altos Hills, CA and writes about travel, art, style, entertainment, and sports. She hardly cooks or bakes, with no borsch or piroshky on her home cooking menu. Therefore, she makes reservations and enjoys dining out, mostly sushi.
By Lina Broydo