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July 14, 2012

Mike Davies

Anne Worcester


ANNE WORCESTER:  The man that I have the honor of introducing today is a mentor, a friend and probably the most extraordinary innovator and businessman our sport has ever known.  I'd like to take a couple of minutes to paint a picture for you.
The year is 1970.  The open era in tennis is very recent and the sport is still relatively unknown.  On a yellow legal pad a man sketches out a bold idea, one that seemed unimaginable at the time.  A global tennis tour of 20 tournaments with a year‑end final and $1 million in total prize money.  He broaches his idea with Lamar Hunt who buys in.  Neither could know it then, but this first tour would shape the future of tennis.
Fast forward to 1972 and two of the all time great tennis players, Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver, reach the WCT final, Rosewall winning in a dramatic five‑set tiebreak.  Even more important than the victory was the NBC‑televised match preempted the evening news.  In 1972 the evening news got huge ratings, so that means that the tennis final got huge ratings, too, capturing the attention of TV viewers all over the country.
They realized they needed to deliver more of this WCT tour to the masses.  The vehicle to do that was clearly through network television.  So this bold, brave man walks back into NBC to pitch them on broadcasting eight WCT events plus the final.
NBC agrees with one huge caveat.  They tell him he has to raise $1 million in advertising dollars first, then they would air the series.  No one at NBC thought he or anyone for that matter could do it.  But the master salesman now needs to sell advertisers on his grand plan on a series of events in this nascent sport, an idea that hasn't ever been done before.
He knows he needs to get creative so he develops some gimmicks.  A first ever refrigerator on court to keep the balls at optimum temperature.  Companies like Wilson, Volkswagen, Polaroid, others line up and he has his $1 million in advertising, and big‑time tennis on its way in the United States.
Over the next years tennis explodes in this country.  Participation rises from 11 million players to 33 million players.  Indoor courts are being built everywhere.  Racquet, shoes, clothing and everything else tennis related takes off.  He introduces concepts that are mainstays in today's game.  Players wearing colored clothing.  The yellow tennis ball which showed up better on television.  Placing player chairs on the court during changeovers.  Introducing rules like 30 seconds between points and 90 seconds between games.  All of which made tennis more television friendly.
Over his tennis career, this one man created a masterpiece, one that forever changed how we view and interact with our sport.  He never stopped innovating and subsequently his 50 years in this sport have created a work of art that will hang forever in the Tennis Hall of Fame.
It is my privilege and my honor to introduce someone whose accomplishments and contributions will impact tennis for generations to come.  He has left an indelible mark on the sport of tennis and his legacy will live on forever.  Now, that is a true Hall of Famer.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present you Mike Davies.
MIKE DAVIES:  Thank you, Anne.
I turned professional with Jack Kramer in 1960 at the age of 24.  I was immediately banned from all the Grand Slams and Davis Cup.  A few months later Tony Trabert and I were scheduled to play a series of one‑night matches in France and North Africa.  At the first city in France, we were told to follow the hallway where we could change.  We found the room to change in, but there was absolutely nothing in it, no hooks, no benches, no lockers.  Now, remember, it was only a few months earlier that Gus, the locker room attendant at Wimbledon, had been asking me whether I would be taking a shower or should he draw me a bath.
So I turned to Tony and said, Where is the locker room?  He looked around, went to his bag, dug into it and produced a six‑inch nail which he proceeded to drive into the wall with his shoe.  There's your locker room, rookie, bring your own nail next time and get used to it.
Anyone who has had the privilege of playing with or against Tony Trabert or has worked or even just known him has been touched by his professionalism and humanity.  I certainly was and I'm proud to be able to call him my friend and mentor.  Thank you.
In 1968, the year of open tennis, I was 32 and was asked to join WCT, World Championship Tennis.  I spent 13 years with Lamar Hunt and Al Hill, Jr. learning the business side of the sport.  Lamar taught me many things.  One was that there are two words to show business, most forget the second word.  WCT grew into a powerful force for pro tennis.  We pioneered many of the changes today that are taken for granted, yellow tennis ball, colored clothing, blue courts, chairs on the court, et cetera.  We also took tennis to a lot of very exotic places.
In 1971, for instance, when the Shah of Iran wanted a tennis tournament in Tehran, I sent our representative in London, John McDonald, out there to talk to him.  He met with a general in the Army, in charge of the Army.  While the prize money of $50,000 was no problem, the organization was pretty sparse.
John told the general that we needed ballboys and linesmen with good eyesight.  The general replied, Ballboys are no problem and I can let you have a dozen or so of my sniper division to call the lines.
The players said later that the line calls were exceptionally good.
After I left WCT in the early '80s, I served a short stint as executive director of the ATP.  After that I was asked by Philippe Chatrier, the then president of the ITF, to join them as marketing director.  I had come full circle from being a tennis rebel and outcast pro, to now being an executive at the ITF.  A period that expanded almost 30 years.  It was revealing Philippe, who I sued back in the days of the WCT, would want to hire me as I am sure that I'd been a huge thorn in his side.
So one night I asked him why he'd hired me.  He smiled and said, There was no proverb that says that the best gamekeeper you can hire is an expoacher.  So thank you, Philippe.
Another person that I want to thank is Butch Buchholz.  Butch and I played against each other as amateurs and professionals, worked at the ATP together, dreamed of tennis becoming a big‑time sport, and spent most of our life trying to see that it did.  Butch has done so much for our sport, including creating the Lipton, now the Sony Ericsson, in Miami, the first two‑week men's and women's event in tennis outside of the Grand Slams.  He has always been a visionary and will always be my friend.  Thank you, Butch.
I also owe a lot of gratitude to my late brother Lee who would have loved to be here today and my parents who gave me all they could.  A special thank you to Rod Laver and Anne Worcester.  There's a saying, if you need something done, give it to the busiest person you know.  Anne Worcester is that person.
Thank you to friends who are here to help me celebrate.  My marvelous staff at the New Haven Open at Yale.  The Stokes who came all the way from London.  The Browns, and my current doubles partner Joe Backman and his life Lola.  Thank you for coming.
To my wife Nina, thanks for picking me up when I fall down and break something, which as my tennis friends in Florida will attest, is frequently.
Also The Landings, my tennis club in Sarasota, and Kevin and Joe for naming the stadium court after for me.  Thank you all at the Hall of Fame for keeping our sport alive through our history, which hopefully we all can learn from.
I will close by accepting this award on behalf of all those professional players who were banned from playing Grand Slams for so many years but were so instrumental in bringing about open tennis to our sport.  Some like Pancho Gonzales, Lew Hoad, Kurt Nielsen, Barry McKay have passed on, but there are still some of us left to remember where we came from.
Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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