RICHMOND, VA – October 31, 2011 – Six local tennis legends were not only recognized for their years of dedication to the sport, they were also congratulated by one of the world’s most famous and talented players of all time. The Richmond Tennis Association (RTA) hosted the 2011 Richmond Tennis Hall of Fame induction Saturday night and Roy Emerson (pictured right), who holds a record 28 Grand Slam titles, was the keynote speaker as the Hall of Fame Class of 2011 was honored for outstanding efforts to foster the growth of tennis in Richmond.
Inductees were Fred Bruner, Junie Chapman, Bitsy Harrison, Gayle H. Marlowe (posthumously), Lindsay Wortham, and Anthem BlueCross BlueShield. A biennial event, the awards dinner was held at the Westwood Club and over 100 guests enjoyed dinner and music by a jazz ensemble. In honor of the tennis legends on hand, a collection of old wooden tennis racquets were on display, courtesy of David J. Leuschen, a local player and avid collector of antique sports equipment.
Emerson entertained the crowd with anecdotes from his days as a young touring player. He joked that his early interest in tennis stemmed from the fact that “there’s not much to do on a dairy farm in Australia.” He also noted that, when he was child, many dairy farms had tennis courts. “In those days, everyone in Australia had tennis courts. All you did was knock down those very large ant hills and scatter the ants. Then you spread the sand and mixed it like concrete on a flat surface. You cut down a few trees and strung up some chicken wire and there you had it—a tennis court!”
Emerson, whom tennis critics, players and fans consider to be one of the greatest players of all time, won 12 Grand Slam singles titles and 16 Grand Slam men's doubles, establishing an unbroken record of 28 Grand Slam titles. Grand Slams refer to the four major tennis tournaments—the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. He is the only male tennis player to ever win both singles and doubles titles at all four grand slams.
After Emerson’s speech, the induction ceremony took place and the six newest members of Richmond’s Tennis Hall of Fame took their place in the city’s rich tennis history. Fred Bruner, a former top junior player in the Richmond area, has served as both president and vice-president of the RTA, and for years he ran the Davenport & Company Richmond City Championships (formerly sponsored by Thalhimers). Junie Chapman, both a city and state champion, was the head pro at Briarwood (now ACAC) for many years and, in addition, held a world ranking as high as 219. Bitsy Harrison (who was unable to attend) was one of eight players in the First Fidelity Bankers Life tournament. He held a national ranking in the USTA in the top 20, along with winning the Middle Atlantic Championships in the men’s and in every age group. Gayle H. Marlowe’s award was accepted by her husband, Brian Marlowe. The first female president of the RTA, Marlowe served on the executive committee of the Fidelity Bankers Life/UVB tournament as well as helped found the Life of Virginia National junior tournament. Lindsay Wortham, also a former RTA president, was a city champion and finalist numerous times, and she was active in running the local junior program. In addition, Wortham won the 2010 National Mother-Daughter Championship, partnering with her daughter, Ginny Wortham. Anthem BlueCross BlueShield has been the title sponsor for the RTA’s Anthem Club Challenge for 19 years and, over the years, has sponsored a variety of area events including senior tournaments and exhibitions featuring some of the world’s greatest players.