Former No. 1s Gustavo Kuerten and Jennifer Capriati will be joined by Spanish great Manuel Orantes for induction today at the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.
One of Brazil’s most beloved and successful athletes, Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten was the world’s No. 1 player for 43 weeks, and he is a three-time Slam champion winning French Open titles in 1997, 2000, and 2001. Now 35, the smiling Kuerten amassed 20 singles titles and 8 doubles titles during his career.
Capriati won three Slams (2001 Australian/French, 2002 Australian), an Olympic gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona games, 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. The American, who had a series of troubling off court issues later in her career, finished with 14 career titles.
Orantes, a Spanish tennis star of the 1970s and 1980s, reached the world No. 2 ranking in 1973, and remained in the year-end world top-10 for five consecutive years. He won 33 singles titles and 22 doubles titles during his lengthy career, including the 1975 US Open.
Hall of Famer Monica Seles will present Jennifer Capriati, and Hall of Famer Stan Smith will present Manuel Orantes. Guga Kuerten selected his mother, Alice Kuerten, to present him for induction.
Also going inducted today are tennis industry leader Mike Davies and the late wheelchair champion Randy Snow.
While Kuerten and Capriati are undisputed entrants, one player’s omission has raised some eyebrows. Yevgeny Kafelnikov was on the ballot for the first time this year but the Russian didn’t earn the 75% votes needed from an appointed media panel.
During his career Kafelnikov, considered to be a “marathon man” for all the tennis he’d play, put up some very hearty Hall of Fame-like numbers:
– Two Grand Slam titles (1996 French Open, 1999 Australian Open)
– 2000 Olympic Gold Medal in singles,
– Six weeks holding the No. 1 ranking
– Four Grand Slam doubles titles
– One of just 6 players in Open Era to win 25 or more singles & doubles titles
– 26 career singles titles
– 27 career doubles
– 2002 Davis Cup title
– Finish ranked among Top 5 five times
Those achievements outweigh inductees Michael Chang, in international icon who won one Grand Slam, zero doubles titles and never reached No. 1. Or Yannick Noah, another on Slam wonder who later turned pop star.
The beloved Patrick Rafter also won two Slams, peaked at No. 1 but finished with just 11 overall singles titles yet he was promptly inducted in 2006.
But the irascible Kafelnikov wasn’t the most personable player on the circuit nor the star ticket attraction at tournaments, and because of that he’s paying for it now with the voters.
Who knew the Hall of Fame turned into a popularity contest?
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