In front of a sold out stadium of fans plus many more tuning into Tennis Channel's live broadcast, along with many special family members and friends, five remarkable individual's received tennis' highest honor on July 22. Former world No. 1's Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick, 4-time Paralympic medalist Monique Kalkman, journalist Steve Flink, and the late Vic Braden were inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, in a great celebration in Newport, Rhode Island.
Below, you can watch video of the Class of 2017 Induction Ceremony and acceptance speeches.
In a press conference ahead of the ceremony, Kim Clijsters, a 4-time major champion, stated, "Well, I'm very, very honored to be sitting here and to be here in Newport. I've seen a lot of pictures of this place and videos of this place. To actually be here in person makes it a lot more special. You feel the history. You feel how unique being a Hall of Famer is. I actually got emotional walking through the museum. For me, it's almost like your childhood and your whole life kind of flashes through your head. I see Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, players I admired when I was a little girl coming out of school, watching the French Open, seeing them hold trophies up. A few meters forward, there's my picture. It's very humbling."
Joining Clijsters in the Class of 2017 was her longtime friend, Andy Roddick. Throughout the weekend, the two remarked how special it was to share this moment together, having come up through the pro tours together, going way back to their days as juniors. Roddick, who was the 2003 US Open Champion, closed the induction ceremony with a dynamic speech, marked with a compelling mix of his signature humor and heartfelt acknowledgements to the legends who came before him, the peers he played alongside, and his family, friends, and team who got him to this place.
"I've been trying to connect the pieces. I've asked myself how the seven, eight, nine year old version of myself, who was this insane tennis fanatic, and the people inside of those walls are super heroes to me, have become my reality. It's an extraordinary honor. It fills my heart to be standing in front of you. To be a Hall of Famer is a dream come true. I know I'm here. I know they've given me the jacket. It's too late to take it back. But I'm not sure it will ever be real in my mind," Roddick stated. "I'm not the best of all time. I'm not going to win Wimbledon. I'm not the best of my generation. I'm not the most well behaved. I'm not the most polished. I'm also never going to take this honor for granted. I'm never going to forget those who paved the way before us. I'm never going to forget the innocent parts of this game we all love. I may not be a lot of things, but from this day forward, I'm never be anything less than a Hall of Famer. I thank you from the deepest parts of my heart."
The late Vic Braden, tennis instructor, a transformative educator of tennis teachers, and lifelong student of the game himself, was celebrated by many friends, family, and tennis industry colleagues in attendance. Braden was a pioneer in the scientific studies of the physics of tennis, and he dedicated his tennis career to bringing rational, research-based instruction to tennis in a way that made the instruction clear and enjoyable.Braden combined his training as a psychologist, and his passion for the sport to create unique platforms to expand public interest and participation in tennis. He was involved in the development of some of the sport's most successful players, including Hall of Famer Tracy Austin, and he trained the coaches of many of the game's top professional players. He was honored in the ceremony by Ray Benton, a longtime friend and tennis industry leader.
It was tough to find a dry eye in the stadium, when wheelchair tennis champion Monique Kalkman took the stage, preceded by her husband and coach, Marc Kalkman, who introduced her. Marc and Monique shared with the fans Monique's inspiring life story of having been a competitive junior player who looked up to Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert and dreamt of becoming just like them, until she was sidelined by a cancer diagnosis at age 14 and ultimately paralyzed. Monique overcame the cancer, and focused on embracing her new normal as life in a wheelchair. She first focused on table tennis, becoming a Paralympic Gold Medalist in 1984. She changed her focus as wheelchair tennis developed, and went on to win four more Paralympic medals, three of them gold. Kalkman achieved the No. 1 ranking in both singles and doubles. She was world No. 1 in singles for 126 weeks, and she spent a collective 264 weeks during her career in the world top-5.
On becoming a Hall of Famer, Kalkman stated, "This place is breathing history and culture of the sport. It holds the greatest names, the greatest memories of the whole sport. To become a part of that is awesome. It's unbelievable. Beyond words."
Esteemed tennis journalist and historian Steve Flink has witnessed some of the greatest moments in tennis history first-hand in his 40+ year career, but it's safe to say July 22, 2017 will be a tennis moment he will cherish forever.
"It's almost beyond words. I'm paid to do that for a living. I don't really have those words, but I'm very gratified," remarked Flink.
A lifelong tennis enthusiast, Flink began his career in tennis in the early 1970s when Hall of Famer Bud Collins hired him to help with research at Wimbledon and the US Open. He went on to become one of tennis' most celebrated journalists and has been part of the staff at World Tennis, Tennis Week, Tennis Channel, ESPN, CBS Radio, ABC, CBS, and NBC, in addition to authoring two books. He was presented for induction by Hall of Famer Chrissie Evert, who stated, "He may look like Clark Kent, but his journalism and passion for the game is Superman like. I've never met a more humble man with such integrity. He has really earned this honor."
What a day, what a group! Congratulations to the International Tennis Hall of Fame Class of 2017!