Class of 1966
World No. 5 (1943)
U.S. No. 1 (1943)
Grand Slam Results
Winner of the 1943 U.S. National Championship
Member of the U.S. Davis Cup Team 1939
Overall Record: 0-1
Singles Record: 0-0
Doubles Record: 0-1
On September 1, 2014, Joseph Raphael Hunt was honored on center court at Arthur Ashe Stadium during the US Open, an event he won 71 years earlier in 1943. At the time, Hunt’s victory was nothing short of miraculous. He defeated Americans Frank Parker, Bill Talbert, and Jack Kramer, 6-3, 6-8, 10-8, 6-0, on a 90-degree afternoon at Forest Hills, to win his only major title. Hunt’s heroism that fortnight brought him considerable acclaim. The tribute on Labor Day was a long-overdue homage to a life tragically cut short.The 25-year-old Hunt was killed when his Navy fighter plane crashed during a practice flight off the Florida coast in Daytona Beach. He was fifteen days shy of turning 26-years-old. Details of the plane's malfunction are sketchy; no remains of Hunt’s F6F Grumman Hellcat aircraft were ever recovered.
Hunt’s road to his national championship had a distinct military storyline. At the time, nearly all of the top American male players had military responsibilities and the U.S. Nationals were compressed into just six days so competitors wouldn’t exhaust their ration of leave time. After winning the U.S. Nationals, Hunt returned to duty. The victory made him the No. 1 player in the U.S.
Hunt had previously been a quarterfinalist at Forest Hills in 1937 and 1938 and a semifinalist in 1939 and 1940, both defeats coming to Bobby Riggs.
Hunt was handsome, athletic, and well built. He had prototypical California good looks and a confidence he could defend: He is the only man in history to win the U.S. national boys' (then 15-and-under), juniors' (18-and-under), collegiate, and U.S. men's singles titles. Hunt won an Intercollegiate doubles title at Southern California in 1938 and a singles title at the Naval Academy in 1941, making him the second player in history along with Malcom Chace (Brown, Yale), to win Intercollegiate championships at two different schools. He and Kramer played doubles for the U.S. Davis Cup team in 1939, falling 5-7, 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 against Australian counterparts John Bromwich and Adrian Quist.
"He was a very good-looking man with a body like Charles Atlas,” said Pancho Segura. “He drew women to his matches...He was a credit to the game.”
Hunt’s legacy as a tennis champion and military hero was not widely known for decades. It took a fluke recovery of his intercollegiate singles trophy and swift reporting by USA Today to make his story public. A California tennis fan and collector bought Hunt’s 1938 intercollegiate singles trophy on eBay after it was found at an estate sale in Beverly Hills. As reported in USA Today, this collector (who declined to reveal her name) notified the staff of the Ojai Tennis Tournament in California of the find. Tournament officials contacted Hunt’s great-nephew, Joseph T. Hunt, and the family was reunited with the trophy that had long gone missing. “It was a miraculous find,” said Hunt, an attorney and former tennis pro who lives in Seattle. Hunt contacted numerous media outlets and officials at the United States Tennis Association, and Joe Hunt’s story was captivating enough that the organization honored Hunt in Arthur Ashe Stadium and wrote an in-depth website profile.
U.S. Nationals: W (1943)