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In 1978 Bolletieri purchased a 23 acre tomato farm to start the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. He has become a tennis legend by expanding on the high performance tennis camp model made popular by coaching legends like Harry Hopman and John Newcombe. In a relatively short period of time after the camp opened, he was able to convince some of the United States’ best junior players to come to the camp to compete against each other. Young players like Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Chip Hooper, Pete Sampras, Martin Blackman, Maria Sharapova, Monica Seles, Anna Kournikova and many others helped to make the camp the legendary success it has become. Over the years there have been a lot of high performance tennis camps. However, the Nick Bolletieri Tennis Academy is arguably the most successful of all time because it includes ten world number 1 players among its alumni. These players included Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Jim Courier, Martina Hingis, Jelena Jankovic, Marcelo Rios, Monica Seles, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Venus Williams. In addition, Bolletieri alumni and former professional player Martin Blackman is the Head of Player Development for the USTA.Establishing a world class tennis training camp was not enough for Bolletieri.


He had a personal passion for growing the game in nontraditional communities. In 1987, after meeting with Arthur Ashe to discuss the lack of black tennis players on the professional tennis circuit, he and Ashe decided to create the Ashe/Bollettieri “Cities” Tennis Program (ABC). This unique national tennis organization established well-run instructional programs in urban communities across the United States. The programs were operated in Albany, New York; Kansas City, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles, California; Newark, New Jersey; and, New York, New York. The program was later renamed the Arthur Ashe Safe Passage Foundation and ran for 13 years. During this time more than 20,000 students from urban communities were taught tennis, tutored and received health education. Many of those students have payed forward what they learned in this program and are teaching in or supporting urban tennis programs around the world. Bolletieri was inducted into the Tennis Industry Hall of Fame in 2012, the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) Hall of Fame in 2013 and the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014. He was inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame (BTHOF) in 2015 because of his legendary commitment to growing tennis in urban and black communities in the United States. He invested hundreds of thousands of dollars of his personal money and valuable time to ensure that this program was a success. Thanks to Ashe and Bolletieri’s efforts in this program, which was led by BTHOF executive director Bob Davis, tens of thousands of young people graduated from college, received college scholarships, became great tennis players and, most importantly, became productive citizens of the world.



November 22, 2022



October 1, 2022

THE RICHMOND STANDARD: Richmond Native Sande French Inducted Into Black Tennis Hall Of Fame


Richmond native Sande French inducted into Black Tennis Hall of Fame
Photo courtesy of the Black Tennis Hall of Fame.

By Mike Kinney

When she was 8 years old, Sande French’s little brother Don gave her a globe for Christmas. Every night, she would spin it, then dream about the place where her finger would stop it.

“Who knew I would have a chance to experience some [of those places],” said French. “From playing on the public courts of Nicholl Park in Richmond, California, to my first grass court event, the public park that becomes Eastbourne’s event on the English Channel, or a sumptuous meal in Tallinn, Estonia or sushi in Tokyo, or witnessing the longtail soaring and the crystal blue skies of Bermuda, traversing the Great Wall of China, a stroll along the Huevo de Julio in Buenos Aires, the grandeur of the Taj Mahal, stepping on the revered motherland of Cameroon, to the low grass of Wimbledon.”


Had someone told French she would live this dream, “I would have laughed them into the next county.”


“Yet, here I am watching worldwide tennis from the best seat in the house,” French said.


On Saturday, Sept. 17, French, a Richmond native, Richmond High graduate and the first and only Black female chair umpire in professional tennis in the U.S., was formally inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame. She was among seven people inducted at the 14th annual ceremony at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Va.


We were tipped off to this Hall of Fame honor by Arto Rinteela, president of the Fairmeade Hilltop Neighborhood Council, who was a classmate of French’s in the graduating Class of 1974 at Richmond High. Rinteela remembers another one of French’s talents that manifested in the high school marching band.'


‘Everybody wanted to be around SandE.’


“She was a talented clarinet player,” Rinteela said. “She had a great personality and was very smart. Everybody wanted to be around Sande.”


Rinteela also recalled French as “one of the few” tennis players at Richmond High in those days.


While accepting her latest honor (see the video of the ceremony here), French reflected with deep gratitude on her 36 years of officiating professional tennis. Her resume speaks for itself. In 1993, French became the only African-American in history to chair the US Open Singles Final. She has chaired 10 U.S. Open Finals, worked Wimbledon six times and the Australian Open three times. She also chaired the Fed Cups internationally and the NCAA championship Final.


Photo courtesy of the Black Tennis Hall of Fame.


French also gives back to her profession, taking the initiative to conceive, implement and teach chair clinics and training in Northern California. She has volunteered as a referee for regional wheelchair tournaments for 12 years, coached a wheelchair player, was a member of USTA chair mentoring program in 2010, assisted coaching at Mendocino High School in 2014, and was a USTA trainer and/or evaluator from 1995 to 2015.


Her awards and accolades are numerous, from 1991 Umpire of the Year in Northern California to election into the Bay Area African-American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. Four years prior, she was honored with the Multicultural Participation Committee Trailblazing Award.


Throughout her career, she has inspired others, including people of color, to aspire to become tennis officials or to achieve higher levels in their careers.


‘One never knows what life will bring. The endgame always is to improve from the previous day.’


During the Black Tennis Hall of Fame induction ceremony, French thanked her college teammate, Karen Cook-Henderson, “who nudged me and got me started in officiating 36 years ago.” She thanked various “ohanas,” from her family to her colleagues over the years.


French also expressed “immense gratitude” to Jay Snyder, who as chairman of officials saw her potential by giving her a shot. She acknowledged her “first bestie umpire Joy Gay, who regularly stood up for us when we were treated unjustly, pushing back on the archaic practices.”


“When she passed in 1996, I took over her mantle, which is where my trouble began,” French said.


Along with Cecil Holland, French sued the USTA and ITF for discrimination, alleging officials of conspiring to keep Blacks and women from officiating important matches. It’s a stand “that cost us both of our careers,” French said. “Twenty-nine years later nothing has changed, we all know why.”


Photo courtesy of the Black Tennis Hall of Fame.


French says the inner workings of professional tennis will be revealed in her upcoming book.


“McEnroe deserves a whole chapter,” she quipped. “It will be fun.”


As a Black, gay woman who achieved great things in tennis officiating, French said she’s benefited from generations of barrier-breakers.


“I stand on their shoulders,” she said. “I embrace their excellence and am forever indebted for their sacrifices.”


She added, “One never knows what life will bring. The endgame always is to improve from the previous day."



The Richmond Standard





August 15, 2022

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