January 24th, 2019
Florida-raised Pierce, Kafelnikov, Li Na Get International Tennis Hall of Fame Nods
Florida Tennis Hall of Fame member Mary Pierce, China’s Li Na, and Russian former No. 1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., in July, the hall announced this week for its 2019 slate.
Pierce was first inducted into the Florida Tennis Hall of Fame in 2013. Introduced to tennis at age 10, Pierce by the age of 12 was ranked No. 1 in Florida, then No. 1 in the country. She battered opponents off the court with her trademark heavy ball striking, turning pro at 14. At age 15 she reached her first WTA semifinal and cracked the Top 100 on the WTA Rankings.
By age 16 she was ranked in the Top 50 and has won her first title. Four years later she was raising the trophy at the Australian Open, ranking a career-high No. 3 in the world. During her pro career she would also go on to win the French Open and finish runner-up at the US Open, claiming a career 18 WTA singles titles.
“Wow…OK, I’m pretty emotional,” said Pierce, fighting back tears throughout her Florida Tennis Hall of Fame induction speech a little over five years ago. “This is really special for me. Tennis really means a lot to me. It’s given me a lot of wonderful things in my life. The most important thing I want to say is how much I love my family…Florida has done a lot for me, and thank you for electing me to the USTA Florida Hall of Fame, it’s very special to me.”
Born in Montreal, Pierce was raised in Florida but played under the French flag. Like Pierce, Na and Kafelnikov won two Slams during their careers — the Australian Open and French Open. Na retired in 2014 at age 32, rising to a career-high No. 2 in the WTA ranking before injuries ended her career.
“I have loved seeing the sport grow in China,” Li said in a statement, “and I’m proud to be part of that history.”
She will become the first player from Asia inducted into the hall.
Kafelnikov is the last man to win singles and doubles championships at the same Grand Slam tournament, dominating the French Open in 1996. In 2000 he won an Olympic gold medal for Russia and claimed the No. 1 ranking.
“It’s a pleasure to congratulate Li Na, Mary Pierce and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and to welcome them into the International Tennis Hall of Fame,” said Hall of Fame President Stan Smith. “They are three incredibly hard-working athletes who set and achieved goals at tennis’ highest levels. This is a well-deserved honor, and we look forward to celebrating them as hall of famers in Newport in July.”
For 2019 the hall selection process included a fan vote for the first time via online balloting, combined with votes from hall of fame members, journalists and tennis historians.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be on July 20, 2019 at the hall during the Newport, R.I. ATP World Tour grass court event.