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USTA SC Mourns the Passing of Hamilton Richardson

December 13, 2006 09:36 PM

On November 5th, a tennis great passed away. Hamilton Richardson, a great advocate of tennis who was as passionate about the game off the court as he was on, died at the age of 73. His son, Kevin, recalls that tennis was at the core of his father’s identity, not just the game, but the way of life. Hamilton felt that when you were a tennis player, you should extend your game beyond the confines of the court. You should live by a certain set of virtues, love a challenge, have a commitment to fair play, and accept defeat with grace. These values helped propel Hamilton to the highest circles of tennis. He was twice the number one player in the US, a member of seven Davis Cup teams (with a personal record of 20-2) and a winner of the National (now the US Open) Doubles Championships.
Hamilton’s good grace probably came in part from the challenges he faced in life. He was diagnosed with diabetes at an early age, and at a time when the disease was poorly understood. Defying doctors recommendations that he give up the game, he continued to play. The disease often made it a challenge to play, but Hamilton did not let that slow him down. In one amazing feat, he won the 1950 French Junior Championships despite the fact he spent every night of the tournament in a hospital struggling to stabilize his blood sugar.

Richardson and Wife

Hamilton was a student-athelete in the pre-Open era, so his perspective of tennis as a lifestyle, and not a career, can often be contrasted with today’s players. He carried his love of the game to all facets of his life, including quizzing New York cab drivers. If he happened into a cab with a driver who was obviously not American, he would ask “Where are you from?” Upon hearing the answer, he would invariably recount playing a match in the country, including details such as the opponent, the year and the club. He would also include some local flavor such as “the only place I ever ate an eyeball” or “the courts were actually made of cow dung.” He felt that tennis had made a connection between the driver and himself. He was right, of course, lifelong connections are made from such seemingly small events as recalling a person’s home country with fondness. Hamilton Richardson set an example with his life and play, and was an invaluable ambassador of the sport. All players of the game, past present, and future should take note of Hamilton’s perspective. Tennis isn’t just about winning the game on the court, it’s about coming out ahead in the game of life. We at USTA South Carolina consider the molding of young players to be like Ham Richardson the essence of our mission in growing the game of tennis in SC. Thank you Hamilton, for providing such a great model for all young players.