Tennis Prose



Pro Tennis Pioneer Al G. Hill Jr (1945-2017)

By Scoop Malinowski

Entrepreneur, philanthropist and tennis pioneer Al G. Hill Jr. died in his sleep at his Highland Park, Texas home on December 2. He was 72. Hill was the oldest grandson of legendary Texas oilman H.L. Hunt

In his lifetime, Hill was an oilman, developer, feature-film producer, charter-jet operator and thoroughbred racehorse owner. But he is best known in tennis circles for expanding tennis into the professional era.

In 1968, Hill co-founded World Championship Tennis with his uncle, American Football League co-founder and Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, and promoter Dave Dixon.

“Al Jr. was a fantastic amateur player, highly ranked, extremely successful,” Hunt’s widow, Norma Hunt, said in the 2014 documentary WCT: The Road to Open Tennis. “Although he was very young, he had knowledge Lamar didn’t have.”

“Al was the young, Gung-Ho guy that was a good tennis player,” tennis Hall of Famer Fred Stolle said in the same film. “He played on the tour, played at Wimbledon. He was a very good friend to a lot of the players.”

The combination of Hunt’s connections with network television along with Hill’s ability to promote the sport, helped the dynamic duo to modernize tennis into the professional circuit we have today. In May, 1972, an estimated 21,000,000 people saw Ken Rosewall’s dramatic, historic five-set victory over Rod Laver at Southern Methodist University’s Moody Coliseum. That Rosewall-Laver epic has been described by historians as, “the match that made tennis in the United States.”

Not long after that match, superstars Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg emerged, uplifting tennis into a new height of popularity. Hill, Hunt and Dixon were major players in developing tennis into the global mega-sport it is today.

In the span of one decade, Hill, Hunt and Dixon advanced tennis players from making a few hundred dollars a week to a lucrative career from which they could potentially earn millions of dollars.

Mr. Hill Jr. was a friend of mine and avid supporter of my work. May he rest in peace and be rightfully remembered as an important pioneer in tennis history.

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  • catherine · December 13, 2017 at 2:43 am

    I remember that match, although I only saw clips of it afterwards. Certainly was a watershed. Laver/Rosewall played a few of those matches, but away from the spotlight so they’re not remembered so well.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 13, 2017 at 8:30 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Catherine; it was one of the most important matches in tennis history. I've watched the WCT DVD Mr Hill sent me and the quality of play by both players in this match showed that both could play today and be top players. No doubt about it. Interestingly, he told me John McEnroe played in a junior match as a preliminary to the main event. Which was interesting that McEnroe was already a renowned figure in 1972 when he was only about 13 yrs old.

  • catherine · December 13, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Scoop – yes, the fact that these matches were a bit before my time yet still were often referred to says a lot for their quality.
    Do you remember a guy called Frank Podesta who staged a series of one night stand kind of matches around the early 70s? Laver, Rosewall, Newcombe etc played in those I think. Did a lot to raise public awareness of the pro game in the US.

    I agree about the quality standing the test of time. A lot of guff is written about differences between then and now – some of it is obviously true, some isn’t.

    Further down I wrote earlier about watching BJK and Martina on Youtube playing at W’don in 1980 – and while today’s play is faster and more powerful (technology mainly) the actual stroke play action can’t be bettered.

  • catherine · December 13, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Fred Podesta I think.



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