The final grass court tournament of the season is also the only grass court event to be played in North America.
The Newport Hall of Fame Championships have been a mainstay on the ATP Tour since 1977, and are held at the iconic International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum every July.
Tennis first came to Rhode Island in 1881, when the best players of the day competed at the Newport Casino. What was first known as the US National Singles Championship for Men evolved into the US Open, and relocated to Forest Hills, New York in 1915. But Newport continued to host its own event, and for the next 50 years many of the most talented players of the amateur era entered the Newport Casino Invitational, including Bill Tilden, Don Budge, Pancho Gonzales, Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson and Rod Laver.
In the mid-1970s, an annual ATP event was established in Newport, attracting Grand Slam champions such as Stan Smith and Johan Kriek. Sponsorship has changed several times since then, but the tournament remains extremely popular with both competitors and fans. It gains additional attention each year thanks to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which honours tennis greats from years gone by.
Four men have won the Newport title twice. The first to do so was Indian legend Vijay Amritraj, who also won the doubles trophy on two occasions. The other two-time winners are Bryan Shelton of the USA, France’s Fabrice Santoro (whose victory at the 2008 tournament made him the event’s oldest ever winner at 36 years old), and John Isner, who won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012.
To date, the most successful player at the Hall of Fame Championships is Britain’s Greg Rusedski. The big-serving lefty won the first title of his career in Newport in 1993, aged just 19. He also triumphed in 2004 and 2005.
Rajeev Ram def. Sam Querrey, 2009 final:
Occasionally, tennis players who are used to flying below the radar have a standout week in their careers, and that is exactly what happened to Rajeev Ram in 2009. The 25-year-old began his Newport campaign in disappointing fashion, losing in the final round of qualifying, but he earned a place in the main draw when compatriot Mardy Fish was called up to play in the Davis Cup. Ram duly took advantage of his good fortune, powering his way to the final with four impressive, gutsy performances.
In the showpiece match, he faced another American, third seed Sam Querrey. The higher ranked player’s greater experience in big match situations became evident in the first set, and Querrey sneaked it on a tie-break. But Ram showed brilliant tactical awareness by changing his approach in the second set. Sensing that his opponent was struggling on serve, Ram charged to the net on Querrey’s second serves, and eventually secured a crucial break in the 12th game to push the match to a decider.
The match remained close until the eighth game of the third set, when Ram hit a pinpoint forehand to open up a 5-3 lead. A few minutes later, he had match point, and when Querrey’s final forehand went long, Ram raised his arms in delight. “Winning tournaments is not normal for 99% of us on the tour,” he said afterwards. Yet his extraordinary success continued that very day, when he teamed up with Jordan Kerr to win the doubles trophy.
- A women’s event was held in Newport from 1971 - 1974 and again from 1983 - 1986.
- The term “Casino Curse” was coined in recognition of the fact that no top seed had ever won in Newport from 1977 - 2010. John Isner finally broke the curse in 2011.
- Doubles specialist Leander Paes won the only singles title of his career in Newport in 1998.
- The lowest ranked player to win the tournament was Mark Philippoussis, who won the 2006 event ranked 214th in the world.
- Australia’s Jordan Kerr has won the doubles title five times in Newport.