Thanks to Danny Burgess and the members of the USTA Eastern Long Island Region Board members for bestowing the honor of the Vitas Gerulaitis For the Love of Tennis Award upon me.
I was a junior tennis parent here in the 1970s, so I’ve been covering this beat for more than 40 years, and if any of you here have never heard of Vitas Gerulaitis, you should know that he put Long Island on the map during the New York tennis boom. Vitas lived in Howard Beach, N.Y. and played at the Port Washington Tennis Academy. He and another Long Island guy, Sandy Mayer of Woodmere, won the 1975 Wimbledon doubles title.
Vitas also won singles titles in Australia and at the Italian Open before he lost to his friend John McEnroe in the finals of the 1979 U.S. Open. McEnroe has said, “Vitas was the big shot player in the East who we all looked up to, and suddenly, I’m 20 and he’s 24 and we’re playing in the U.S. Open final … I don’t think it will ever happen again—two guys from New York playing for the U.S. Open title.” You never know. Another Long Island Vitas could emerge from the group of young players and join international junior stars who have emerged from the area, like Noah Rubin and Julia Elbaba. America and New York would love a new tennis boom.
I have heard fascinating stories about people over the years as I researched and wrote more than 2,000 tennis articles for a variety of publications and Web sites. I believe that every tennis player who earns a ranking of any kind, league teams, officials, writers and people who volunteer valuable time to promote the sport are indeed stars and should be acknowledged and honored by Eastern and the USTA.