TENNIS NOTEBOOK: Ailments don’t faze Sweeney – Houston Chronicle

24 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on TENNIS NOTEBOOK: Ailments don’t faze Sweeney – Houston Chronicle
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TENNIS NOTEBOOK: Ailments don’t faze Sweeney

Legendary Houston promoter Hugh Sweeney says not to worry; His game plan is to live forever.

Never mind that he told me that last week from his bed in ICU in a Heights hospital. surroundings he has become all too familiar with over the last year.

The 79-year-old former Wimbledon and U.S. Nationals qualifier, who, at 6-6, was the tallest man on the world “amateur” circuit in the 1950s and the last to play in long pants, has endured both a major heart attack and a broken hip that he incurred in a fall, among other maladies.

But, because he assured me he was going to bounce back, this isn’t to be interpreted as a thinly veiled obituary, just a tutorial for younger Houstonians and newcomers about a creative, personable and, most important, honorable chap who was always far ahead of his time — so far in most cases that he was still having to work for a living before his recent calamities.

If good ideas, kindness and kept promises were cash, “Sween” would be a gadzillionaire today.

He was the guy whose volunteer recruiting helped build the Lamar University tennis program into a major regional power, then got the Virginia Slims Tour event in Houston moving forward on solid ground after Gladys Heldman organized the first-ever women’s professional tournament at the Houston Racquet Club in 1970.

He was the guy who opened the Net Set Racquet Club. which hosted its first Slims in 1973 and, as Westside Tennis Club. its last in 1995, then later became home to the ATP tour from 2001 through 2007.

He had a productive partnership with Lamar Hunt. too, in the formative years of Hunt’s World Championship Tennis Tour.

Sweeney was also the guy who thought women’s professional basketball had enough of a future that he anteed up $50,000 for a franchise in the ill-fated Women’s Basketball League .

His Angels became Houston’s first-ever undisputed “world champions,” when they won the WBL title in 1979.

Still, when he gave up on that venture after the second season, he says he was at least $100,000 in the hole.

Ask him about his financial acumen and Sweeney mutters, “Loser,” while giving a thumbs-down.

But he was a winner in every other way, a lanky, dapper figure in a straw boater who made a significant contribution to helping Houston become a big-league town.

In recent years Sweeney has done OK by himself publishing the Houston 1000 corporate directory, keeping an office — fittingly — in the U.S. Professional Tennis Association building in west Houston.

Longtime USPTA honcho Tim Heckler says of Sweeney: “He was an icon in tennis, so friendly to all. There wasn’t a bad bone in his body.”

Former U.S. Davis Cupper Ron Holmberg first met Sweeney in 1953, when the junior sensation was 15.

They’ve been best of friends since 1955, after Sweeney lent Holmberg a helping hand.

When he reached the semis of the U.S. Nationals at Forest Hills in 1959, Sweeney came out every day to practice with him.

“You know what people say about promoters, but the one word that represents Sween over his entire life is integrity,” Holmberg said. “Through thick and thin, he never did anything that wasn’t on the up and up. He was just wonderful to everybody.”

Spot in U.S. Open

His distant cousin is former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek . the only man to beat Pete Sampras there during an eight-year span.

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So perhaps Austin Krajicek’s recent Boys 18s national championship shouldn’t be seen as that big of a surprise.

But Krajicek went to “the Zoo” — Kalamazoo, Mich. has hosted the tournament for years — as only the fifth seed before reeling off seven consecutive victories, beating Ryan Thatcher in a three-set final.

The victory earned the Texas AM sophomore-to-be be a spot in the main draw of the U.S. Open, which starts Monday.

“It’s a pretty awesome feeling,” Krajicek said of his free pass into the Open.

Seniors summoned

A Super Senior Plus league, for men and women age 70 and older, is being formed by the Houston Tennis Association .

Teams, with ratings from 6.0 to 9.0, will be made up of six players of the same gender.

The cost per player for the season is $15 plus a $3 Tennis Link registration fee. Players must be HTA and USTA members. Contact htadiana@houstontennis.org or call 281 580-8313 as soon as possible if you’re interested in participating.

Nadal-Federer replay

If you missed it the first time, or just want to spend half a day mesmerized all over again, the historic Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal five-set Wimbledon final will shown for the first time in its entirety at 8 Friday night on the Tennis Channel.

And ESPN Classic also will have it from 2 until 7 p.m. Sunday.

The Tennis Channel has been showing Federer-Nadal matches every night this week.

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