The modifications include the addition of automatic ballot inclusion in the first year of eligibility for players who have attained extraordinary levels of achievement, the elimination of the Master Player Category, and transitioning from annual induction to induction every four years for the Contributor and Wheelchair Tennis Categories. In addition, beginning with the Class of 2019, the Hall of Fame has plans to introduce a Fan Voting component to the process. Fan Voting will be in addition to a vote by existing Voting Groups, which are comprised of members of tennis media, experts on the sport and its history, and Hall of Famers.
“Induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame is an extraordinary honor reserved for our sport’s most accomplished athletes and transcendent leaders. The policies and procedures that were governing our induction process have served the organization well for many years. That said, it was time for a thorough review to ensure that the policies continue to appropriately direct the induction process and serve the sport of tennis in the best possible way,” stated Todd Martin, CEO in a press release.
Changes will include the following:
- The Recent Player and Master Player Categories will be eliminated, and a new Player Category will be established. Previously, the Recent Player Category was for nominees who had been retired at least five years, but no more than 20 years; while the Master Player Category was for those retired more than 20 years. The Master Player Category primarily served a purpose of honoring those who played prior to the Hall of Fame’s existence, or prior to the Hall of Fame serving the international game.
- For this year only, the Enshrinee Nominating Committee will review the careers of nominees who would have been eligible under the previously known Master Player Category for possible inclusion on the Class of 2018 ballot in the Player Category. After the Class of 2018, players who have been retired more than 20 years will be ineligible for Hall of Fame induction in the Player Category.
- Players can now be placed on the ballot either by automatic inclusion based on their records, or by nomination and subsequent review by the Enshrinee Nominating Committee. (Previously, everyone’s career was reviewed by the Enshrinee Nominating Committee.)
- Criteria for automatic ballot inclusion on first eligible ballot will be:
- Singles: Must have won 3 major singles titles and have been world No. 1 for a minimum of 13 weeks; Or, have won 5 major singles titles
- Doubles: Must have won 12 major doubles titles and have been world No. 1 for a minimum of 52 weeks; Or, have won 15 major doubles titles
- Players who do not meet the criteria for automatic ballot inclusion will have their career history assessed by the Enshrinee Nominating Committee (as has been done previously), who will determine if they should be placed on the ballot for voting by the Voting Groups.
- Any player candidate who is not voted in will remain on the ballot for a period of 3 years. This is a change in that, previously, candidates were reviewed and selected annually. If they are not voted in during those 3 years, they will be removed from the ballot for a period of 2 years, after which they will be eligible to be considered for ballot inclusion again.
- The Wheelchair Tennis Category will move to a 4-year rotation and the ballot will be capped at two individuals. The next possible year of induction for the Wheelchair Tennis Category will be 2019. After 2019, it will be every four years.
- The Contributor Category will move to a 4-year rotation and the ballot will be capped at two individuals. The next possible year of induction for the Contributor Category will be 2021, and it will be every four years following that.
- While the amendments are significant, the Hall of Fame will also retain some core tenets of former policies, such as players being eligible for induction five years after retirement.
- Additionally, the key elements of eligibility criteria for the Player Category and the Wheelchair Tennis Category will remain: a distinguished record of competitive achievement at the highest international level, with consideration given to integrity, sportsmanship, and character.
- For the Contributor Category, the key elements of eligibility criteria have been modified and will now be defined as: an individual who is a true pioneer, visionary leader, or who has made a transcendent difference within the sport of tennis. Additionally, Contributor candidates must be age 65 or have been retired from their work in tennis for 5 years.
“The leadership of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, along with the 23 volunteers from the global tennis community who serve on the ITHF Enshrinee Nominating Committee carefully reviewed the policies and procedures that govern the induction process. We are confident that these amendments will ensure that the sport continues to have its most accomplished individuals inducted into the Hall of Fame,” said Martin in the release.