Alastair Martin dies at 94; longtime amateur tennis champion

Associated Press

Alastair Martin, a longtime amateur tennis champion who helped transform the game by opening major tournaments to professionals, died Jan. 12 of natural causes at his home in Katonah, N.Y. He was 94.

Martin was a longtime champion of court tennis, a predecessor of modern tennis that was usually played indoors or in walled courtyards. He won 18 national titles in singles and doubles between 1933 and 1971, according to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. He also competed in modern tennis championships in the 1930s and '40s.

Martin was vice president of the U.S. Tennis Assn. in 1967 and 1968 and president in 1969 and 1970, as the amateur era gave way and major tournaments opened to professionals.

He and Robert Kelleher, who was the association's president in 1967 and 1968, pushed for including pros, and the rules changed in 1968.

Before then, tennis players who turned professional to make money were not permitted to play in the U.S. Championships, now known as the U.S. Open, or the other Grand Slam tournaments, the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon.

"There were a lot of people who felt amateurs were getting paid under the table, but mostly people wanted to know who's better -- the amateurs or the pros," said tennis great Tony Trabert, who won Wimbledon, the French Open and U.S. championships as an amateur in 1955. "They said, 'Let's put them together and find out.' "

"Kelleher and Martin engineered that in this country, and that allowed players like Ken Rosewall, Pancho Gonzalez, Lew Hoad and Rod Laver to play," said Trabert, president of the Hall of Fame. "It's what sports fans wanted."

Laver, for example, won the Grand Slam as an amateur in 1962, then turned pro and could not play in the majors again until 1968. He won the Grand Slam again, as a pro, in 1969.

"Tennis just took off from there," Trabert said. "It really blossomed. I won Wimbledon in 1955 as an amateur and got a 10-pound gift certificate to a sporting goods store. I think it was worth $27. Now you're a millionaire."

Alastair Bradley Martin was born into a prominent Long Island family on March 11, 1915, and graduated from Princeton University in 1938.

His grandfather, Henry Phipps, was a business partner of steel titan Andrew Carnegie, and his family helped build the sports facility at Forest Hills, N.Y., where the U.S. Open was played from 1923 to 1977.

Martin was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1973 and served as its president from 1977 to 1979.

Martin and his wife, Edith, also were noted art collectors who often lent pieces from their Guennol Collection to museums. She died in 1989.

Survivors include a son, a daughter, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

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