Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Sam English, Ky.'s 'Mr. Tennis,' dies at 68

The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — Sam English, known in Kentucky for his decades of work to promote tennis and develop the sport, died Sunday at a Louisville hospital. He was 68.

        Earlier this year, Mr. English, a Louisville native, was inducted into the U.S. Tennis Association's Southern Hall of Fame.

        He brought more than 70 tournaments to Kentucky, oversaw tennis in Louisville's parks programs for 23 years and was chairman for the USTA Boys' 18 Super National Clay Court championships for the past 35 years. He also opened doors for blacks in the sport and was a championship player.

        “Sam was tennis, as far as Kentucky goes,” said Shawn Howe, spokesman for the Kentucky Tennis Association. “He was known worldwide, by everyone from John McEnroe to Pete Sampras. Everybody knew Sam was Mr. Tennis in Kentucky.”

        Mr. English, a managing partner of two Louisville racquet clubs, volunteered his time to further the game.

        “I loved the sport and saw what it could do for children, and I saw the enjoyment they got out of the game,” he told the Courier-Journal in a January interview.

        His appreciation of the sport began in 1945, when as an 11-year-old he first played tennis at a sports camp. He became team captain at Louisville Male High School and Yale University.

        Although he didn't play professionally, Mr. English won more than 100 singles and doubles titles in his 30-year career, including four state men's singles championships.

        But Mr. English established his legacy off the court. He ran the Louisville parks program that enabled an estimated 40,000 youths to play the game. He engineered a pro tournament held from 1970-80 that attracted top players such as Arthur Ashe and Rod Laver.

        Mr. English also helped integrate the sport in Kentucky. In 1961, he refused to become director of the state's men's and women's tournaments unless blacks were allowed to play. They were, and he took the job.

        A public memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.


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