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When Justin Gimelstob began playing tennis at age 7, he wasn't interested in hitting forehands down the line. He liked to swing for the fences. So his first coach Steve Diamond would send Justin off the court until he learned to keep his power under control. Before long, he got the hang of it, and then there was no stopping him.

"I just picked it up and got better and better," Gimelstob said. "And the atmosphere at the courts was fun and competitive, pushing you to be the best you could be. It became an extended family."

After working with Diamond for a year and then playing at the West Orange Tennis Club, Justin, along with his two brothers, who also played tennis, moved to the Centercourt junior program headed by Asim Sengun in Chatham, N.J., to take his game to the next level. It didn't take long before Sengun realized the potential of the new player he had in his program.

"He was extremely competitive," Sengun said. "He was very smart on the court, had great court sense, and his strokes were so efficient. His mental toughness was apparent right away, and his work ethic was second to none. All the things you want from a kid he had, so it was very obvious from an early age that he was going to be a great player."

Gimelstob excelled as a junior, reaching the No. 1 ranking in each age division - the 12s, 14s, 16s and 18s - as well as winning the U.S. National Boys' 18s singles title and reaching the Roland Garros doubles final in 1995. His career continued to flourish in college and as a pro. At UCLA, he earned AlI-America honors and won the NCAA Doubles title. Then, after turning pro following his freshman year, he enjoyed a successful career on the ATP Tour from 1996-200, capturing 13 career doubles titles and two Grand Slam mixed doubles championships at the Australian Open and Roland Garros, both with Venus Willams, in 1998.

After retiring in 2007, Justin used his passion for tennis to develop a second career as a broadcaster for The Tennis Channel. But despite his success on court and in front of the camera, his accomplishments behind the scenes are what bring him the most pride.

Since 1998, the Justin Gimelstob Children's Fund has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit children in need. The Valerie Fund, for children with cancer and blood disorders, is the main beneficiary of the money raised. The foundation also supports other charities of many of the ATP tennis pros on and off the tour, as well as the Eastern Section's junior competition programs.

"I would say that the foundation is something that he is most passionate about," said Carol Smith (Magnes), who works closely with Gimelstob to coordinate all of the charity events for his foundation. "Justin works tirelessly for the kids. We have gone to The Valerie Fund to see the children. He has sat with them, talked with them and read to them." Gimelstob, who will become a father for the first time with wife Cary in September, said of giving back, "I'm very fortunate to have enjoyed a successful tennis career, but there is no greater joy I have than being able to use that success to help others. The foundation is a passion of mine and one which I plan to continue to grow for many years to come."


From player to broadcaster to his work with the foundation and now as an inductee into the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame, Gimelstob's life in tennis has come full circle, and being honored by the section where it all began means so much to him and his family.

"The idea that he's being inducted into the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame is very special because it's really a representation of the beginning of his career and where it all started," said Russell Gimelstob, Justin's younger brother who is introducing him at the induction ceremony. "We all have really fond memories of the ETA, and it means a lot to our family that the place where we all started and learned the game is now honoring his career."


It was on the red clay courts of Bologna, Italy That Marina Nudo learned to play tennis as a child. But it was as a parent in Rochester New York that the longtime Eastern volunteer began to leave her mark on the sport.


Her 11 year old son loved to play tennis, but could not find local tournaments to play. So, in an act that would become characteristic of Nude's lifelong dedication to the sport, she saw the shot and didn't hesitate.


“I called a couple of  coaches at the University of Rochester and asked for their help to mate the draw" said Nudo. We came up with a schedule, and I ran the tournament all by myself."


It was as a tournament director that Marina got her start, and with the help of parent volunteers, she ran monthly tournaments throughout the Rochester area for 19 years. But she quickly developed a passion for helping grow the sport on a wider scale. With Spike Gonzalez, a teaching pro at Midtown Terns Club in Rochester, she helped develop Love 15, a program that introduced tennis to children at parks and schools throughout the city.


The program continues today at the YMCA of Rochester. It is a USTA National Junior Tennis and Learning center, blending tennis instruction and play with lessons in reading, leadership and team-building.


"My reward was from the children, especially the little ones," said Nudo. "When they got to play tennis, they were just gleaming." Nudo became a leader of the Eastern Tennis Association (now USTA Eastern) when she was elected Vice President of the Western Region. Of her many accomplishments, perhaps her biggest was helping support the staff, assisting then- Eastern employee Laura Canfield introduce tennis to schools in Western New York. "She was my Rochester connection and was extremely influential," said Canfield, who current serves on the Junior Tennis Foundation Board. "She made a zillion different introductions for me that made it much easier to grow tennis in the region."


When elected President of the Eastern Tennis Association in 1996, Marina helped Eastern tennis clubs become certified as USTA Area Training Centers. These centers brought High Performance training to juniors throughout the section and preceded what are known today as USTA Regional Training Centers. These RTCs are working with USTA Player Development to develop the next generation of American tennis champions.


Still, no matter how much Marina accomplished on the section level, she always remembered where she found herself in tennis. “She was a very gracious lady and represented the section well," said former Eastern Executive Director, Doris Herrick. "But she never forgot her roots in the Rochester area and her loyalties to those children she introduced to a tennis racquet."



More than 40 years ago, Brooklyn's Steve Ross became a local tennis legend with deadly slices, spin and speed and without the most important stroke in today's game: a powerful serve.


Known as "The Brooklyn Backboard," Ross's defensive skills and cunning tactics frustrated his opponents, helping him win countless tournaments and defeat numerous Eastern tennis stars including Bobby Riggs, King Van Nostrand and Peter Fleming. "I didn't serve the ball hard, but I could hit the ball on a quarter," said Ross. "I would keep my opponent going all day. You had

to overpower me, and with the wooden racquets, it was hard to overpower people."

Ross's determination had developed in Miami Beach, where as a young child, he lost his mom to leukemia and grew up in a broken home. It was on his way home from school one day that he saw some empty tennis courts. He and a friend collected empty soda bottles to rent the court for 25 cents an hour, and used their background in table tennis to learn the game, "We enjoyed playing, but we didn't know what we were doing," said Ross. "We chopped the ball, we sliced the ball and we kind of played ping pong on the tennis court."

Ross moved to Brooklyn a few years later to care for his grandmother, and found a job at a supermarket. After work, he would go to the nearby Hiway Tennis Club to watch people play.


Club owner Lenny Hartman offered Ross free use of the courts in exchange for maintaining them. Ross took the offer, and before long was defeating players one after another. One of those who lost to Ross was Dick Scheer, who had little trouble finding opponents after taking one of three sets from him in the late 1960s.

Steve made my reputation at the Hiway courts," said Scheer. "I always admired him. Not only was he a great competitor, but he was always a gentleman. After he beat you, he'd tell you how great you played."

Ross got his big break a few years later, when Hartman set up a match between the "Brooklyn Backboard" and Bobby Riggs. Ross outplayed Riggs in a series of sets, earning a story in the New York Times and more than $700 in prize money from the notorious gambler. Ross's life was changed forever.

"I started to play doubles matches with Bobby for money," said Ross. "And Bobby introduced me to Jack Dreyfus of the Dreyfus Fund who would pay me to play with him. It was through Lenny, Bobby and Jack that I was able to make a living doing what I loved: playing and teaching tennis."

Ross dominated the Eastern clay court circuit from 1969 to 1974, and credits his longtime friend and practice partner Alan Polen with helping him stay sharp. But Ross was also an outstanding tennis instructor, who still teaches today at Mill Basin Health and Racquet Club in Brooklyn. His most significant accomplishment, in addition to having arguably more tournament wins than anyone in the section, was that he instilled the love of tennis in so many young people.

Among his nominations for the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame was a letter from Laurie Edelman, who worked as the Program Director at Camp Idylwold in Schroon Lake, N.Y. when Ross ran the tennis program there.

"Each year, we have an informal camp reunion at the US Open on the first day of the tournament," wrote Edelman. "I suspect that most of them come because Steve Ross will be there and they know they will continue to learn something about the game (and have fun) if they sit with him while watching the pros play."

HOF 2013
Click to see the original 2013 program.
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