A large crowd descended on the Bay area’s beautiful Round Hill Country Club to celebrate the Northern California Tennis Hall of Fame’s 2023 class of inductees. Here’s their pick six.
VIC SEIXAS: Reared in Philly, the plumber’s son was a net-charging whiz who went on to become the oldest living Grand Slam champ and the oldest member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Now he’s the oldest living member of the Northern California Tennis Hall of Fame.
The revered elder, who turned 100 in August, has been a mainstay at Mill Valley’s Harbor Point club for over three decades. Seixas, who said he was happy to be in the same group as Don Budge and Alice Marble, thrills observers with his zest for life. He recently said, “Don’t let anyone tell you that at 100 years old you can’t be in love. I’m 100 and I’m in love. And better yet, she loves me!” Wow.
America’s former No. 1 player, who was also our Davis Cup captain, won Wimbledon in 1953 and the US Nationals in 1954, plus 13 other major titles. An army guy who fixed planes in New Guinea during World War II traveled the world as a great player and lived like a king before settling in the Bay Area over three decades ago. Vic joked, “It only took me 34 years to get in [the Hall of Fame]…I’m only 100 and I’m looking to have a lot more time here.” And, lest we forget, Seixas has won more majors than any other man in the NorCal Hall of Fame.
MARK ELLIOTT: Some guys are simply beloved. From the time Mark Elliott drove up from San Diego in his how-funky-can-you-get Hillman car (with its two functional cylinders) to go to Foothill College, to the time, decades later, when he took off to become a fisherman in the wilds of Alaska, Elliott was embraced by so many.
Sure, it didn’t hurt that he partnered on court with Farrah Fawcett and taught Raquel Welch, Harrison Ford and two-time Slam champ Li Na. More to the point is that he lived by his dad’s ethos: “We’re not here for a long time, just a good time.”
Coach Steve Stefanki noted, “Mark’s the inspiration for all you old guys. There was no money back then. Mark played the game for the love of tennis. If you just got to Wimbledon, you had it made. Mark was incredible – and so nurturing.” The former NorCal junior player of the year taught nine top-100 players and was a key figure in the development of Chinese tennis. The venerable Wayne Bryan added, “He is so humble, a hell of a player, a hell of a coach and a hell of a guy.”
DANA GILL: Yes, Gill is a great player. He’s No. 1 in the world in the 50s. And he’s one of the greatest grassroots entrepreneurs in America. From Cupertino to San Francisco and Walnut Creek, his Lifetime Activities company oversees the play of 20,000 patrons each week and teaches 5,000.
But it’s the guy’s wisdom and perspective that really impress. Few have more have more insight into the game. Michael Scadden, his business partner for over 30 years, noted that Dana “goes out of his way to help people – and he takes the high road when no one is looking.” Gill says his group “plants the seeds for tomorrow, and takes care of players’ needs today.”
A great problem-solver who employs scores of loyal workers, Gill says tennis is really a team sport. “I like tennis’ combination of self-reliance, decision-making and persistence…mixed with the camaraderie and the friendships I’ve forged. I couldn’t be prouder to represent community tennis.”
KATE GOMPERT: A lot of savvy lefties with ample ‘tudes have emerged out of Stanford. John McEnroe, Roscoe Tanner, Bob Bryan, Jeff Tarango, Bradley Klahn and Peter Rennert all come to mind. And don’t forget Kate Gompert, the lean Detroit kid who came to Menlo Park and then became a national junior champ; a two-time NCAA team titleist who went onto the WTA circuit where she scored wins over Chris Evert and Pam Shriver en route to becoming No. 18 in the world.
Still a rebel after all these years, Gompert told tales of ill-fated midnight raids in search of donuts. She said her coach Frank Brennan fixed her serve but not her temper. Then the mother of two confided what she wanted most to get out of the Hall of Fame ceremony: an autograph from Vic Seixas.
BRIAN MACPHIE: Years ago there was a guy they called Mac, a left-handed doubles whiz, a serving phenom who played Agassi in front of 8,000 fans in San Jose and who rode around NorCal with a license plate that read “Ace4Mac.”
No, it wasn’t John McEnroe, it was Brian MacPhie. The man with magic in his arm was on two NCAA Championship teams at USC. With Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Jimmy Connors, he was honored as one of the top four players in World Team Tennis history. MacPhie won seven ATP doubles titles and was the No. 1 doubles player in the world.
Since 2005 he’s been teaching tennis. Now at Austin’s Westwood Country Club, MacPhie says, “If you commit, listen and work hard, you’ve already won.” What pleases him is to get kids to play so they learn the lessons of the game – “dealing with the ups and downs, teamwork, focus, and loving the fight on court.”
BOBBY SISKA: To say that Bobby Siska was a child prodigy is “quite the understatement,” noted Steve Cornell. After all, the San Francisco product dominated NorCal junior play like few others and then went on to score wins over the likes of Ion Tiriac, Jeff Borowiak and Nick Saviano. Hard courts or grass, an Oakland City tourney or Wimbledon, it didn’t really matter to the Siska kid, who went on to be an accomplished race car driver zooming around assorted tracks in high-tech autos around the world, yet he still plays tennis three days a week – with a wooden racket.