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Steve Flink: Dell is Welcomed to the Hall of Fame

2/17/2009 12:51:00 PM

by Steve Flink

When the Class of 2009 assembles in Newport, Rhode Island for their inductions at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in July, the redoubtable Monica Seles will be front and center. Spain's Andres Gimeno--- the 1972 French Open victor and one of the premier competitors in the world of pro tennis across the 1960's--- will take some well deserved bows. The distinguished Dr. Robert Johnson--- an invaluable coach and mentor for both Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson--- will be suitably honored posthumously.

But perhaps the most gratified inductee in Newport will be Donald Lundy Dell, a man who has spent nearly all of his productive life contributing to the game in a multitude of capacities. He was the No. 1 player for Yale University from 1958-60, and spent three years in the early sixties entrenched among the top ten competitors in the U.S., reaching the top five in 1961, representing his country in Davis Cup from 1961-63. He was an outstanding American Davis Cup captain in 1968 and 1969. Thereafter, he established himself as a powerful force in the field of player representation, becoming the first to take on that role in tennis.

There is more. Dell was once one of the premier commentators on tennis in the 1970's and 1980's, and still works in that arena periodically these days. On top of that, he has been indispensable in global television properties for decades, and to this day his company is the dealmaker with the French and U.S. Open events in the realm of television rights. All in all, on every front, across the spectrum of the sport, Dell has made his presence known in the most substantial of ways. He has made friends and enemies, but most importantly he has made a difference.

It began, of course, on the court. A terrific athlete, he had been captain of the freshman teams at Yale in not only tennis but basketball as well. But the Yale basketball coach forced Dell to pick one sport or the other in his sophomore season. As he recalls, "I thought that was ridiculous. He pushed me out, but I chose tennis."

Dell was the top man all through his last three years on the Yale varsity team, and was already a ranked player nationally in that period. But, after graduation, he fully dedicated himself to competing on the amateur circuit. He posted victories over a good many top players in that stretch, toppling the likes of Dennis Ralston and Chuck McKinley, Marty Riessen and Frank Froehling, Cliff Drysdale and Mike Sangster, Ham Richardson and Ron Holmberg. In 1960 and again in 1962, he made it to the finals of the highly valued South Orange, New Jersey grass court event. At his best in 1961, he was a finalist at the U.S. Clay Courts and a quarterfinalist at Forest Hills in the U.S. National Championships.

Describing his game, Dell emphasizes that tennis in those days was contested almost entirely on grass courts, and he shaped his style accordingly. "My strength and my weakness was my serve," he asserts. "I had a really good first serve that was very effective on grass and I was a really good volleyer. But I had a lousy second serve in the sense that I had no margin of error. I never learned an American Twist serve. So if I was serving well I could beat anybody, but if I was serving badly and serving a lot of double faults, I got into trouble and my whole confidence crumbled. I was a ferocious fighter. I was limited in talent but I could really battle. As my children tell me today, my greatest strength is my persistence."

Recollecting those years, Dell points out that while he was at Yale he had won a scholarship award from a foundation in New York for what was then the exorbitant amount of $7,500.00. Dell was free to use that money for graduate school, Law School, "anything I wanted in education." He elected to use it to attend the University of Virginia Law School, and would presumably have started in the fall semester of 1960.

Dell had other ideas. He wanted to spend a year playing the circuit before going to law school. As he recalls, "I graduated from Yale in June of 1960 and played the circuit in tennis through August of 1961. Suddenly I got to Forest Hills and played Laver in the quarterfinals and it was probably the best match I ever played. He beat me in four sets but it was a great match. The USTA---- then the USLTA--- was looking as always for the next young American and I had a hot week, so they said they would put me on the Davis Cup team."

Realizing he would have to postpone his start at the University of Virginia Law School a second time for a Davis Cup stint that would include clashes against India and possibly Italy, Dell conferred with the Dean of Admissions and discovered if he missed less than 25% of his classes he could still take his exams and finish the year. He figured out that being away for both Davis Cup ties would result in missing 23% of his classes, so off he went.

In his debut against India at New Delhi, Dell was triumphant in doubles alongside McKinley as they surprised Premjit Lall and Ramanathan Krishnan, coming from behind to win in four sets. The U.S. took that team contest 3-2. The team moved on to Rome to face Italy at the renowned Foro Italico on the clay. Dell and Whitney Reed lost the doubles to the esteemed Nicola Pietrangeli and his partner Orlando Sirola and the Americans bowed 4-1. But Dell had loved the experience of playing for his country, and had fared well.

"I came back after that," he chuckles, "and started law school at the University of Virginia about October 15th. Everybody in my class was laughing their heads off that I was starting so late. I ended up staying there for Thanksgiving vacation and Christmas vacation and finished in the top 20 percent of my class for the first year, which was better than I did the next two years."

1962 was his last year in the U.S. Top Ten, and he completed his Davis Cup playing career the following year. Dell knew he had essentially exhausted his options on the court. "I knew I wasn't the best player. I knew I could be in the top ten in America because I had done that a bunch of times, and I had played Davis Cup. But my dreams were over as a player."

Nevertheless, he did extend his playing days a bit longer, going on a tour around the world with Gene Scott, touring with his friend Allen Fox in 1965. He played the U.S. Nationals in 1966, was defeated in the third round, and turned his attention to working for the law firm called Hogan& Hartson in Washington. "In 1967," says Dell, "Sargent Shriver [who would become Ambassador to France and a Presidential candidate ] asked me to work for him at O.E.O [the Office of Economic Opportunity] so I decided to become his special assistant. I had been playing tennis on weekends with Bobby and Ethel Kennedy and I knew the Kennedy's quite well. So I resigned from Sarge to run five states as the head advance guy in five states when Bobby ran for President in 1968."

Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, but by then Dell had been named Davis Cup captain, appointed by an old friend and mentor who had been the victorious American captain of 1963 and later attain great prominence in another field: The Honorable Judge Robert J. Kelleher. In any case, despite being flattered by Kelleher's offer, Dell felt considerable loyalty toward Shriver, and was ready to turn down the Cup captaincy. To the rescue came the selfless Shriver. "No way," he told Dell. "You are never going to turn it down. If you become the Davis Cup captain and if you do a great job, you won't be known as a player. You will always be known as a former Davis Cup captain."

Reflecting on that seminal moment now--- more than 40 years after Shriver urged him to take on a challenge that would in many ways alter the course of his life--- Dell recognizes how prescient Shriver was. "It turns out that Sarge was right. At that time, everybody was saying what is wrong with American tennis? The Davis Cup was about five times bigger then than it is now. It was the high moment of everybody's career. From the first day, the mission was to win the Cup back [the U.S. had last taken the Cup in 1963] and to defend it a year later. And I got the players to buy in on that. We committed for two weeks on the calendar before every one of our matches and we played six countries in 1968 to win the Cup. We made it a real mission."

Kelleher takes extraordinary pride in his appointment of Dell to the captaincy, and believes Dell embraced his philosophy as the triumphant captain of 1963. As Kelleher told me, "Donald adopted the phrase that I started my captaincy with when I told my team, 'We are going to demand an awful lot of you guys. We have a mission to bring the Cup back to the United States and we are going to do everything we can to do that. And I expect you fellows to do everything you can, but I can promise you this: there is nothing in God's green earth that you will need that a captain could furnish for you that you won't have. That is the mission, so let's go.' Donald used the same expression when he took over as captain. He felt, like I did, that it was the right way to go, and it worked because his leadership qualities emerged."

Dell had an enviable cast of players to lead. The best player on the team was Arthur Ashe, who would form a close and enduring friendship with Dell, as did Stan Smith, who joined forces with Bob Lutz to form the stalwart American doubles tandem. The No. 2 singles player behind Ashe was the big serving Clark Graebner, who did not get along with Dell through most of the campaign yet still emerged as the hero of the team in the end.

As Dell remembers, "I had nothing but problems with Clark. He was a complete pain in the neck. He was kind of like the Lone Wolf of the team. When we got to Australia to prepare for the Challenge Round, Clark was playing doubles with Charlie Pasarell---- my dearest friend on the team-- in a warm-up event in Brisbane. I wandered out to watch them and Graebner just threw the match. That enraged me because this was our team and our country and this was a big deal to all of us. So I walked into Clark's room the next morning and said, 'Clark, pack your bags. You are out of here. You are off the team. You are going back to Cleveland and I am going to tell everybody you hurt your back and I am never going to double cross you. No one will ever know but I want you the hell out of here. We are going on to Adelaide for the Challenge Round and you are going back home to Cleveland.' "

As Dell revisits that moment, he sees Graebner in the eye of his mind coming back to his hotel room, utterly distraught. "He knocked on my door about five minutes later," Dell says of Graebner, "and I swear to you he burst out crying. He said to me, 'Donald, you can't do this. My father will kill me.' I said, 'I don't care. You have been a real pain in the neck. You were out there playing with Pasarell and representing America and you threw that match. There is no excuse for that.' I was almost a tyrant but they all wanted leadership, which is what kids need today. Graebner pleaded, 'Just let me practice with the team' so I said, 'O.K., you are off the team but you can practice with us.' "

Much to Dell's chagrin, Graebner approached those practice matches with an intensity, purpose, and fervor that his teammates could not match. "We got to Adelaide," Dell recollects, "and we start practicing and Dennis Ralston was my coach. He couldn't stand Graebner. But Graebner is beating everybody in practice, murdering everyone and serving bullets. So we got to the day before the draw and I asked Ralston who he wanted to play in the singles along with Arthur. He said he wanted to go with Stan Smith."

Dell sorted through the complexities of the situation. He knew that Smith--- already a top notch doubles player but not yet the great singles player he would become-would be a gamble since he had never competed in Davis Cup singles competition. He went to Smith's room to ask him about appearing in the singles and Smith-surely caught off guard as he spoke to the captain while taking a shower-- said, "O.K." Dell could not see Smith, who was still standing behind the shower curtain, but sensed correctly that Smith was reluctant to take on the singles assignment.

That was in the morning, and the draw was scheduled for 1PM. Smith went out to practice at 10AM and Dell noticed that Stan's right wrist was covered with tape. Dell had a serious problem to confront.

Knowing he now did not want to name Smith to play singles, he had to choose between the revitalized Graebner and Pasarell, his close friend who was still at that point on the official four man team. Dell suggested to Pasarell that they go out for a jog. As he recalls, "Charlie and I are jogging in this enormous park in Adelaide and it starts pouring with rain. We step under some trees about a half mile from the locker room and suddenly Charlie turns to me and says, 'You are going to name Graebner, aren't you?' And I said, 'Yes I am. But I wanted to tell you the news privately.'"

Dell fully understood Pasarell's deep sadness and disappointment, but he had made the right decision; he had gone with his head rather than his heart. "Charlie was my best friend in tennis at the time and I didn't know Arthur as well then. And we were standing there on the street at this emotional time for both of us. I understood completely how he felt. I really did. But the rest was history."

Graebner went out and played his heart out, defeating Bill Bowery 6-1 in the fifth set of the pivotal opening match in that 1968 Challenge Round. Ashe followed with a four set win over the left-handed Ray Ruffels. Smith and Lutz took the doubles to seal the triumph for the U.S., and then Graebner came through again in another five set contest with Ruffels, taking the final set 6-1 once more. Finally, an off form Ashe was beaten by Bowery in four sets. Clearly, Graebner had been magnificent. In retrospect, does Dell feel his altercation with Graebner was a primary reason why Graebner flourished?

"No question," he answers. "It made him a much better player because he worked his ass off after that. I had a horrible time with Clark that whole year. I had one problem after another with him, and I know he despised me. But it did end well. I even flew Carole Graebner in for the Challenge Round as a surprise. As I told Time Magazine, it was Clark Graebner's finest hour."

It was also a time of emerging greatness for Donald Dell, who displayed a blend of toughness, compassion and uncommon maturity for one so young in his debut as captain. He had played no small role in the success of the Americans. Dell had set the tone, inspiring his players in different ways, making arduous decisions with grace and stability under pressure, following his convictions every step of the way until the mission was accomplished.

"I did a couple of things that year as captain that were different, "he says. "When Bob Kelleher appointed me, I called Pancho Gonzalez in Las Vegas and told him I was going with a younger team and wanted to pick a different coach. I told him I would like him to resign and explain that he was too busy with other things and he understood perfectly and resigned the next day. I then picked Dennis Ralston, who was 27 years old. I was 29."

Dell continues, "I was the youngest captain ever picked and Dennis was the youngest coach. Dennis was a much bigger part of our win in 1968 than most people realized. I picked the sites and made the policy but he ran and coached the team during the two weeks leading up to our matches. My deal was always preparation, preparation, preparation. We played five set challenge matches in practice. If you play your ass off the week before you compete, you make it easier to play your matches. That is always the way I looked at it. But to my way of thinking Ralston has not ever gotten the kudos he deserves for what he did as coach. He did, of course, become an excellent captain later on when the U.S. beat Romania for the Cup at Bucharest in 1972."
A final point must be made about Dell as captain: he gave the job everything he had with every fiber of his being. "I really was like a cheer leader for those guys and I always tried to make it important. We had a tennis clinic every week wherever we were and one player would have to step up and do the clinic. For two years in 1968 and 1969--- when we defended the Cup by beating Romania in the Challenge Round-I lived Davis Cup. I didn't have a job. I was paid $28 a day which is what everybody else was paid but we had quite a team. I loved it."

He resigned from the job after the 1969 campaign, realizing the time was right to depart. Although he did not know it at first, he was moving swiftly toward the field of player representation. "What happened was that I took Arthur Ashe three times to see Mark McCormack, thinking that Mark was the best person to represent Arthur. After the third time when we had breakfast with Mark in New York, Arthur and I were in a cab driving on the East Side of Manhattan. Arthur turned to me and said, 'How many more times are you going to do this, Donald? You keep taking me to see McCormack and I don't feel very comfortable. He is a bit aloof and not the easiest guy to communicate with.' I said to Arthur, 'Well, you are not the easiest guy to communicate with either.' We were laughing about that but Arthur said with seriousness, 'Why don't you represent me?' I said, 'Arthur, I am doing this because I think he is the best guy to represent you. He has Palmer and Nicklaus and Player in golf and he is going to get into tennis and he can make you the most money.' "

Ashe was not swayed. "I would just like you to think it over," he said to Dell. "I know if you will represent me, Stan Smith will join us and it will be fun."

Dell said, "No, I am going back to my law firm at Hogan and Hartson and I am going to be the next Clarence Darrow as a trial lawyer."

Ashe remained adamant that he wanted Dell to represent him and not the renowned McCormack. So Dell spoke to a senior partner at his law firm and asked him what he thought about the idea. His partner said, "It's a great idea. You should do it."
And so in 1970, Dell started representing Ashe and Smith as their agent and client manager. He soon positioned his two admirable American champions as the Palmer and Nicklaus of tennis, which was not really a stretch. "I opened up law offices about three weeks later and called it 'The Law Offices of Donald Dell.' And there was one person in those offices: me. I had two great clients in Arthur and Stan. And I have always said--- and I mean this sincerely--- that Arthur and Stan are two great people who happened to be great players. I was spoiled rotten by having them as my first two clients."

As Judge Kelleher says of the Dell alliance with Ashe and Smith, "The Davis Cup captaincy put Donald into the mainstream, and as a result he became the lawyer for Arthur and Stan. It launched his career. Arthur Ashe was his greatest claim to fame. Of all his clients, Arthur put him into the forefront of things and Donald handled Arthur in superb fashion. Everything he did was right for Arthur. Arthur became who he was---- not only a champion but a world leader as a person--- through the advice that Donald gave him. He launched the guy into everything Arthur achieved."

Beyond what he did for the estimable Ashe and the revered Smith, Dell's influence in the industry grew rapidly. As he puts it, "When I started with Arthur and Stan I was the first person ever to represent a tennis player as a lawyer or manager or agent. There were no agents in tennis. I was the first one and I had a very big edge because I had been the Davis Cup captain. Six months later or so, I ended up with about eight of the top ten American players like Marty Riessen and Pasarell and Tom Gorman and Bob Lutz. And what really motivated me as my goal in the seventies was very simple: I wanted to create things with the advent of Open Tennis where someone like my younger brother Dick--- who is ten years younger than me--- would be asked what he did besides play tennis, and he would be able to answer, 'I am a professional tennis player. I make my living out of the sport of tennis.'"

Dell's business exploded. In 1970 his company became known as ProServ. As he explains, "At the height of strength of ProServ in the early 80's, we had about 300 employees, 14 foreign offices and we were going awfully strong all over the world. Then in 1983 [my partners] Frank Craighill and Lee Fentress decided to leave and split off the law firm and that set us back about five or six years because suddenly rather than just ProServ and IMG, you had a third party called Advantage, which become Octagon. Equations changed. Fees changed. They were always undercutting. If we were 15[%] they were 12. If were 12, they were 10. And in the course of all that I became closer to Mark McCormack over the years. I used to meet with Mark about two or three times a year secretly and talk about a lot of things."

In any case, Dell has represented an astonishing cast over the years. Ashe was his great client and valued friend for 23 years until he passed away at 49 in 1993. Smith remains an unwavering ally, friend and a client of 39 years. Over time, Dell represented Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras and, more recently, his company has handled the business affairs of Justine Henin and Andy Roddick.

But that was only one wing in Dell's expansive world. His founding of the ATP in 1972 and service for seven or eight years to that organization as general counsel was immensely important.

In that venture, he worked side by side with the formidable Jack Kramer, whom he has always held in the highest regard. Speaking of that critical stage in the evolution of professional tennis, Dell says, "Here is what happened. In 1972 my best friend Jack Kramer and I started the ATP. In 1973 we had the Wimbledon boycott and the game just kept growing. I was the general counsel and Jack was the Executive Director. Every year I would get up at the Annual Meeting and say, 'I represent six or eight or ten of the members and I also represent the board and the whole group of the ATP. That is a conflict and if anybody anytime ever feels I should step aside, I will."

Dell remembers the Australian player Dick Crealy speaking up on that issue at a meeting one year in Philadelphia. "He got up, "Dell says, "and yelled out in my direction, 'Listen, let's be clear about this. We would much rather have you pissing on us from the inside of our tent rather than pissing on us from the outside.' He was making a point and a joke at the same time. Well, about 1978 or 1979 I didn't go to the Annual Meeting and Harold Solomon of all people--- who happened to be a client of mine--- got up and made a big complaint about the conflict with me. So the next week I resigned. I resigned from Solomon as well, which his father never understood. But I was really pissed off at the way Harold had done it and why he had done it. Harold is a very bright guy and we are pretty good friends now from a distance, but he is like a saboteur. He comes in and blows things up and then moves on. He doesn't stick around."

That, of course, has never been the case with Dell. The clarity and power of his ideas, his obstinacy, and his unswerving competitiveness are the chief reasons why he has been one of the most enduring individuals in the world of tennis on all fronts. A case in point is television. The best time for him was across the seventies and through the eighties when he frequently teamed with Bud Collins on PBS telecasts and at Wimbledon for NBC for about five years. "In the early days at PBS, "says Dell, "Bud was doing the commentary alone. Then a couple of times he invited me to do it as a guest with him in Boston. We liked each other and I just enjoyed it. Being a television commentator is a huge ego trip if nothing else. You love to hear yourself talk. But the biggest mistake that everybody makes on television is that they talk too much."

Dell and Collins found a way around that problem. "Here I was paired with Bud, who is a genius as far as the facts and history and knowledge are concerned, but he loved to talk. So I didn't talk much at all. I always used to say to Bud, 'You talk so much that when I say a few words I sound like a genius.' We had a great relationship that way."

The other reason it worked so well was Dell's business acumen. "The whole key to PBS was bringing in sponsors to pay the production. Bud and I weren't making any money. We were probably making $100 or $200 a show or something like that. But PBS would do anything if you brought them a funded show. So I went out and funded the shows with sponsors, which is how we got Monday Night Tennis on the air. I was representing a lot of the tournaments in television and marketing and I got them all to agree voluntarily to play their finals on Monday nights for all the summer tournaments. That was really the forerunner for the US Open Series. We were just doing men's tournaments but the concept was similar."

Dell had to confront the problem of conflicts when he went on the air as well. "Everyone was criticizing me," he reflects, "for conflicts as a commentator. When Bud and I would commentate, we would open every show and say that Connors was playing and I represented Connors. Of course a lot of times I represented both players in the match. The only people that ever criticized me for conflicts were the writers. It was never the fans of the players. And the irony to me is that all of the writers today appear on television."

And yet, Dell always made a genuine attempt to be a professional behind the microphone. He lucidly recalls the end of a broadcast in the 1980's at Cincinnati when he and Collins had time to kill near the end of the show. Collins asked Dell who he thought would win the U.S., Open. "I named three guys," Dell says, "and I said to Bud right after we got off the air that I knew I was going to have a problem. Gloria Connors [the late mother of Jimmy Connors] was going to be all over me because I didn't mention Jimmy. I raced back to my hotel room, walked in and answered the phone. It was Gloria. She said, 'Donald, how could you not name Jimbo?' And I said 'Gloria, you have got to understand that when I commentate I can't do it if I am not going to be honest.' She said, 'Well, you represent Jimmy and you don't think he is going to win the U.S. Open?' I said, 'I really don't.' I just didn't think he was going to win the Open that year, and Gloria was furious with me."

That is simply the way it has always been in Donald Dell's highly charged world. As Stan Smith says, "Donald will die with a passion for the game and standing up for what he believes in. That passion really sets him apart. I don't know if there is anyone who has had more roles in the game than Donald and he has always wanted to do what is best for the game."

Judge Kelleher says, "Donald is as bright and fully informed about tennis as anyone. It is his full time life pursuit and not only his profession. He has always been a strong guy, a dominant type of guy. He doesn't hesitate to offend people as well as please them. He has done what he thought was right and has done all the things a leader should do. My admiration for him is unlimited."

Kramer lauds Dell for how well he served the game rather than simply helping the players he represented. "He was so valuable to the circuit, "says Kramer, "because he produced sponsors and television, which go together. You get a tournament and you can't put up money only from gate receipts. You've got to have some extra revenue from sponsorship and you have got to have television to produce that. Donald was able better than anyone else to put together those kinds of packages. He was invaluable in that area, and for the players. There are a lot of thankful players around because Donald made them so wealthy. And, by the way, he was a god damned good player, too. "

As Dell examines the vast experience he has had with not only players but tournaments and the television business, he says, "Mark McCormack always believed--- and I did to a lesser degree--- that the clients are the key because they open doors for you. I represented Michael Jordan for ten years and he is an industry. We had 12 people working on his stuff. You represent people like Ashe and Smith, Lendl and Connors, and they are the door openers. But the margins on players are like 10 to 12%. On whatever event you may be promoting, the margin is probably 35%. And with television, usually it is a 15 to 20% production fee, and with a television contract you get a fee on that for five years. The stakes are bigger. So there is a lot more money in events and television."

He remains a major power broker in that arena. As Dell puts his company now into perspective with respect to television, he says, "We do the French Open now with the French Federation and the US Open with the USTA. I sold ProServ about ten years ago to SFX and then about two-and-a-half years ago I bought back pieces of it with a partner called Jonathan Blue of Blue Equity. I own 45% and Jonathan owns 55% but he has the risk and I don't have any risk. I am doing a lot of the same things I did before, but if tomorrow we want to buy a tournament---- and we are looking at several--- he decides whether or not he wants to do it and I recommend or negotiate it for him. He puts up the money and I don't put up a penny. The company is called BEST which is an acronym for Blue Entertainment Sports [and] Television. I oversee the tennis players with Ken Meyerson, the television with Dennis Spencer and events with Jeff Newman. It is great fun."

BEST has a serious presence in tennis with not only Roddick as a client but a cluster of highly ranked women including Vera Zvonareva, Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka and Anna Chakvetadze. As Dell comments, "I do the marketing with Ken Myerson for Roddick but Ken is his agent. Being a marketer--- if you will--- is a better role for me. I could be Andy's father."

At 70, Dell has a vitality and exuberance few in his age bracket could match. But while he remains driven by powerful private engines to chase large dreams and pursue new goals, Dell is very much looking forward to a celebration of his past at Newport on July 10. He is exhilarated by the honor he will receive by joining so many of the game's immortal figures as an International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee.

"The nice thing about it," says Dell, who is Vice Chairman and a member of the Board of Directors at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, "is that there are 119 voters and you have to get at least 75% of the vote. I did not get that last year but this year I did, which is a great feeling. You have to get elected by knowledgeable people who are selected as voters, or electors as they are called, from all over the world. So for me to be elected is a crowning achievement of my life's work in the sport. You have to win a Grand slam event to get in as a player, which I certainly didn't do. But getting in as a contributor means a lot to me. Being elected to the Hall of Fame as opposed to being appointed, and getting in now after not being elected a year ago, makes it mean a lot more to me. This is a joyous occasion, a public affirmation and culmination of a life's work. It is a thrill."

He will wear the honor proudly and well. As his old friend Bob Kelleher sums it all up, "Donald Dell has had his disagreements and fights as it were along the line, but he emerged a winner in each of those fights. It all strengthened his character and enlarged his reputation. He doesn't want to play unless he is up front, which is right where he has always belonged in my view."

Steve Flink is a weekly contributor to TennisChannel.com

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