Tennis Identity

Vitas Gerulaitis, Nike & ITHF Class of 2016 honored at The Legends Ball


The tennis world went glam off the courts Saturday at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City for The Legends Ball. The annual social event hosted by the International Tennis Hall of Fame  (ITHF) celebrates tennis and honors some of the sport’s greatest champions and contributors. Proceeds from the event will benefit the International Tennis Hall of Fame to support the organization’s mission of preserving and promoting the history of the sport and celebrating its champions.

The Legends ball


The evening paid tribute to the International Tennis Hall of Fame Class of 2016, which featured former world No. 1’s Justine Henin and Marat Safin as the first ever Hall of Fame inductees from Belgium and Russia, respectively, as well as posthumous inductees Yvon Petra and Peggy Scriven. The Legends Ball presented by BNP Paribas is co-chaired by William & Karen Ackman, John & Jody Arnhold, David & Gail Bell, Russ & Judy Fradin, and Gunnar & Claudia Overstrom.

More than 20 Hall of Fame tennis legends were in attendance including International Tennis Hall of Fame President Stan Smith, Rod Laver, Chris Evert, Dick Savitt, Rosie Casals, Fred Stolle, Pam Shriver, Guillermo Vilas, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Owen Davidson, Cliff Drysdale, Butch Buchholz, Jane Brown Grimes, Nancy Jeffett, Brad Parks, Donald Dell, Peachy Kellmeyer, and Charlie Pasarell.

Patrick McEnroe was the evening’s Master of Ceremony.

The Legends Ball featured a live musical performance by Esperanza Spaulding, a four-time Grammy Award winning artist.

In addition to the Hall of Famers, each year at the Legends Ball, the International Tennis Hall of Fame also pays tribute to an individual and an organization who have shown a remarkable commitment to the betterment of the sport by the presentation of two special awards.

Vitas Gerulaitis was this year’s recipient of the Eugene L. Scott Award, which is given annually to honor an individual who embodies Scott’s commitment to communicating honestly and critically about the game, and who has had a significant impact on the tennis world. One of the most dynamic competitors the sport of tennis has ever known, Gerulaitis was taken from the world too soon in a tragic accident 22 years ago. However, years after his death, his legacy stands as having not only been a great champion, but also an impactful ambassador for tennis through how he attracted new fans to game and utilized tennis as a platform for good, giving generously of his time to youth tennis development programs. Among the best of his era, Gerulaitis was ranked world No. 3, won 25 titles, and was a member of a championship U.S. Davis Cup team. In 1977, he won the Australian Open. In the years just prior to his death, Gerulaitis had begun a promising career in broadcasting – the perfect fit for someone bursting with charisma and passionate about sharing the sport with the world.

The Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Award is presented annually to  a company that shares Joe Cullman’s enthusiasm for tennis and has also made a significant contribution to society at large-both philanthropically and through outstanding generosity of spirit. The 2016 Cullman award was presented to Nike, in recognition of their 40-plus years of commitment to the sport of tennis, as shown through the company’s dedication to working with athletes to provide tools that enhance their potential, as well as their support of junior programs and philanthropic efforts.

The Legends Ball is presented by BNP Paribas. In addition, major sponsors include Rolex Watch USA, EMC, Alex and Ani, and Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard.

The Legends Ball, held annually since 1980, brings the tennis world together to celebrate the history of the game and honor some of the sport’s great contributors all while serving as an important fundraiser for the International Tennis Hall of Fame.