January 21, 2019 – Chinese tennis great Li Na, France’s Mary Pierce, and Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia, each a two-time Grand Slam singles champion among their many career accolades, have been elected to receive tennis’ ultimate honor in 2019 – induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Li Na, China’s first global tennis star, reached the world No. 2 ranking and was a champion at both the French Open and the Australian Open. Pierce is a former world No. 3 in singles and doubles, and four-time major champion, having won a singles title at the Australian Open, singles and doubles titles at Roland-Garros, and a mixed doubles title at Wimbledon. In addition to his two major singles titles, Kafelnikov is a former world No. 1, Olympic Gold Medalist, and the winner of four major doubles titles.
The new inductees will be celebrated tonight in a special ceremony in Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open, joined by many other Hall of Fame tennis legends who will gather to welcome them for the first time as Hall of Fame inductees.
In becoming Hall of Famers, Li Na, Pierce, and Kafelnikov join an elite group of just over 250 individuals hailing from 23 nations who have received the honor, which recognizes their careers as being among the most accomplished and impactful in the history of tennis. The three are being inducted in the Player Category. This is not a year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame’s other two categories – Contributor and Wheelchair.
“It’s a pleasure to congratulate Li Na, Mary Pierce, and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and to welcome them into the International Tennis Hall of Fame,” stated Hall of Fame President Stan Smith. “They are three incredibly hard-working athletes who set and achieved goals at tennis’ highest levels. This is a well-deserved honor, and we look forward to celebrating them as Hall of Famers in Newport in July.”
Li Na, Pierce, and Kafelnikov will be officially inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July 20, during Hall of Fame Weekend in Newport, Rhode Island. New for 2019, ticket packages for Hall of Fame Weekend, inclusive of the Induction Ceremony and other special events, are on sale now on tennisfame.com/enshrinement. Individual Induction Ceremony tickets will go on sale on February 1.
As China’s first great tennis champion and a trailblazer for the sport in her nation, Li Na is the first-ever Chinese player to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
“I’m incredibly honored to become a Hall of Famer. I love tennis and am grateful for all the opportunity it has provided me. I have loved seeing the sport grow in China and I’m proud to be part of that history. To have my career and China’s growing tennis history be recognized at the International Tennis Hall of Fame is a great honor and I’m humbled and grateful. I look forward to the celebration in Newport this year and to becoming a Hall of Famer,” said Li Na.
Pierce remarked, “To be recognized alongside some of the most accomplished, inspiring people in our sport is a huge honor. It’s humbling and gratifying, and I’m thrilled to become part of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.”
Kafelnikov, who was the first-ever major singles champion for Russia, commented, “I’m very honored to become a Hall of Famer and to represent Russia among tennis’ greatest champions.”
ABOUT THE INDUCTEES
Li Na, China’s first great tennis star, won two Grand Slam tournament singles titles, reached a ranking of world No. 2, and, as a result, was responsible for a dramatic shift in the level of interest in tennis in her nation. Her first major title came at the 2011 French Open, where she defeated top players including Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, and defending champion Francesa Schiavone en route to the trophy. In 2014, she won a second major title, this time at the Australian Open, where she was a finalist in 2011 and 2013. Li Na won nine titles in all and compiled a singles record of 503-188. Her career accomplishments, combined with her engaging personality, resulted in a transformative effect on the popularity of tennis in China. More than 116 million people tuned in to watch her French Open final, and participation and interest in the sport has soared since her playing days.
Four-time major champion Mary Pierce won singles titles at the Australian Open and Roland-Garros, as well as a doubles title at Roland-Garros and a mixed doubles title at Wimbledon. She was also a singles finalist four times at Grand Slam tournaments. In Pierce’s 1995 Australian Open victory, she won the title without losing a set. Five years later, the French player won both the singles and doubles titles at her home country’s Slam, defeating three-time champion Monica Seles and No. 1 seed Martina Hingis en route to the singles trophy. Five years after that, during an incredible comeback year in 2005, she returned to the French Open final once again, falling to Justine Henin. Pierce reached a career high of world No. 3 in both singles and doubles and won 18 singles titles and 10 doubles titles. She was an integral member of two championship Fed Cup teams.
Former world No. 1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov was Russia’s first-ever major singles champion. In 1996 he won the French Open singles title, and also partnered with Daniel Vacek to win the doubles title that year. No man since has won the singles and doubles titles at the same major. Kafelnikov was also the singles champion at the 1999 Australian Open, and he won four doubles majors (three at Roland-Garros, one at the US Open). In all, Kafelnikov won 26 singles titles and 27 doubles titles. He complemented his world No. 1 singles ranking with a doubles career high of world No. 4. Kafelnikov is an Olympic Gold Medalist, having been victorious at the 2000 Games in Sydney, and he was integral to Russia’s 2002 Davis Cup Championship.
INDUCTION CEREMONY & MUSEUM TRIBUTE EXHIBIT
The Class of 2019 will be officially inducted on July 20, during Hall of Fame Weekend at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.
Additionally, the Class of 2019 will be celebrated in a tribute exhibit in the museum at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, chronicling their lives and careers, which will open in June and be displayed for one year.
New for 2019, ticket packages for Hall of Fame Weekend, inclusive of the Induction Ceremony and other special events, are on sale now on tennisfame.com/enshrinement. Individual Induction Ceremony tickets will go on sale on February 1.
For additional information, please visit www.tennisfame.com
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About the International Tennis Hall of Fame
Established in 1954, the International Tennis Hall of Fame is a non-profit institution that preserves and promotes the history of tennis and celebrates its champions, thereby serving as a vital partner in the growth of tennis globally. The Hall of Fame is located in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, on a seven-acre property that features an extensive museum that showcases the history of the sport and honors the 254 Hall of Famers; 13 grass tennis courts and an indoor tennis facility; and a rare Court Tennis facility. Annually in July, the venue hosts the Hall of Fame Open for the Van Alen Cup, an ATP World Tour event. For information on the International Tennis Hall of Fame and its programs, visit tennisfame.com.