Last weekend, during one of the tennis world’s grandest annual celebrations, European royals gathered with tennis legends to celebrate the sport and honor some of its most elite players at a Hall of Fame ring presentation that was hosted during La Grande Nuit du Tennis, the gala event of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. Longtime tennis aficionado His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco presented Hall of Fame rings to four great tennis champions and contributors to the sport. The honored recipients were former world No. 1, Ilie Nastase of Romania; France’s beloved player Françoise “Frankie” Durr; the man heralded as the greatest Italian player of all time, Nicola Pietrangeli; and Italian tennis journalist Gianni Clerici. All four tennis legends have already been honored for their achievements and great contributions to the sport with induction to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. During this ceremony, their official Hall of Fame rings were presented as a symbol of their Hall of Fame induction and their remarkable tennis careers.
In addition to his personal interests as a player and fan, Prince Albert has a long history with the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum. In 1954, his mother, Princess Grace, participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island in the United States. In 2004, Prince Albert traveled to Newport to serve as Master of Ceremony for the 50th anniversary celebration, which featured the Hall of Fame induction of Stefanie Graf and Stefan Edberg, and a gathering of all of the living Hall of Famers, including tennis luminaries such as Rod Laver, Virginia Wade, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, and John McEnroe, among others. Prince Albert has served on the Board of Directors for the Hall of Fame, a non-profit institution dedicated to honoring the greatest legends of tennis and preserving the history of the sport.
Also participating in the ring presentation was International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum Chairman Christopher E. Clouser and CEO Mark L. Stenning, and Zeljko Franulovic, Director of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.
“We are grateful to His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco and our colleagues at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters for partnering with us on this special occasion,” said Clouser. “It was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the extraordinary careers of these Hall of Famers in Europe, where they have so many fans and have left such a positive impact on the sport. As Hall of Famers, Ilie, Frankie, Nicola, and Gianni are already among an elite group of athletes. We are pleased to be able to recognize their achievements once more with this special ring, which only the most successful and influential individuals in tennis will have the honor of wearing.”
With 102 titles to his name, former world No. 1 Ilie Nastase of Romania is one of just five players in tennis history to have won more than 100 titles (57 in singles and 45 in doubles). Nastase was a world top-10 player from 1973-1978 and held the world No. 1 ranking from August 1973-June 1974. He captured seven major titles, including both singles and doubles titles at the French and US Opens, as well as a doubles title and two mixed doubles titles at Wimbledon. Nastase had a remarkable record at the year-end championships as well, winning four Masters Grand Prix year-end championship titles and seven Championship Series titles (1970-73), the precursors to the current Masters 1000. Nastase represented Romania in Davis Cup from the 1960s-1980s, leading the team to the finals three times. Widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Nastase was inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991.
As a competitor heralded for her remarkable tactical ability and ball control, Françoise Durr of France captured 26 career singles titles and 60 career doubles titles. For more than a decade in the 1960s and 1970s, she was ranked among the top-ten in the world. Durr reached a total of 27 major finals in singles, doubles and mixed and won 12 major titles. She was the 1967 Roland Garros champion, and earned all her other major titles in doubles and mixed doubles. Durr was a long-time Fed Cup player for France, representing the team for 14 years (1963-67, 1970, 1972-79) and compiling a record of 31-17. She was the captain of the French Fed Cup team from 1993 through 1996 and the co-captain of the team with fellow French tennis great Yannick Noah in 1997, when they won the competition. Durr received the WTA Tour’s Honorary Membership Award in 1988 for her contributions to the founding, development, and direction of women’s professional tennis. In April 2010, she received the medal and title of Officer of the National Order of Merit, a national honor in recognition of her contribution to sport and the advancement of women in sport. Durr was inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2003.
Heralded as Italy’s best tennis player, Nicola Pietrangeli had a lengthy career, highlighted by capturing two Roland Garros titles (1959, 1960) and proudly representing Italy for eighteen years in Davis Cup play (1954-1969, 1971-72). During Pietrangeli’s Davis Cup career, he played a record 164 rubbers, winning 120. To this day, he holds the records for the most rubbers played and the most rubbers won. Pietrangeli helped to lead the team to the finals twice during his career (1960, 1961), both times being overcome by Australia for the title. Upon retirement, Pietrangeli became Davis Cup captain, and in 1976, under his leadership, Italy won their first ever Davis Cup title. In addition to his singles victories, Pietrangeli was a finalist at Roland Garros two other times, and he captured the doubles title at Roland Garros in 1959 and the mixed doubles title in 1958. Pietrangeli was inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1986.
Acclaimed tennis author, columnist, and broadcaster, Gianni Clerici has covered the sport for more than 40 years. As a sports reporter, he has written over 6,000 articles, mostly about tennis. Clerici was honored as the Best Italian Sports Columnist in 1992, and Italian Playwright of the Year in 1987. His premier book is 500 Anni di Tennis, which has been translated into French, German, Japanese, Spanish, and English (as The Ultimate Tennis Book). In addition, he wrote a biography about Hall of Famer Suzanne Lenglen, which is the considered the definitive biography of the French tennis star’s life. In recognition of his immense contributions to the sport, Clerici was inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2006.
Since 1955, 220 of the greatest champions and contributors to the sport have been inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Induction to the Hall of Fame is based on the sum of one’s achievements in tennis, and is the highest honor available in the sport. Presently, there are 85 Hall of Famers living in 16 different countries, a testament to the global reach of the game. Located in Newport, Rhode Island, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is a non-profit institution dedicated to preserving the history of tennis and honoring the game’s greatest heroes. In addition, the Hall of Fame provides a landmark for tennis enthusiasts, offering an extensive museum that chronicles the history of the sport and its stars, historic grass tennis courts that date back to 1880 and are open to the public, an ATP World Tour tournament and the annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in July, and numerous public events year-round. To learn more, visit tennisfame.com.