Former Connecticut Open Chief Executive Officer and Hall of Famer Mike Davies passed away on Tuesday morning at his home in Sarasota, Fla., from complications related to Mesothelioma. Originally from Swansea, Wales, Davies was 79 years old, and is survived by his wife Mina Davies, four children and four grandchildren.
Below is a speech from Tournament Director Anne Worcester in 2012 presenting Mike Davis at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
July 14, 2012
The man that I have the honor of introducing today is a mentor, a friend and probably the most extraordinary innovator and businessman our sport has ever known.
So I’d like to take a couple minutes to paint a picture for you…
The year is 1970. The “open era” in tennis is very new and the sport is still relatively unknown.
On a yellow legal pad, a man sketches out a BOLD idea, one that seemed unimaginable at that time – a global tennis tour of 20 tournaments with a year-end final and $1 million in prize money. He broaches the idea with his boss at World Championship Tennis, Lamar Hunt – who buys in. Neither could know it then, but this first Tour would shape the future of tennis.
Fast forward to 1972, and two of the all-time great tennis players, Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver, reach the WCT final. Rosewall wins in a dramatic five set tiebreak, but even more important than the victory was that the NBC-televised match went so long it pre-empted the evening news. In 1972, evening news got HUGE ratings, and that meant that the tennis match got HUGE ratings, capturing attention of TV viewers across the country.
So they realized they needed to deliver more of this WCT tour to the masses – and the vehicle to do that was clearly network television. So this bold, brave man walks into NBC to pitch them on broadcasting eight WCT events in addition to the Final. And NBC agrees – with one big caveat – they tell him he has to raise $1 million in advertising dollars FIRST, and then they will air the Series. No one at NBC thought he – or anyone, for that matter – could do it!
The master salesman now needs to sell advertisers on his grand plan of a “series” of events in this nascent sport, an idea that hasn’t EVER been done before. He knows he needs to get creative so he develops some gimmicks – a first-ever refrigerator on court to keep the balls at optimum temperature, a first-ever “tip of the day” for each broadcast, and more. Companies like Wilson, Volkswagen, Polaroid and others line up and he has his $1 Million in advertising.
Big-time tennis is on its way in the US. Over the next few years tennis explodes…participation rises from 11 million players to 33 million. Indoor courts are being built everywhere, racquet, shoe, clothing sales – and everything else tennis-related – take off.
But he doesn’t stop innovating. He introduces concepts that are mainstays in today’s game – players wearing colored clothing, the yellow tennis ball which showed up better on television, placing chairs on the court for players during change-overs, rules like 30 seconds between points and 90 seconds between games and he even instituted the tie-break.
Over his tennis career, this one man created a masterpiece. One that forever changed how we view and interact with our sport. He never stopped innovating. And subsequently, his 50 years in the sport have created a work of art that will hang forever in the Hall of Fame.
It is my privilege and my honor to introduce someone whose accomplishments and contributions will impact tennis for generations to come. He has left an indelible mark on our sport and his legacy will live on forever. Now, THAT’S a true HOF!
Ladies & Gentlemen, I present you….Mike Davies.