Rafter, Sabatini inducted to Tennis Hall of Fame

Patrick Rafter, Gabriela Sabatini and long-time tennis journalist Gianni Clerici were inducted Saturday to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Ceremonies were held on Bill Talbert Stadium Court before the semifinals of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships.

The 24th Australian to be inducted, Rafter won consecutive U.S. Opens in 1997-98 and held the top ranking in the world. In a 12-year career, he was 358-191 with 11 singles titles.

"I played Newport in 1993 – this is where I won my first ATP match," Rafter said. "This has a bit of history for me, so it’s great to be back to accept one of the greatest honors in tennis."

As a doubles player, Rafter won 12 titles, including the 1999 Australian Open with partner Jonas Bjorkman. He also was 21-11 in Davis Cup play from 1994-2001.

Sabatini is the first Argentine woman in the Hall of Fame, following compatriot Guillermo Vilas, who was inducted in 1991.

Sabatini made an immediate splash, being named WTA Tour Newcomer of the Year in 1985. She was ranked in the top 10 from 1986-1995 and finished her 13-year career with a 632-189 mark in singles, winning 27 titles.

"This is the greatest honor for a tennis player and will be forever special in my life," Sabatini said.

Sabatini became the first Argentine woman to win a Grand Slam at the 1990 U.S. Open. Also chosen in the recent player category, she won 14 doubles championships, including Wimbledon in 1988 with Hall of Famer Steffi Graf.

"There are so many matches, but most of the ones that stand out were with Steffi Graf," Sabatini said. "Steffi was such a great champion that she always brought out the best in me as a professional."

Clerici was inducted as a contributor. He covered the major championships of tennis for more than 40 years as an editor, columnist and author, attending over 170 Grand Slams. In 1984, he released a biography on Suzanne Lenglen, one of the original icons in women’s tennis.

Clerici is the second Italian in the Hall of Fame, following Nicola Pietrangeli (1986).

The players needed a 75 percent majority in voting from a panel of international tennis media. Contributors require 75 percent in balloting by the Hall of Fame’s International Masters Panel.