In recognition of his immense contributions to growing the sport worldwide, Mike Davies, who served as CEO of the New Haven Open at Yale presented by First Niagara, has been inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in the Class of 2012. An influential, behind-the-scenes executive in the tennis world, Mike had a 40+ year career in tennis promotion and administration, with achievements ranging from forging the first, highly successful television/tennis contracts and negotiating major sponsorships to introducing the colored tennis ball to the game.
While the rich history of tennis dates back hundreds of years, the game as we know it today- world-class tournaments, compelling, professional players, and dynamic international telecasts - is really just over fifty years old. The elevation of pro tennis from its conservative, pre-Open Era days to the exciting, global sport we all enjoy today is a result of the vision and hard work of dedicated behind-the-scenes leaders, notably Mike Davies.
After a successful pre-Open Era playing career, Mike had 40+ year career in tennis promotion and administration officially began in 1968, when he became Executive Director of World Championship Tennis. It was a pivotal time in tennis, and Mike hit the ground running with new ideas to make professional tennis better for players, more enjoyable for fans, and financially viable. While leading the WCT, Mike was at the forefront of staging tournaments and selling sponsorships and television rights, thereby creating a platform for professional tennis to expand into large stadiums and major cities. In 1970, Mike launched the first multi-million dollar pro tour, which consisted of 20 tournaments throughout the world, and culminated in a final that aired on NBC– the very first network broadcast of tennis. The airing drew an extraordinary 20 million viewers, and interest in tennis surged. The telecast was just one of Mike’s many innovations that are still in play today.
As a true trail-blazer for the sport of tennis, many aspects of the game are attributed to Mike. For example, when matches were running too long, Mike mandated a tie-breaker—the first time this was used on the professional circuit. Difficult to see the ball and the players on a telecast? Mike introduced yellow tennis balls and colored apparel. Pace of play too unpredictable? New rules of 30 seconds between points and 90 seconds between games were instituted. And when the networks made it difficult for companies to advertise, Mike sold Wilson on court branding rights – forging the way for growth in sports broadcasts and sponsorships.
In 1981, Mike moved on to serve as the Marketing Director and then Executive Director for the Association of Tennis Professionals (later known as the ATP). The ATP was almost bankrupt at the time, and when Mike left after three years they had more than $1 million in assets. He helped consolidate the players' pension plan and created more jobs for players with bigger draws, more tournaments and increased prize money.
In the late 1980's, Mike served as General Manager of the International Tennis Federation (ITF). He is widely credited with revitalizing the Davis Cup, and putting the event back on firm financial footing during his tenure with the ITF, ultimately increasing the future value of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup around the world.
Not just a mover and shaker behind the scenes, Mike was also an on-court star in his day. Originally from Swansea, Wales, Mike was Britain’s No. 1 ranked player in 1957, 1959, and 1960 and he was a member of the British Davis Cup team. In 1960 he reached the men’s doubles final at Wimbledon with Bobby Wilson, marking the last time a British male has been in the final of Wimbledon's men's singles or men's doubles.
For recognizing the immense potential tennis offered as a professional sport, along with the dedication and drive to make his visions a reality, we salute 2012 Hall of Famer Mike Davies, an influential contributor, effective innovator, and a man who has truly shaped the history of our sport.
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