Sammy Giammalva Sr. (born 1934), a native of Houston, would ride his bike as a child from his father’s grocery store to Houston’s public tennis center. It was there that he grew to love the game. He went on to play at the University of Texas, where he won three consecutive Southwest Conference singles titles (1955-1957).
Giammalva played on the U.S. Davis Cup team, winning 7 of 10 matches and contributing to the U.S. team’s 1957 and 1958 wins. He reached 4 finals at the Cincinnati Masters, twice in singles (1954 and 1958) and twice in doubles (1952 and 1958). Giammalva’s best Grand Slam singles result was reaching the quarterfinals of the 1955 U.S. National Championships, a precursor of the U.S. Open.
Giammalva coached at Rice Institute for 14 years from 1959 to 1972, leading the Owls to 10 Southwest Conference titles and second-place NCAA tournament finishes in 1968 and 1970. After leaving Rice, Giammalva opened and operated the Houston Metropolitan Racquet Club downtown for nearly 25 years. Giammalva’s sons, Tony and Sammy Jr., grew up to become professional tennis players.
In addition to the Texas Tennis Hall of Fame, Giammalva is also in the Italian Hall of Fame, Rice University Hall of Fame, University of Texas Hall of Fame and St. Thomas Hall of Fame. The Houston Chronicle voted him as the number one tennis player in the history of the Southwest Conference in January of 2000.
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