He was the number one ranked American in 1943 and won the US singles championship in his final match. He died off the coast of Florida in an airplane crash during World War II. To date he is the only man to win the U.S. boys' (15 and under), junior (18 and under), collegiate, and men's singles championship.
Hunt played college tennis at the University of Southern California as a freshman and he went undefeated in singles and doubles play while in college during 1938, including the Ojai Tennis Tournament.
Joe was very athletic and he played football for a while. After enlisting, he attended the United States Naval Academy and joined the Navy football team as a running back during the 1940 season, he was given the game ball for the 1940 Army-Navy Game.
Hunt made the semi-finals at the 1939 and 1940 United States singles championships. Hunt represented the United States in the 1939 International Lawn Tennis Challenge (now Davis Cup) challenge round against Australia. He played the doubles match partnering Jack Kramer which they lost to John Bromwich and Adrian Quist.
For U.S. Navy Lieutenant Joe Hunt, 1943 was the best of years. On leave from the Navy, he won the U.S. National Championships at Forest Hills by defeating the formidable Bill Talbert and the youthful Jack Kramer, which was no mean feat.
On match point Hunt collapsed with cramps while his opponent, Jack Kramer, hit a return that barely went long. Had it been in, most observers at the time felt that Kramer would have eventually won the match against Hunt. He was the U.S. No. 1 in 1943.
Hunt was unable to obtain leave from the Navy in 1944 in order to defend his title.
A semi-finalist at the U.S. Nationals in 1939 and 1940, Hunt played Davis Cup for his country in 1939. He broke into the U.S. top ten when he was 17 and won the U.S. Intercollegiate Championships twice.
His life ended tragically when he died in an air crash a few weeks shy of his 26th birthday.
During the 1940 United States singles championships in the quarterfinal against Frank Kovacs he staged a sit-down strike during the match after he complained to the referee about Kovacs' antics and was unhappy with the referee's lack of response. Early in their third set, Kovacs began engaging in prolonged antics with the stadium gallery. When the umpire would not stop Kovacs or quiet the crowd, Hunt sat down on his baseline and did not acknowledge several of Kovacs' serves, allowing them to harmlessly fly by. Kovacs then sat down on his baseline and the two players sat for up to five minutes while the crowd alternately jeered and cheered. When order was finally restored, Hunt went on to win the match in straight sets.
Pancho Segura, who had lost to Kramer in the semifinals, described Hunt as "A strong guy, big serve and volley, and took to grass, coming from the Southern California concrete.".
In a 2014 interview Segura added: "He was a very good-looking man with a body like Charles Atlas. He drew women to his matches. He would have been good for tennis. He was a credit to the game."
Hunt was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1966.
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