Richard C. Sorlien, 85, of Villanova, a lawyer and an amateur tennis champion who promoted the game for more than 50 years, died of a neurological illness Monday at Shannondell in Audubon, Montgomery County, where he had resided since October.
Mr. Sorlien began playing tennis at age 7 on a makeshift court in St. Cloud, Minn. He first competed nationally in high school and later won a New England Intercollegiate Tennis Championship doubles title. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Force and won an Air Force tennis championship in the Philippines.In 1948, Mr. Sorlien\'s debut in a major men\'s tournament ended when he lost to the year\'s No. 1 U.S. player, Pancho Gonzales, at the Newport Casino Invitational in Rhode Island. For the next 20 years, Mr. Sorlien competed in most major grass-court events, including 12 years at the U.S. Tennis Nationals in Forest Hills, N.Y., and at Wimbledon. Locally, he won several Philadelphia District clay-court championships in the 1950s and won the title for five years straight in the 1960s.
He was a three-time finalist in the Wimbledon Veterans\' Doubles in the 45-and-older category. He won 10 U.S. titles in senior divisions, and in 1982 he won the 60s Singles International Tennis Federation World Championship in Australia. He continued to compete in senior events until he was 82, his daughter Sandy said.
A member of the Merion Cricket Club for 57 years, Mr. Sorlien was past president of the Philadelphia and Suburban Lawn Tennis Association and the Middle States Lawn Tennis Association. He cofounded the Gold Cup, a youth tennis program in Philadelphia, and in 1970 helped establish the Philadelphia Tennis Center in West Mount Airy. For 40 years he was active with the U.S. Tennis Association and served on its committee of management.
He also served on the board of the International Lawn Tennis Club of the United States. The Sorlien Cup, named in his honor, is awarded to the winner of an annual open-age competition between the International Lawn Tennis Clubs of Canada and the United States.
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