1979: New York, New York

Tennis under the towers in New York with Vitas Gerulatis

Vitas Gerulaitis, we know him for his spree: The majority of the $2.7 million he earned in his career was in cars (a Lamborghini, a Ferrari, a Mercedes, a Porsche and two Rolls-Royces, including one as yellow as his hair. included) but wasted. , equipped with the license plate “Vitas G”), expensive holidays, wild parties at Studio 54, and drugs. One day, former player Paul McNamee, who was one of his closest friends, even said: “Somebody who worked for the American Express told me that in one year he was the third largest player in the world on their record. appeared to be a spendthrift. But in 1979, the day after a 5-0 victory in the Davis Cup final against Italy, the American decided to set up the Vitas Gerulaitis Foundation. Target? The five boroughs of New York – Manhattan , making tennis more accessible to children in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. Because behind the facade of “Broadway Vitas” hid a man from a Lithuanian family, who were forced to leave the country when Russian forces invaded in 1939. had to flee the U.S., landing in Austria with a simple suitcase in hand and an exchange of mother’s jewelry in hand. Black-marketing ration stamps. Mary Carrillo, a close friend of the American and her sister Root, told the ATP in 2014, “Vitas wanted to bring tennis to kids in isolated areas of New York, so he formed a small band that toured five of his neighborhoods each summer.” Snowshoes were offered. Vitas has managed to persuade every major tennis star to volunteer his time, from Arthur Ashe to Bjorn Borg, Chris Evert and John McEnroe, Ilie Nastase and Jimmy Connors. This was his best face. To combine business with pleasure, Vitas multiplied exhibitions and charity dinners. Its youth fund, the Gerulitis Foundation Youth Clinic, has helped hundreds of New York kids get into tennis, and above all launched a dynamic that reminds us of the foundations of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic today. “Vitas was the first person to give rackets to children, as his great friend Billie Jean King testified at the ATP in 2019. We have maintained this tradition in the World Team Tennis League by offering racquets engraved with his name. It was a way for us to honor the man, the player, the tennis lover and the great friend he was. Retired at age 31 from a career that was never really considered the equal of his peers (25 titles, but lost 29 finals), Gerulaitis died at age 40, of carbon monoxide poisoning by a pool heater. With poison mixed in his sleep. Worse than a friend he slept with. A day earlier, he was participating in a charity event.

(tagstotranslate)1979: New York

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