Donald Dell to Be Inducted Into International Tennis Hall of Fame
Friday, July 10, 2009
Yet another international flight has left Donald Dell with a nasty cold. But he reports to his Northwest Washington office nonetheless -- ever the competitor at 71 -- because there are deals to be made and clients to serve.
Less than 72 hours have passed since Roger Federer edged Andy Roddick in a thrilling five-set Wimbledon final. And Dell, who watched the tournament's early proceedings from the royal box, can barely contain himself as he recounts the overall excellence of the match and the critical points that turned the momentum in Federer's favor.
The Swiss champion, whom Dell has recently concluded is indeed the best player in history after years of arguing on behalf of Rod Laver, collected roughly $1.38 million for his sixth Wimbledon title.
Women's singles champion Serena Williams, whom Dell admires equally, if not more, pocketed $1.57 million -- her winnings boosted by her share of the doubles title that she claimed with her sister, Venus.
Whether either realizes it, neither Federer nor Williams would command the income, endorsements or global recognition they enjoy had it not been for Dell.
As a result, Dell will make another trip this week, to Newport, R.I., where he will be inducted tomorrow into the International Tennis Hall of Fame -- the crowning achievement of a life devoted to the game.
Rounding out the Class of 2009 are nine-time Grand Slam champion Monica Seles; 1972 French Open winner Andres Gimeno of Spain; and the late Robert Johnson, a native of Norfolk who pioneered the integration of tennis and served as coach and mentor to Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe.
Each is a champion. But none exerted the broad-based influence of Dell, who in 1972 helped found the Association of Tennis Professionals, which advocated for players' rights in matters of scheduling, rankings and the distribution of prize money; was the sport's first agent, as founder of ProServ; reclaimed the Davis Cup for the United States as the squad's captain in 1968 and '69; co-founded Washington's Legg Mason Tennis Classic; and served as a former player, TV commentator and perennial fan.
"He was a part of everything," said former Davis Cup captain Tom Gorman. "Everything he did was to help the game move forward."
Dell's office in the Chevy Chase Pavilion is dominated by portraits of Winston Churchill, stacks of law books and autographed posters and photos of clients over the years -- among them, Ashe, Roddick, Stan Smith, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Pam Shriver; and former NBA superstars Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing.
Assuming an agent's share of an athlete's earnings is 12 percent, it's safe to say after a cursory survey of these walls that Dell's riches are daunting. And that doesn't include the countless broadcast deals he has brokered for tournaments, on which margins are higher.
But he has exercised a charitable impulse throughout his career, for example, donating the Legg Mason Classic, which he and Ashe launched in 1969, to the Washington Tennis and Educational Foundation.