2017-07-06 / Around Town

This Week's Conversation with Todd Martin

Dell Technologies Signs on With Tennis Hall of Fame
By Bob Rulli


International Tennis Hall of Fame CEO Todd Martin. (Photo courtesy of International Tennis Hall of Fame) International Tennis Hall of Fame CEO Todd Martin. (Photo courtesy of International Tennis Hall of Fame) Professional tennis returns to Newport when the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open begins at the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 16. Earlier this year, Todd Martin, chairman of the Hall of Fame, announced that Dell had signed a multifaceted five-year sponsorship agreement. Dell will also help create a digital archive of the Hall of Fame's museum collection, which contains over 25,000 artifacts and 300,000 photographs, video files, publications and scrapbooks from past and present tennis legends.

Recently, Newport This Week sat down with Martin to discuss the tournament, as well as the role the Hall of Fame will play in the Newport community. Martin oversees a $9 million annual budget, the professional tournament, numerous amateur and collegiate tournaments, the museum and a full calendar of public and private events.

Who can fans expect to see in Newport this year?

We are very excited about some of the players we expect to join us. The previous two years, the tournament was scheduled the same time as many of the Davis Cup matches, so we missed out on some of the more talented players. We don't have that issue this year. We are excited that two-time champion John Isner is coming back. Sam Querrey, another exciting American player, is also in the field. Sam beat French Open champion Rafael Nadal earlier this year. Last year's champion, Ivo Karlovic, will be back to defend his title as well.

In the past, you have extended invitations to some of the younger, up-and-coming players. Will that continue this year?

That continues to be our focus. Last year, we extended a qualifying opportunity to a young player, Reilley Opeka. He didn't have much success here, but the following week he made it to the semifinals of the Atlanta ATP tournament and improved his world ranking from being a mid 400's ranked player to the 200's.

Will Rhode Island resident Jared Donaldson be back?

Unfortunately, Jared will not be here. He is planning to take some time off after Wimbledon to prepare for the hardcourt circuit this summer. We also have Taylor Fritz playing, who was in the World Top 50 last year, and Jordan Thompson from Australia, who recently beat World No. 1 Andy Murray.

Are you happy with how your partnership with Dell is progressing with respect to the digitization of the museum?

Certainly, when you have a massive corporation like Dell Technologies making an investment in a smaller scale organization like us, we have a steep learning curve. We need to first learn the technology and then figure out how we are going to leverage all that technology in the long run. As a result of the partnership, our mission statement changed from "preserving tennis history" to "preserving and promoting tennis history." Digitization at its core is a preservation step. However, it also puts us in a position to make it a promotional effort. If we do that in the right way, we make it customer friendly, and we do it with the appropriate tech forward thinking, without trying to be something we are not, then I think we will have been successful.

Do you feel like you have the support of city government in your efforts in bringing an international event to Newport or do you sometimes feel like you are operating alone?

First of all, I think we have some great local advocates. Our city government has been supportive of the Hall of Fame. We took a very important step in revitalizing this block, and the city was and is excited about that and collaborating with us on a very cooperative level. I do think, and this is not in relation to government, but I believe that the Hall of Fame has a responsibility to serve this community better than we have in the past. One of our key strategies in our strategic plan is to serve with a philanthropic focus. This means we absolutely must serve this community. We are more than the Newport Tennis Hall of Fame; we are the International Tennis Hall of Fame. And while people from around the world can access our tennis history, we live here and we have to do more.

What are some of the things you feel you must do?

I think there are some initiatives by other nonprofits here in Newport that we can be more supportive of. As an example, a couple of years ago the ATP, through their Aces for Charity program, gave the Martin Luther King Center a grant for $15,000 on our behalf. I think it is things like that, with us taking the initiative to do more than making sure the grass courts are in shape and selling tickets for the tournament. In the near future, we will have more to announce about our role in the community, but it is premature to discuss that now.

What is something you would like the community to know about the International Hall of Fame?

I would like them to know that the museum is free for children [under 16] and the grounds are open to the public to walk around free of charge every day of the year. I hope that they come and look around. It is not always easy to see what is behind the doors, but I encourage them to come. We would love to see them.

TO GO:

The Dell Technology Hall of Fame begins with qualifying matches on Sunday, July 16 and runs through Sunday, July 23. On Saturday, July 22, the Hall of Fame Class of 2017 will be inducted, which this year includes Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick. Special guests will include Chris Evert, Stan Smith and Jim Courier.

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