Robert Davis Inducted into USPTA Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame
Growing up in Oklahoma, his first tennis racket was a T.A. Davis model made of laminated walnut without a leather grip. In high school, he once spent his lunch money—30 cents per day—to buy two tennis balls for a practice.
Now at age 95, Robert Davis earned entry into the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA)/Mid-Atlantic Division Hall of Fame for a lifetime of playing, teaching and growing the game. His induction occurred during a ceremony on March 4 at Woodmont Country Club.
“I’ve been affiliated with USPTA since 1972, and this is a great honor. It was extra special that my son, Phil, served as my presenter,” stated Mr. Davis, who along with his wife Ruth, has lived at Riderwood retirement community for ten years.
After playing basketball in junior and senior high school, he took a tennis class and made the Classen High School team in Oklahoma City where he lettered for two years. In college, he played for the University of Oklahoma tennis team for three seasons.
Upon graduating in 1942 with a B.S. in electrical engineering, he moved to Washington, DC where he worked for five years for the Naval Research Laboratory on search radar and countermeasure systems. For the last year of World War II, Mr. Davis was a U.S. Naval Reserve Ensign.
His electronics career took him to the stars for 50 years (34 in government and 16 in industry/academia). As a design engineer at NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, he had ten years of experience on eight orbiting solar observatories and nineteen years on the Multi-Mission Modular Spacecraft and experimental payloads. His Solar Maximum Repair Mission was the first satellite in-orbit repair. After Mr. Davis retired, that GSFC group went on to perform five Hubble Space Telescope repair missions.
With Ruth, he raised three children who went on to successful careers throughout the country. A demanding schedule notwithstanding, he always made time for the courts. “After a stressful day, tennis was a relaxing escape from work. I enjoyed the physical activity and the competition,” noted Mr. Davis.
An accomplished player, Mr. Davis held amateur ranking in singles and doubles competition in the Greater Washington Area Tennis Association, Prince George’s County and Maryland State divisions from 1944-1954.
In 1981, he was awarded the USPTA Over 35 Player of the Year Award, and he won numerous singles and doubles championships through his age 55-60 years.
Tennis enthusiasts in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties will surely recognize his stamp on the game. The location of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in Prince George’s County was chosen in large part to his efforts, and he served on the County’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for more than 12 years.
Owner of Tennis Unlimited since 1962, he became a certified USPTA Master Professional and even customized and re-strung rackets.
“I served as a technical consultant on the upgrade of ten asphalt courts and practice areas for the Rockville Campus of Montgomery College and design of the six Har-Tru courts at the Country Club of Woodmore in Mitchellville,” he said.
“There is nothing like creating new playing areas to ensure the game is enjoyed for years to come,” said Mr. Davis. “I’m particularly proud of the courts I helped to design for the NASA/Goddard Tennis Club in Rockville and the Cheverly Swim & Racquet Club.”
Mr. Davis was named Maryland Professional of the Year in 1987. He gave private and group lessons to numerous junior players who would gain state, national and international rankings, including Stacey Martin of the University of Tennessee and Jeri Ingram of the University of Maryland. Many of his students received collegiate tennis scholarships, and more than 20 became teaching professionals.
“I stress technique, conditioning and the mental side of the game,” said Mr. Davis. “Being a good sportsman is important, too, and I believe in the old Aussie phrase ‘let the racket speak.’”
At Riderwood, he remains involved in tennis. The campus features two plastic tile courts, and he has given lessons and re-strung rackets for his fellow residents. He writes articles and tips for national publications and is in the process of publishing his first book, “Developing a Private Tennis Facility.”
He enjoys the modern game, listing Roger Federer as the best player he has seen.
“The technically improved line-calling system and Hi Def TV have definitely enhanced my viewing interest. The clarity of the picture and camera locations make it feel like I’m playing the points with the professionals,” described Mr. Davis.
With his enthusiasm and tennis savvy, one imagines that Mr. Davis would still give many players a run for their money.