LEXINGTON, Ky. (7/22/13) – Former University of Kentucky men’s tennis head coach Dennis Emery will be inducted into the Robert Purnell University of Kentucky Tennis Hall of Fame July 23 during the Fifth Third Bank Tennis Championships Presented by the Lexus Store of Lexington.
The 2013 class also includes All-American Anthony Rossi, All-Southeastern Conference performer Doug Tough and SEC doubles champion Jack Webb. The inductees will be enshrined at 7 p.m. on the Ryan Holder Center Court at UK’s Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center.
Emery, who coached at UK for 30 years, ranks as the third-highest all-time coaching record at Kentucky behind only Adolph Rupp and Keith Madison. He has coached nearly 50 percent of all of UK’s matches and scored nearly half of Kentucky’s wins at the time of his retirement. Emery’s teams won two Southeastern Conference Championships, one SEC Tournament Championship, and placed second four times at the SEC Tournament.
At Kentucky, Emery coached 39 All-Americans in 30 years, including three NCAA singles finalists Carlos Drada (2000), Jesse Witten (2002) and Eric Quigley (2012). In the NCAA Tournament, he had four teams reach the Elite Eight and 11 teams reach the Sweet 16. Remarkably consistent in his career, he had 23 teams finish in the top 25 in the country and 18 teams finished in the top 16 of the national rankings. At the time of his retirement, he ranked second all-time in SEC wins, only behind Dan Magill of Georgia.
“I feel very blessed to have been here at UK and to help build the program,” said Emery, who was integral not just in recruiting and developing talented young players but also in actually helping raise money to expand the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Complex in 1997. The $1.5 million project added a 1,500-seat stadium for its two center courts with four additional hard courts.
Emery is also currently trying to raise $3 million for a new indoor tennis center and is two-thirds of the way there. His said his motivation stems from wanting to offer young tennis players the same opportunities the sport provided him.
“I would never have been able to do the things and go the places I have were it not for tennis,” he said.
Fellow inductee Doug Tough, who hails from Canada, was a transformational player for the Wildcats, as he helped upgrade the Wildcats’ talent level in the SEC. Tough represented his home country in the Junior Davis Cup, which includes players 21 and under and is held overseas in Europe. Tough was one of few players to play at the one and two slot in both singles and doubles throughout his entire career in the Blue and White. Tough was named All-SEC in 1971 after leading the Wildcats to yet another successful season.
Tough’s post-college career is even more impressive than his on-court resume, as he has served in many high-profile positions since his time in Lexington. Tough was the president and chief executive officer of Dr. Pepper and 7UP Inc., from 2000-2003, and he currently serves as the chairman and CEO of International Flavors and Fragrances, based in New York.
About Tough, Emery said: “Doug is exactly what this hall of fame is all about. He is someone who defines the term student-athlete. He excelled on the court and then represented this university all over the world in positions of great prestige.”
Webb is one of the most decorated UK tennis players in terms of SEC performances in the program’s storied history. He played the No. 1 and 2 positions for three seasons at Kentucky and earned All-SEC honors in 1978. Webb won the SEC Doubles Championship as a freshman from the No. 3 position in 1978. A year prior, in 1977, Webb reached the No. 3 singles final and followed that up in 1978 as the runner up in the No. 2 singles finals.
“I coached at Austin Peay and had the opportunity to compete against Jack and coach Graddy Johnson’s team,” Emery said. “I remember Jack as a very intimidating player indoors on the fast courts at the Lexington Tennis Club. Jack was a big guy with a big serve who didn’t give you many chances to play your game. At the same time, he was a team captain who led his team to some great seasons.”
Former UK head coach Graddy Johnson said Webb had one of Kentucky’s most outstanding win-loss records even though he consistently played near the top of the lineup in both doubles and singles.
“Beyond winning, Jack trained and practiced extremely hard, getting better each month of his career with us,” said Johnson. “He was a top student, a leader on campus and dated a lovely young lady named Sue, who became his wife and mother of their two children.”
“During and after a very successful freshman season, Jack played a pivotal role in our recruitment of his brother, Scott Webb, a year younger and almost as good,” Johnson said. “We ended up with two of the finest people and players I was ever privileged to coach. Wish we could have had six more athletes like the Webb brothers.”
Rossi, a 2013 graduate and All-American, finished his career with a No. 6 national ranking in singles, the highest of his storied career in his four years. The native of Marseille, France, is one of only 15 players in UK history to eclipse the 100-win mark in his career, as he finished with 107 career wins. Rossi ranks third in all-time winning percentage at Kentucky, only behind Eric Quigley and Jesse Witten in the rankings. In addition, Rossi was the 2012 SEC Indoor Champion in singles, one of only three UK players ever to win the event.
Most impressive about Rossi’s career is that he is only player in UK tennis history to play on teams that reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament all four years of his career, including making the Elite Eight in 2011.
“When I watched Anthony play in the first day of practice, I knew he was a special talent,” Emery said. “What Cedric (Kauffmann) and I could not predict was the amount of character that he had and the amazing competitiveness that he had. He is certainly a great athlete, but I think the thing that allowed him to reach such great heights was his intangibles.”
Information provided by Rena Baer
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