Joe Hunt

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Joe Hunt
Joe Hunt 1943 1.jpg
Full nameJoseph Raphael Hunt
Country (sports) United States
Born(1919-02-17)February 17, 1919
San Francisco, California, U.S.
DiedFebruary 2, 1945(1945-02-02) (aged 25)
Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S
Turned pro1935 (amateur tour)
Retired1945 (due to death)
PlaysRight-handed (one-handed backhand)
Int. Tennis HoF1966 (member page)
Grand Slam Singles results
US OpenW (1943)
Team competitions
Davis CupF (1939Ch)

Joseph Raphael Hunt (February 17, 1919 – February 2, 1945) was an American tennis player of the late 1930s and early 1940s from Southern California. He was the number one ranked American in 1943 and won the US singles championship in his final match.[1] He died off the coast of Florida in an airplane crash during World War II.[1] To date he is the only man to win the U.S. boys' (15 and under), junior (18 and under), collegiate, and men's singles championship.[1]

Tennis career[edit]

Hunt played college tennis at the University of Southern California as a freshman, and he went undefeated in singles and doubles play while in college during 1938, including the Ojai Tennis Tournament.[1] Hunt was very athletic, and he played football for a while. After enlisting, he attended the United States Naval Academy and joined the Navy football team as a running back during the 1940 season.[1] He was given the game ball for the 1940 Army–Navy Game.[1] Hunt made the semifinals at the 1939 and 1940 United States singles championships.[2] During the 1940 quarterfinals against Frank Kovacs, he staged a sit-down strike during the match after he complained to the referee about Kovacs' antics and was unhappy with the referee's lack of response.[3] Early in their third set, Kovacs began engaging in prolonged antics with the stadium gallery. When the umpire would not stop Kovacs or quiet the crowd, Hunt sat down on his baseline and did not acknowledge several of Kovacs' serves, allowing them to fly by. Kovacs then sat down on his baseline, and the two players sat for up to five minutes while the crowd alternately jeered and cheered. When order was finally restored, Hunt went on to win the match in straight sets.[4] Hunt represented the United States in the 1939 International Lawn Tennis Challenge (now Davis Cup) challenge round against Australia. He played the doubles match partnering Jack Kramer which they lost to John Bromwich and Adrian Quist.[2][5]

Hunt married Jacque Carolyn Virgil in 1942.[6]

In September 1943, he won the United States singles championship at Forest Hills while lying on the ground.[7][8] On match point, Hunt collapsed with leg cramps while his opponent, Jack Kramer, who due to food poisoning had lost 19 pounds during tournament,[1] hit a return that barely went long. Had it been in, most observers at the time felt that Kramer would have eventually won the match against Hunt. Hunt was unable to obtain leave from the Navy in 1944 in order to defend his title.

He was the U.S. no. 1 in 1943 and world no. 10 in 1939 by Gordon Lowe.[9]

Hunt was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1966.[1]

Pancho Segura, who had lost to Kramer in the semifinals, described Hunt as "a strong guy, big serve and volley, and took to grass, coming from the Southern California concrete".[10] In a 2014 interview Segura added: "He was a very good-looking man with a body like Charles Atlas. He drew women to his matches. He would have been good for tennis. He was a credit to the game."[1]

Grand Slam finals[edit]

Singles: 1 (1 title)[edit]

Result Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Win 1943 U.S. National Championships Grass United States Jack Kramer 6–3, 6–8, 10–8, 6–0

Grand Slam tournament performance timeline[edit]

Tournament 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943
Grand Slam Tournaments
Australian Open A A A A A NH NH NH
French Open A A A A NH NH NH NH
Wimbledon A A A A NH NH NH NH

Military service and death[edit]

Hunt was a graduate from the Naval Academy at Annapolis. He became a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II and served a year on a destroyer in the Pacific and a year in the Atlantic. On February 2, 1945, close to his 26th birthday, Hunt was killed on a routine gunnery training mission off Daytona Beach, Florida when his Grumman Hellcat went into a spin at 10,000 feet and he failed to recover.[11][12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Robson, Douglas (April 23, 2014). "How a trophy found at garage sale revived forgotten champ's legacy". USA Today. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Joe Hunt induction". International Tennis Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on May 14, 2014. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  3. ^ "Hunt Wins From Kovacs; 'Sitdown' Strike Features". The Milwaukee Sentinel. September 8, 1940.
  4. ^ American Lawn Tennis, September 20, 1940
  5. ^ "Davis Cup player profile". International Tennis Federation (ITF).
  6. ^ Porter, David L., ed. (1992). Biographical Dictionary of American Sports. New York: Greenwood Press. pp. 552–553. ISBN 978-0313267062.
  7. ^ "Joe Hunt Overwhelms Kramer in Tennis Finals". St. Petersburg Times. September 7, 1943.
  8. ^ "Joe Hunt Climbs To Tennis Throne". The Evening Independent. September 7, 1943.
  9. ^ United States Lawn Tennis Association (1972). Official Encyclopedia of Tennis (First Edition), p. 412, 425.
  10. ^ Collins, Bud (2010). The Bud Collins History of Tennis (2nd ed.). [New York]: New Chapter Press. p. 590. ISBN 978-0942257700.
  11. ^ "Plane Crash Proves Fatal To Joe Hunt". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. February 3, 1945.
  12. ^ "Lieut. Joe Hunt Dies In Mishap". The Tuscaloosa News. February 4, 1945.

External links[edit]