Riessen and a racquet were potent combo
Last updated 5/31/2023 at 3:19pm | View PDF
Dubbed the "Ace of Burns Field" for his tennis exploits locally, Hinsdale native Marty Riessen went on to make a name for himself far beyond the village.
The Hinsdalean chronicled Riessen's life in as part of the "Hinsdale Originals" series in 2011, portions of which are included here.
Growing up in the 400 block of West Hickory Street, Riessen could often be found across the street on Burns' courts honing his game. His father Clare started the tennis program at then-Hinsdale Township High School, and Riessen (also a standout basketball player) became the first to win the Illinois singles title four years in a row. He capped his Red Devil career in dominant fashion, winning 49 out of 53 sets 6-0.
Riessen moved on to Northwestern in 1960, where his father had recently become head tennis coach. He reached the NCAA singles finals three times and played in events around the world while earning bachelor's and master's degrees.
With competitive tennis exclusively amateur in those days, Riessen planned to get his Ph.D. in school administration for a career in education. That same year of 1968, Texas businessman Lamar Hunt launched his World Championship Tennis circuit as a professional alternative to the amateur league. Riessen signed on.
"Hunt made a huge difference in tennis. Up until he started, there were no professionals. There wasn't that option. It was a very exciting time," he said.
As a pro Riessen became a doubles specialist, playing with legends like Arthur Ashe and Margaret Court to capture a total of nine Grand Slam titles in men's and mixed doubles. Riessen said his pairing with Ashe, which resulted in the 1971 French Open championship, came about by happenstance.
"We were on the Davis Cup team together. I guess that summer, we were each looking for a partner and we ended up playing together," he said. "For an American to win anything at the French was very good. Arthur wasn't considered a great doubles player. He was better known for his singles."
During a 10-year run with partner Tom Okker, the duo captured the 1976 U.S. Open along with three Grand Slam runners-up trophies and reached No. 2 in the world rankings. Riessen also won several singles titles over the likes of Rod Laver and Roscoe Tanner. Dunlop even came out with a "Marty Riessen" wooden racquet.
Riessen retired from the main tour in the early 1980s but continued playing both singles and doubles on the senior tour. Turning to coaching, he helped Tracy Austin win her 1981 U.S. Open championship and led two U.S. Olympic teams.
Riessen was inducted into the International Tennis Association Hall of Fame in 1989, and was similarly honored by his high school alma mater in 2000.
"Hinsdale was a great place to grow up. I really enjoyed it. It's a good community," he said.