Tennis legend Billy Jean King has slammed SA’s tennis doubles superstar Bob Hewitt after allegations of sexual abuse and harassment by a number of women whom he coached as youngsters.
In an interview with the Washingtonian’s Brett Haber last Saturday, Billie Jean King, who is an inductee in The International Tennis Hall of Fame, reportedly said: “I don’t feel good about Bob Hewitt. I played mixed with him. We won the French Open together in 1970. I’m not happy. I am very upset.”
This week the Hall of Fame confirmed they had launched an inquiry into the allegations.
Hewitt and his doubles partner, Frew Macmillan, were both inducted into the Hall in 1992 and are the only South African tennis players to have achieved this prestigious honour. Past inductees include the likes of Martina Navratilova and Andre Agassi.
On Thursday, the Hall’s chief executive officer, Mark Stenning, told The Independent on Saturday that the lawyers appointed to the inquiry were still gathering information.
“There are still a couple of people who are being traced... the report should be submitted to us by late July,” he said.
With the Wimbledon finals being played this weekend, the international sporting spotlight is on tennis and Stenning confirmed this year’s Hall of Fame gala ceremony is scheduled for next weekend.
The 2012 inductees include tennis greats such as Jennifer Capriati and former world number one Gustavo Kuerten.
Stenning said they had never had to deal with allegations such as have been made against Hewitt.
“Once the report is submitted, our 24-member executive committee, which includes many international figures, will meet and a decision will be made whether suspension or no action will be taken in this matter,” he said.
The allegations started surfacing last year after claims by American Heather Conner that Hewitt had forced her to have sex with him when she was 15.
The Boston Globe launched an investigation and a number of women have since come forward, including South Africans Twiggy Tolken, Suellen Sheehan and Amanda Wienhold, who were all coached by Hewitt in their teens in Joburg and who were willing to speak out.
Sheehan, who has claimed Hewitt abused her from the age of nine until she was 14, subsequently opened a case of rape against Hewitt in December.
Despite repeated attempts to get comment from Hewitt, who has now retired with his wife and family in Addo, he has yet to respond to the claims.