File photo: Former tennis champion Bob Hewitt is expected to hear what charges he faces in the Boksburg Magistrate's Court on Friday.

Durban - Disgraced former Grand Slam tennis champion Bob Hewitt plans to defend himself against charges that he sexually abused young girls he coached decades ago, then sue them.

Hewitt, 73, told the Daily News on Thursday that he would fight any legal action taken against him.

“I am innocent. These charges have caused my family and me huge hardship and with the lawyers’ permission I am going to sue,” he said.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) confirmed on that the former tennis doubles champion had been served a summons and ordered to appear at the Boksburg Magistrate’s Court on August 16.

Phindi Louw, spokeswoman for the NPA, said Hewitt would be informed of the charges at his court appearance.

Hewitt, retired in Addo in the Eastern Cape, did not want to comment any further yesterday and cut the call.

His lawyer, advocate Terry Price, echoed Hewitt’s sentiment.

“We will plead not guilty. We will prove his innocence and we will sue all those who are behind this.

“Simple as that,” Price said.

The pending prosecution is the latest blow for the ageing tennis star since allegations surfaced that he had allegedly sexually abused underage girls he coached from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

Last year, the International Tennis Hall of Fame suspended Hewitt indefinitely from its roll of honour and a team of American lawyers spent several months interviewing his alleged victims.

They also spent more than 10 hours interviewing him with his team of South African lawyers.

While suspending him from the hall of fame, the organisation did not expel him outright because he had not been convicted of any crime.

Hewitt’s name was later dropped by the SA Tennis Hall of Fame.

The Australia-born Hewitt won 15 Grand Slam titles in his heyday in the 1960s and 1970s. He retired in 1983, and was inducted into the hall in 1992.

Two years ago, a six-month investigation by the Boston Globe alleged Hewitt had molested at least nine young girls - some as young as 10 at the time - in America and South Africa, after one of his American victims blew the whistle on him, blaming the alleged sexual assault for her resignation from the school board she served on.

The initial report inspired other alleged victims to break their silence.

A Johannesburg woman who spoke to Daily News’s sister paper, The Independent on Saturday, alleged that she and 20 other mothers had confronted Hewitt in the ’90s when they discovered behavioural changes in their 12-year-old daughters, who were being coached by Hewitt at the time.

“Before we confronted him, some of us went to the coaching sessions and you could actually see him do it. You could see him fondle their breasts while he stood behind them and taught them how to hold their racquet properly,” she told The Independent on Saturday.

Two of Hewitt’s alleged South African victims, Suellen Sheehan and Gina Read, have gone public with their claims of abuse.

Sheehan said she had been told of Hewitt’s prosecution.

Tanya Waterworth reports that another of his alleged victims, Twiggy Tolken, 45, now living in New Zealand, said: “The time has come for the law to take its course. One cannot affect the lives of so many in such a heinous way. Let justice prevail.”

Tolken said she still had letters Hewitt allegedly wrote to her while they were at a tennis tournament in Sun City when she was 12 years old.

Tolken said she had told her parents what had happened between her and Hewitt.

“My father laid charges at the Bedfordview police station. He was then told by the attorney-general and our lawyer they would make mincemeat out of me, as this was Bob Hewitt and I was a little girl.”

[email protected]

Daily News