CLAIM: Heather Conner, 50, is the first woman to allege she was coerced into having sex with former tennis star Bob Hewitt.

US TV channel HBO has launched an investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment and abuse against former South African tennis superstar Bob Hewitt.

The move comes a week after the International Tennis Hall of Fame stated it had formed a special committee of its board of directors to investigate the allegations by five women, who have accused Hewitt of harassment and abuse when they were in their teens and he their coach.

Hewitt is in his 70s and lives in Addo in the Cape. He was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1992 along with his partner, Frew Macmillan. They are the only two South Africans to have received that honour.

The women who have spoken out against Hewitt range in age from early 30s to 50 and specify different incidents over an estimated 15-year period.

The first woman to speak out was Heather Conner, 50, who lives in the US. She alleged that she was coerced into sex with him for the first time near the tennis courts at Masconomet Regional High School in Topsfield when she had just turned 15.

She said with her daughters reaching their teen years, it was time to break her years of silence.

The Boston Globe launched an intensive investigation uncovering nine women who made similar allegations.

Always a controversial figure on the court and a well-known TV commentator, it appears that Hewitt led a secret double life.

Some have described his alleged predilection for his young tennis players as an “open secret” in Joburg tennis circles.

One of the women who has spoken out, Twiggy Tolken, 43, kept letters Hewitt allegedly wrote to her when she was 12, while Amanda Wienhold, 33, described Hewitt as a manipulative predator who relished his power over his young players.

Five of the women who came forward have said they were willing to give statements and evidence to the Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, Hewitt has kept a low profile and despite repeated attempts to get comment, has not responded to questions from the media.

His son, Turner, who farms in the same area as his father, has denied all the allegations being made against Hewitt. - Independent on Saturday