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The Sun

At 100 years old, tennis player swings into hall of fame

THE SUN
Published:   |   Updated: March 22, 2013 at 10:25 AM

Once the worn cartilage in his arthritic knee is replaced or fixed, Jim Vuille said he hoped to hit the tennis courts again. Vuille, who will be 101 years old March 16, said if he could, he'd continue playing the sport he's loved for more than 80 years.

Until six years ago, he was still out on area courts, winning competitive tennis matches - just one reason he's been inducted into the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Florida Hall of Fame.

In December, Vuille was inducted during the USTA Florida 60th Annual Meeting and Anniversary Celebration in Clearwater. About 400 USTA Florida volunteers and guests attended and watched a video profile on Vuille, considered by the USTA as a Florida tennis "icon."

USTA Florida is a not-for-profit tennis association comprised of over 1,000 member organizations throughout the state, with approximately 50,000 members.

"I've always liked tennis. It's a sport for all members of the family and we had all seven playing tennis," said Vuille, from his W. Del Webb Boulevard home. "It's a healthy sport to take part in and it's something everyone can do."

Since taking up tennis at the St. Petersburg Tennis Center at age 9, leading the St. Petersburg High School tennis team to a state championship and playing recreationally through college at Cornell University, Vuille has netted dozens of state and regional championships.

Vuille, who said he had very few tennis lessons, won single and doubles tournaments in Tampa and St. Petersburg throughout the 1940s and at the age of 45 won his division at the Southern Tennis Clubs championships in Atlanta. Officially, his amateur career started in 1919 and ended in 1994, but in 2002, he was still ranked number two in his age division - behind tennis St. Petersburg tennis legend Jack Staton, who holds four world senior tennis titles.

"I played a lot of tennis against him. He beat me most of the time, not all the time," said Vuille. He and his family moved to St. Petersburg from his birthplace of Huntington, Pa., when he was just 9.

In his 20s, Vuille helped establish Bartlett Park, now known as the St. Petersburg Tennis Center, and won city championships there. He served as the club's president in 1942, interim pro, maintenance helper and manager from 1974 to 1984.

In addition to playing, in the mid-1960s, Vuille spent time teaching students of the University of Miami's tennis and Davis Cup coach Bill Lufler.

Vuille and his wife, Janet, who died in 1993, had five children, including Sam Vuille, the tennis professional at the St. Petersburg Country Club for the past 23 years and also a member of the USTA Florida Hall of Fame.

Doug Booth, USTA Florida executive director, said a committee selected the elder Vuille to be inducted for his "many years of high-level play in Florida and national events." He said the committee looked at the records of past Hall of Fame inductees and Vuille's records were comparable.

"He deserves to be in and he's the oldest inductee in our 60-year history," said Booth, who has served as USTA Florida's executive director for 21 years. "He's not getting in because he's 100 years old, it's because of an outstanding player record as an adult player in Florida."

Based in Daytona Beach, USTA Florida was established in 1949 as one of 17 sections of the United States Tennis Association and is the governing body of amateur tennis in Florida.


Reporter Paul Catala can be reached at (813) 731-1970 or pcatala@mediageneral.com.

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