Tony Trabert (90), passed away peacefully of natural causes on February 3, 2021, surrounded by loved ones in his Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, home. His family lost their beloved patriarch. The tennis world lost one of their all-time great players and ambassadors of the sport. America lost a true patriot.
Tony was born in Cincinnati, OH, on August 16, 1930, to Archibald and Bernice (Roche) Trabert. He began playing tennis at the age of six and won his first tournament at the age of 10. While attending Walnut Hills High School, Tony won the Ohio State Tennis Championships three times consecutively. At the University of Cincinnati (UC), he won the 1951 Singles NCAA Championship. He also started on the basketball team and was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He lived modestly in his Cincinnati family home until he left for Europe on the amateur tennis circuit with Bill Talbert, another Cincinnati tennis great. Bill was Tony’s mentor and taught him about the world, not just tennis. Tony was proud of his Cincinnati roots and he “never forgot from whence he came.”
From 1951-1953, his playing was postponed when he proudly served in the Navy aboard the USS Coral Sea during the Korean War. In 1955, he won three of the four Grand Slam tournaments: the French Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Championship, propelling him to a ranking of #1 in the world. That year Tony compiled a record of 106-7 and 18 titles, which remains one of the greatest single seasons in tennis history. Over the course of his career Tony won 10 grand slam titles. Soon after turning pro, he and the other tennis professionals strove to make the game “Open” so that amateurs and pros could compete together and truly make a living. “Open Tennis” as we know it today, would not be the same without the work of Tony and his fellow professionals. Of all of Tony’s accomplishments in his career, he remained most proud of representing the United States in Davis Cup. He played on five Davis Cup teams helping the U.S. team bring home the Davis Cup and went on to captain the squad for five years, winning the cup twice.
Following his playing career, he was a commentator for tennis and golf for over 30 years with CBS and Australia Channel 9. While covering The Players Championship (TPC at Sawgrass), he met Vicki Valenti, and soon after, married her and moved to Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. From 1971-1985 he also ran the prominent Tony Trabert Tennis Camp for children in Ojai, CA. He made an indelible impact on the lives of hundreds of campers and counselors, many of whom continued to stay in touch. Having been inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1970, he later served as its president for 11 years. In 2007, he returned to UC to receive his Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, along with basketball great, Oscar Robertson.
Though Tony is best known for his accomplishments in the tennis world, his family and friends were where his heart lived. He was a “rock” for all those around him – a man of his word. His work ethic and high standards of excellence along with his sense of humor, memorable jokes, and his infectious laugh will be passed on for generations. In spite of all of his accomplishments, he remained humble and loving until the end. At age 80, Tony dedicated his life to the Lord and was a faithful servant.
Tony’s life was the epitome of a life well lived.
Game. Set. Match. Well Done Champ!
He is preceded in death by his parents and brothers, Doug, and Marc. He is survived by his large adoring family: Vicki, his cherished wife of 36 years; two children with former wife Shauna, son Mike (Dinny) – children: Brittany, Warner, Anthony, and Megan; daughter Brooke Trabert Dabkowski – children: Delaney and Brick Dabkowski; stepchildren; James Valenti (Erika) – children: Caroline, Lauren, and Anna; Valerie Valenti Mason – daughter: Kendall; Rob Valenti (Heidi) – children: Sydney, Coleman, Olivia, and Reeve; and the six “golden” great grands. He is also survived by his four nieces: Sandy Cook, Jennifer Trabert, Becky Salt, and Lee Hubbuch.
A family graveside service was held at Ponte Vedra Valley on Feb. 8, 2021. Because of COVID, plans for a memorial service have been postponed. If you wish to donate in remembrance of Tony, he has chosen The Chapel at Sawgrass, PO Box 3205, Ponte Vedra, FL, 32004, or Community Hospice of Jacksonville, FL.