Five Questions For… Todd Martin

Joel Drucker

Todd Martin is the CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHOF) in Newport, R.I., a position he has held since September 2014. The ITHOF is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to preserve and promote the history of tennis and to celebrate its champions, thereby serving as a vital partner in the growth of tennis globally. As CEO, Martin has oversight of a $9 million annual budget, which encompasses extensive development efforts to support the mission and the operation of a world-class tennis museum and tennis club, the annual Hall of Fame Enshrinement festivities, an ATP World Tour event, and a robust calendar of public and private events locally and at tennis events around the world.

Martin is retired from the ATP World Tour, where he was a top-ranked player in the 1990s and early 2000s. He achieved a career high ranking of world No. 4, reached the finals at the US Open and the Australian Open, and was a member of the United States Davis Cup team that won the championship in 1995.

He visited the Bay Area recently to meet with fellow tennis lovers to share the stories of Hall of Famers and of tennis more generally, and to promote the ITHOF's efforts to advance the sport of tennis with a broader audience.

1. What are some of your favorite responsibilities as CEO? Did your experience as President of the ATP Players Council in the 1990s help prepare you for this role?

I love my job. Specifically, leading a team of 40+ employees, working with a diverse and very supportive board, solving problems, and constantly working with others to ensure that tennis history is leveraged to aid in the growth of the sport are all awesome challenges and quite fun. It is also quite gratifying to represent the sport I’ve loved since I was a tyke, and to be in a role where I learn constantly is more than I could ever wish for.

Yes, in some ways my ATP Players Council experience helped prepare me. Similar responsibilities include representing others, representing a brand, and being a spokesperson. That said, a volunteer servant on an advisory body is entirely different than being an employee tasked with leading a global business.

2. Today the Bay Area is a vibrant tennis community and has a proud history of generating Hall of Fame tennis players, including Don Budge, Rosie Casals, Alice Marble, and others. How would you describe the Bay Area in terms of tennis history?

Vibrant is pretty good. Dynamic, impactful, and pure are other words that come to mind. I played in SF during my recent visit and the joy that people were experiencing on the courts was palpable.

3. Mackie McDonald is from the Bay Area. Are you familiar with him? What do you think?
Over the past several years I have gotten to know Mackie quite well. I trained with him for several days when I was playing Senior Tennis in my early 40s and he was a promising junior. He is making steady progress and most importantly, goes about his business professionally and respectfully. He will most definitely continue to have greater success, and I imagine inspire some other Bay Area youth along the way.

4. What is something about your career as a professional tennis player that would surprise us?
Two years into my professional career I deemed myself to be failing miserably. In spite of having lived a process-focused life, I was utterly blinded by the lack of results early on. Eventually, I got enough positive and encouraging messages from those around me that I got out of my own way. Once that happened, my results actually caught up with my development and a year later I was in the Top 15. Only other surprise would be that I once had brown hair…which is incredibly difficult for my kids to believe!

5. For 25 years your foundation, Todd Martin Youth Leadership (TMYL), has provided youth from under-resourced families and communities in your hometown of Lansing, MI, with training in tennis, education, life skills, and leadership development. What has been your inspiration to contribute in this way?
My family moved to Lansing, MI when I was 10 years old. Thanks to my family, tennis and the Lansing community, I grew up safe, challenged, supported, and inspired. Knowing that a large population of children wouldn’t have those same experiences, my childhood coach, my father, and I founded what is now TMYL. Each of us were keenly aware of the benefits the sport of tennis provides to all who play (i.e. direction, fitness, self-discipline, problem resolution, perseverance, etc.). It was also clear we could help the Lansing community through this program…we just didn’t know it would survive a quarter century.