Born in March 05, 1913, Robert J. Kelleher is retired tennis pro, a native New Yorker whose contribution in tennis is legendary not merely in terms of the games he played and the trophies he won, but also in terms of the opportunities he opened for tennis athletes. Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000, Kelleher is best remembered for making open tennis a reality in 1968.
Kelleher served as an assistant official referee for five years, 1932 through 1937, for the United States national Championships. In 1933, he won the New England Intercollegiate Doubles Championship and the Eastern Collegiate Doubles trophies. In 1947, he competed in the Canadian Mixed Doubles category and won only the top spot, but the hand of his competing teammate, Gracyn Wheeler, in marriage. He headed the U.S. Davis Cup team as Captain in 1962 and in 1963, the year the team won. In addition, the hard-hitting Kelleher was also a three-time doubles champion, U.S. Hard Court.
Before he became the USTA President for two years, 1967 through 1968, Kelleher served as 1st Vice President of the Association in 1966, and as its 2nd Vice President in 1965. His USTA leadership is distinct and significant in tennis history because he, along with Herman David and Derek Hardwick, devoted his time to campaign for open tennis. It took Kelleher and his group one year to obtain American approval for the event; which enabled professional tennis athletes to compete against each other. The archaic, long-standing rule of amateurism was finally eschewed. Later on, it was also Kelleher who initiated and lobbied for the inclusion of legitimate prize money for the open tennis events. Simply put, without Kelleher, tennis could have taken a very different turn.
Named as a judge in the United States District Court of Los Angeles, California, Kelleher is clearly a force to reckon with, both on court and off.