Lifetime Senior Champions
Four of Europe's most distinguished senior tennis players were honoured with the first European Lifetime Senior Champion awards at a special ceremony held during the 2008 Roland Garros championships.
The accolade recognises both longevity and achievements, and will be presented to an elite band of players who win at least five World Championship and ten European Championship singles titles during their Senior Circuit careers. Presenting the awards alongside Tennis Europe President Jacques Dupré, Senior Committee Chairman Philios Christodoulou said, "On behalf of Tennis Europe, I would like to express our sincere congratulations to the four champions selected to receive this unique and important recognition. Their names will be written down in history alongside all the other top athletes of the tennis world."
Heide Orth was born into a sporting family in Essen, Germany in 1942 and began to play tennis with her father at the age of 13. By 1960 she had become German junior champion, the first steps on a road to a career that would see her compete on the ladies circuit for many years, in which she was a regular participant in all four Grand Slams, the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. Faithful to her home country, Heide played on the national Fed Cup team on fifteen occasions, and has also been a reliable club representative, playing for ETUF Essen, Blau-Weiss Berlin and Skiclub throughout the years. After marrying in 1965 and giving birth to her first son in 1970, Heide took a five year break from tennis before entering the senior circuit, in which she has become a consistently successful force, having accrued 11 Tennis Europe Player of the Year titles. Mrs. Orth was delighted to be amongst the winners, remarking, "I am not used to receiving such awards and attending these ceremonies, but this is a really great recognition for senior tennis."
Born in 1946 in Stara Boleslav, Czechoslovakia, Marie Pinterova has had an illustrious tennis career which saw her compete in numerous Grand Slams and record wins over some of the world's most legendary champions. Amongst her many titles are two Bonfiglio Cups, Two Czech Internationals, Virginia Slims of Jacksonville, Cairo open, Japan Open and the World university Games. She also reached the semi finals in Rome, and was a quarterfinalist at Roland Garros, the German Open, and the US Indoors. Along the way, she beat many of the greatest players of the time, such as Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Kathy Jordan, Olga Morozova, Andrea Jaeger, Sue Barker and Betty Stove. Marie married Hungarian textile engineer Andras Pinter in 1974, and had a son, Karim, two years later. She then made a successful comeback to professional tennis at the age of 34, winning the Tokyo title and competing at the Australian Open as a mother. Since entering the senior circuit, she has gone on to win 11 world championship singles titles and an incredible 24 European titles. Mrs. Pinterova expressed her surprise and satisfaction with the award, saying she had not realised she had won so many titles in recent years.
Peter Pokorny was born in Graz, Austria and became fascinated with tennis at an early age, using his pay for working as a ball-boy at the age of six to pay for his first racquet. By the age of 12, he had already earned a spot in the Austrian Under 18 team. By 14, he had reached the final of the Austrian Championships, and at 18 he was the national Under 18 champion. As an adult, he would go on to win the Austrian championships three times, and made his Davis Cup debut in 1963 against Israel, playing in the event for a further ten years. His biggest success came in 1973, winning the Indoor Championships in Bremen, a reminder that he was then, and is now, one of Europe's finest indoors players. During the later 1970's, Peter took a break from tennis, focusing on his family and business, before returning in 1980 to become the World Ski/Tennis champion, and captain of the Austrian Davis Cup team in 1981-82. The following year, at the age of 42, he reached the finals of the Austrian Championships, and entered the senior circuit in 1986. Since then, he has become the most successful senior player of the past decade, accumulating 27 European Championship titles, and earning recognition as the most successful Austrian player ever with an award in 2006. Accepting the award, Mr. Pokorny said that he is still looking to the future rather than the past, and that he hopes to add to his record tally of titles in the next few years.
Istvan Gulyas was born in Pecs, Hungary in 1931 and went on to become one of the most prolific players in the history of his country, winning his national championships 15 times in singles, and 18 times in doubles. Throughout the 1960's, he was a force to be reckoned with on the international circuit, reaching the Roland Garros final in 1966, and the semi final the following year, a year in which he also received the international fair play prize in Paris. He was a regular face in the world's top ten, and was the second-ranked European during the 1960s. Between 1953 and 1981 he led Ujpesti Dozsa Sport Club to an incredible 27 Hungarian team titles, before moving to Hamburg, where from 1982-1997 he was a player and trainer at the DUWO 08 Tennis Club. Representing his country, Istvan played Davis Cup on 22 occasions, winning 37 matches, of which 22 were singles. As a senior player, he went on to win 8 World Championship titles and many European titles. Mr. Gulyas' achievements were not confined to the tennis court, and from 1977 to 1988, he also served as President of the Hungarian Tennis Association, and in 1998 he was awarded the life-Work Prize in Budapest. In 2000, Mr Gulyas passed away at the age of 69. His posthumous award was collected by his son Istvan, who commented, "I am very proud of my father. It is great to have this award recognising the achievements of senior tennis players, and I am happy that a lot of people will remember my father as a result. It is good for young Hungarian players to know that there was once a Hungarian playing in the final of Roland Garros."
In 2015, Ilse Michael became the fifth recipient of the award. Born in Bremen, Germany, she was a talented young athlete but only began to play tennis seriously as a senior, at the age of 35. She excelled in domestic competitions; in 1975 she was the first Northwest Champion for women and senior women, and followed this with over 40 further association titles. As of 2015, she has won 21 trophies at the North German Championships, 39 at the German hampinships and 12 at the International German Championships. She also became a World Champion in several age groups and on several surfaces, commenting, "The most beautiful victory for me was the first Individual World Championship in 1985, which I won on Centre Court at Kooyong Stadium in Melbourne."
She has been honoured for her outstanding sporting achievements on many occasions was named Sportswoman of the Year in Bremen in 1986. She was awarded the Golden Needle of Honour by TV Werder, by the Northwest Association, and she has been named Tennis Europe Senior Player of the Year multiple times.