CORAL GABLES, Fla. – University of Miami tennis legend Gardnar Mulloy has collected countless achievements throughout his life.
But Mulloy, who won 116 international tennis titles and was a World War II hero, received a unique honor Thursday. The City of Miami renamed a section of road near the 99-year-old’s longtime home in Spring Gardens, calling it “Gardnar Mulloy Way.”
“I think it’s fantastic,” Mulloy said. “There are a lot of events that give people awards every year. This is perpetual. There can only be one. Only so many people have a street named for them.”
City of Miami commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones was one of several who spoke at an unveiling ceremony in Spring Gardens, recognizing the accomplished nonagenarian.
“We believe in giving people their flowers while they are here,” Spence-Jones said. “He has meant a lot to the Spring Gardens community and to Miami. He went across all color lines and racial barrier lines. We felt it was important that he knew that there were so many people that love him and support him here.”
Former professional tennis player Kim Sands spoke glowingly of Mulloy. Like Mulloy, Sands coached tennis at the University of Miami, but the Miami native was most appreciative of what she learned from Mulloy growing up.
“He taught me a lot,” Sands said. “He was one of the people from Miami that would always come watch me at Wimbledon and pull for me. I remember amazingly fond memories with him.”
Sands was one of about 100 family, friends and well-wishers in attendance at the corner of 800 NW Ninth Avenue in Miami.
“This city owes you a debt of gratitude,” Sands told Mulloy. “ Mr. Mulloy, you’re a friend of humanity. We love you for that. We color you human. I remember talking to you once about Althea Gibson, the first African-American to win Wimbledon, and Arthur Ashe and all the other great players of all races that you treasured and talked so great about. You are ‘Mr. Tennis’ in this community.”
A member of nine different tennis halls of fame, Mulloy has made a huge impact on the game he played into his 90s. Mulloy shared some of his favorite tennis stories and spoke of his time in the United States Navy during World War II.
Miami men’s tennis coach Mario Rincon has known Mulloy since taking over the Hurricanes tennis program in 2004. Rincon believes Mulloy deserved this historic recognition.
“Gardnar Mulloy is a Miami hero and an American hero,” Rincon said. “He’s a legendary tennis player. He’s been a coach at Miami. He was really the one that started the tennis program. He’s a humanitarian, a wonderful man and he has so many friends all over the world. He is a legend and a celebrity."
"For us at the University of Miami, it is an honor to be connected to his legacy," Rincon said. "It’s a beautiful day for him to be honored in such a way and to have a street named after him. He’s done so much in his almost 100 years of life and he deserves every accolade that he gets.”