SPRINGFIELD — If you could pinpoint the peak of tennis in Clark County, it might be 1967, the year North High School junior Robin Fry claimed the state singles title.
That marked the second straight season a Panther won the crown — Chuck Parsons won in 1966 — and it was the fourth state championship for the county since 1955. No one from the county has won the singles title since, and only the Lawton brothers of Greenon, David and Mark, can claim a doubles title (1983).
Fry’s championship was no fluke. He was the product of a great tennis family that contributed mightily to the heyday of tennis in the area. His dad Charles Fry helped bring a young Nick Bollettieri, who would become one of the game’s most famous instructors, to Snyder Park. His sisters Marmee and Bea Jane might have won state titles if the OHSAA had sponsored girls tennis tournaments in the 1960s. The late Chuck Fry, the oldest sibling, also played.
“At one point, we had more nationally-ranked juniors than maybe any other city, certainly any city close to our size,” said Robin, the youngest of the Fry siblings. “There were no indoor courts. You could really only play three or four months a year. When you think about it, it was an amazing accomplishment to have all those nationally-ranked players and champions. This was long before tennis hit the big time.”
Robin said his dad found Bollettieri coaching at a public park in Florida. He spent three summers in Springfield from 1959-61. After a one-year absence, he returned in 1963 when Charles Fry, chairman of the Springfield Country Club tennis commission, hired him as the head pro there.
After leaving Springfield, Bollettieri went on to coach 10 No. 1 players in the world, including Andre Agassi, Boris Becker and, more recently, Maria Sharapova. Robin Fry benefitted from Bollettieri’s expertise long before they did.
“Nick was a real Florida guy,” Fry said. “He had a big, long Oldsmobile, and he’d put you in the back of that car and drive 100 miles an hour to a tournament. It was wild. You just played a lot.”
Fry won the state championship by beating Lima Senior’s James Bright 6-1, 6-3 in Columbus. He doesn’t remember much about the actual match, other than he had to jump in a car to attend a choir concert right after it was over.
After graduating from North in 1968, Fry first played tennis at Stanford University before transferring to Ohio State. Fry, 60, has spent most of his career in the advertising industry. He lived in Manhattan for 14 years and now lives in New Jersey and commutes to New York City.
Robin doesn’t play tennis anymore, but his sister Marmee is on the staff at the Camargo Racquet Club in Cincinnati. Their dad died in 2003.
“My father loved tennis,” Robin said. “I always wanted to play football. He wouldn’t let me. I remember making the flag football team in grade school at Snowhill, and my father told me the next day, ‘You can’t play this. I don’t want you to get hurt.’ ”
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