Solomon, Harold : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Solomon, Harold

Nicknamed "Solly" while on the ATP tour in the 1970s and early 1980s, Solomon was a top ten player at his peak, and was ranked No. 5 in the world in 1980, when he was a semi-finalist at the French Open. Known as "the human backboard" because he played like one, Harold was notorious for frustrating his opponents with his lobs and relentless, methodical returns. "When you played Harold," observed fellow pro Erik Van Dillen, "you'd better bring your lunch and dinner -- you might be out there all day." Solomon defended himself this way: "I guess it's not so exciting to see eight million balls hit back and forth, but I wonder, is it any more exciting to see Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl each hitting 40 aces?" After retiring in the mid-1980s, Solomon became a renowned coach; his most famous pupil is Jennifer Capriatti, whose career Harold helped rejuvenate in the late 1990s.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. Sept. 17, 1952

Career Highlights:
Harold began playing tennis at the age of five and his talent was apparent when he was still a young player. A a teenager, he was ranked No. 2 in the U.S. in the 14, 16, and 18 age groups, and also won the U.S. Boys 18 Clay Court Championship. After an All-America career at Rice University, Harold rose to No. 15 in the world in 1974 and won his first pro singles titles in Washington, D.C. that year. A gritty, determined player, known for his tireless effort, Harold finished in the top 25 in the year-end rankings every year through 1981, reaching No. 5 in September, 1980. During that stretch, Solomon won an additional 21 singles titles, including the Tournament of Champions in 1977.

In the 1970s, Harold also played for the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1972-78, twice helping the United States to championships. His most successful Grand Slam tournament was the 1976 French Open, where he lost to Adriano Panatta in the finals; he also reached the semifinals at the French Open in 1974 and 1980, and the semis at the U.S. Open in 1977. In 1980, Harold's best year, he won 64 matches and lost 23. In a sort of unexpected bonus, Playgirl magazine named him one of the 10 sexiest men of the year. That year, Harold was also voted ATP president, a position he held until 1983; he then served on the ATP board of directors.

After retiring from the ATP tour in 1986, Solomon worked as the Vice President of Human Resources in the family-owned business, Diversified Services. He was also Chairman of the Board of End World Hunger, a not-for-profit organization that taught residents of low-income housing projects in the U.S. how to grow food and become self-sufficient. Harold also became a top-rated coach, and helped Jennifer Capriatti return to top-form in the late 1990s. Harold was initially contacted by Jennifer's father, but he said he would not coach her until Jennifer called him herself. After she did, he helped lead her to two titles in 1999 and to the semifinals in the Australian Open. In 2000, however, Solomon and Capriatti parted ways after he was frustrated by her lack of focus.

Washington, D.C.

Physical description:
5'6", 130 pounds

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Also, read a chapter from The Jew in American Sports by Harold U. Ribalow and Meir Z. Ribalow

Great Jews in Sports, by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)