By John L. Pitts
Dave Randall, whose life in tennis took him from Tupelo to Ole Miss to Wimbledon, was inducted into the Mississippi Tennis Hall of Fame last Saturday in Jackson.
“The evening was just about perfect,” Randall said. “I was honored to be inducted into the group. My parents were there, my brother from Birmingham and a lot of friends from Tupelo.”
Randall, 46, is the head pro and director of tennis at the River Hills Tennis Club in Jackson.
His introduction to the sport began on the park courts of Tupelo.
“My dad was a city park hacker and it became the family thing to do,” Randall said.
One of his early practice partners was Margaret Gratz. “He was just a little boy, and I was the one his father would call to hit with Dave,” she recalled.
“As I said in my speech at the induction ceremony, eventually that little whippersnapper started beating me. He was 7 or 8 years old.”
Randall insists he was “not a tennis phenom,” but rather a player who worked hard and saw that effort pay off.
‘Better and better’
He was the state’s top-ranked junior player and twice qualified for the Boys 18 Nationals. At Tupelo High School, he won a state doubles title and two state singles titles (1984, 1985).
“It seemed like I just kept getting better and better,” Randall said. “Once I had the opportunity to play at Ole Miss, I really improved.”
The Rebels benefited from his improvement.
“Dave was the cornerstone for putting Ole Miss tennis on the map,” head coach Billy Chadwick said.
Randall and teammate Jamie Booras were the first tennis All-Americans at Ole Miss. He would win three SEC titles, including the No.1 singles crown in 1988.
In 1989, Randall won the NCAA’s Rafael Osuna Sportsmanship Award.
“By my senior year, I knew I didn’t want to quit playing,” Randall said. “There wasn’t some huge plan, but once I started playing as a pro, like the rest of my career, I kept getting better.”
Randall went on to a nine-year career on the ATP Tour, enjoyed his best success in doubles.
He was the first Mississippian to advance at Wimbledon, reaching the round of 32 in doubles twice (1993, 1997). He reached the doubles quarterfinals at the 1993 U.S. Open.
In 1995, Maragaret Gratz was in the stands at the All England Club to see Randall play.
“We were a long way from the tennis courts at Tupelo,” she said.