Tennis players, and this industry, can thank both Jim Fromuth and the late Vic Braden for helping to improve their games and grow this sport.
Fromuth, the founder of the eponymous tennis equipment distribution company, and Braden, whose tennis academies, books and videos brought tennis to the masses, both have had a hand in millions of players enjoying this game over the last four decades.
Both men will be inducted into the Tennis Industry Hall of Fame on Aug. 27, during the TIA Tennis Forum at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. (Visit TennisIndustry.org for more information or to register for the Forum, which is free to attend.) They join a celebrated list of industry inventors, founders, innovators and contributors and their names will be on a plaque on display in a building at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.
The Fromuth company, co-founded by Jim and his father in 1972 in Reading, Pa., started as an art-supply shop. Fromuth, who played high school and college tennis, brought tennis into the company, then took it to the next level by committing to large inventories. The company has been dedicated to national distribution to tennis and racquet sports pro shops and independent retailers ever since.
“I like people, and that’s what we’re all about,” says Fromuth, who is currently treasurer and operations manager. “I think the secret to dealing with people is to put yourself in their shoes. If I can understand what you need and what your challenges are, then it’s my job to come up with solutions.”
“Jim is one of the truly good guys in the business, and the ultimate professional,” says Greg Mason, president of Head USA Racquet Sports. “He really has the pro shop in mind. That’s always his priority.”
Vic Braden, who passed away in 2014 at age 85, attended Kalamazoo College, where he was captain of the tennis team, and became a tennis professional after graduating in 1951. He obtained a master's degree in psychology from Cal State, joined Jack Kramer’s pro tour, then co-founded The Jack Kramer Club, where he served as head tennis pro.
In 1974, Braden opened a tennis academy at Coto de Caza, Calif., where he pioneered a scientific approach to the game that involved studying film of top players to analyze the physiology and biomechanics of the sport. He also studied the psychology of tennis.
Braden’s best-known pupil was Tracy Austin, but his “bread and butter” was teaching the techniques of elite athletes to the less accomplished. He wrote eight books, starred in instructional videos, and had his own PBS television series, called “Tennis for the Future.” During the tennis boom in the 1970s, Braden helped lead charge, with his motto: “Laugh and win.”
“Vic was the greatest student our sport has ever known,” longtime sports industry executive Ray Benton said at Braden’s 2017 induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. “He truly loved the game. More than anything, Vic wanted everyone to learn, to improve, to be happy and to laugh.”
Fromuth and Braden become the 14th and 15th inductees into the Tennis Industry Hall of Fame, following in the footsteps of the likes of Howard Head, Dennis Van der Meer, Alan Schwartz, Billie Jean King, Nick Bollettieri, Howard Gill Jr., Walter Montenegro, Sheldon Westervelt, Jim Baugh, Peter Burwash, Eve Kraft, Gene Scott and David Haggerty.