• Tennis

Former grand slam champion charged with rape

ESPN staff
August 17, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »

Grand slam doubles champion Bob Hewitt has been formally charged in a South African court with two counts of rape and one count of sexual assault of minors in cases that date back as far as the early 1980s.

Prosecutors charged the 73-year-old Hewitt, a former member of tennis' Hall of Fame, with raping a girl under the age of 16 in 1981 in Sun City in northern South Africa. Hewitt also was charged with raping another girl under 16 in 1982. A third charge of sexual assault of a girl under 18 in 1994 was read out at Boksburg Magistrate's Court.

Hewitt, who won 15 Grand Slam doubles titles, did not attend his case's first court hearing Friday, citing ill health, but his lawyer Alwyn Griebenow said Hewitt denies all the charges.

Hewitt is suffering from anxiety attacks and depression among other health problems, is taking medication and couldn't travel from his home in Addo, on South Africa's southern coast, to attend the hearing, Griebenow told reporters. A medical certificate from Hewitt's doctor was submitted to explain his absence and later released by the court.

The certificate said that Hewitt's "overall condition had deteriorated rapidly over the last two to three years." It described how Hewitt had undergone several operations on his knees and a shoulder and had also suffered a stroke in 2010 and a heart attack in 2011.

"Obviously all of this is working on him," Griebenow said. "He's an old man ... and now at such an age, at the age of 73, to be confronted by all of this, it's quite a lot to handle, I think."

The charges followed a two-year investigation by South African authorities into accusations against the Australian-born Hewitt, who moved to South Africa and became a coach toward the end of his tennis career. The two alleged rape victims have said they were being coached by Hewitt at the time.

Hewitt won doubles and mixed doubles titles at all four Grand Slam events between 1963 and 1979 and played with greats like Billie Jean King, but was indefinitely suspended from the International Tennis Hall of Fame last year because of the allegations. The organisation inducted Hewitt in 1992, calling him an "enduringly elegant player" and a "master of the doubles craft". Any references to him have now been stripped from the Hall.

The case was adjourned until October 4.

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