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Uihlein, Brian

Brian Uihlein had a stellar playing career, winning the Men’s National Championships twice, in 2006 and 2008, both times with David Keevins. He was a major force on the tour during his era, achieving national rankings between 1997 and 2015 and collecting numerous titles. Perhaps Uihlein’s greatest impact on the game came from his ultra-aggressive style of play, including the spin shots which literally changed the way the game is played at the championship level. These spins allowed Uihlein to play offensively at net, commonplace today, but which had never been done before. Uihlein also contributed to the game off the court, participating in many clinics and exhibitions and contributing behind the scenes to the Chicago Platform Tennis Charities. He has demonstrated a high level of integrity and sportsmanship throughout his career, earning the respect and admiration of the paddle community.

INDUCTION SPEECH (from Flip Goodspeed):

It is truly an honor to introduce this year’s Hall of Fame inductee Brian Uihlein. Brian is one of the most generous, kind, humble, and athletic people in our sport. Personally, I think he is the most talented and most competitive guy I’ve played against in my 30 years. He is so humble most people don’t know about all his successes on and off the court.

Brian is one of three kids, who grew up playing many sports, most at a very high level. His first love was football, where he played quarterback for his high school team, but his true talent was tennis. His parents made a wise decision when they encouraged him to leave football and concentrate on his tennis game. Based on his huge success on the court, it was a good decision.

In high school, he won the state championship as a sophomore with his partner, John Noble. It was the first tennis state championship for Lake Forest by a player or a team. That year they went 22-0. Brian went on to finish a successful high school tennis career.

Brian followed his older brother Duke to the University of Minnesota, where he continued to excel in tennis. He was an All Big Ten selection three years straight, 1990, 1991, and 1992, and received the Jerry Noyes Most Improved Player Award for two years. That’s a lot of Improving for someone, based on his record, who didn’t need to a lot of improving. This didn’t bode well for the rest of the Big Ten. He finished his college career as an All-American athlete with a doubles record of 26-4 and qualified for the NCAAs. He is only one of eight All-American tennis players at University of Minnesota, and still holds the school record for most school wins with 81.

After college, he took his tennis on the road and played on the satellite tour, where he won three or four doubles tournaments. In the mid-1990s, his family started a family business and he made the decision that his talents and energy were better suited for the business at home.

Once home, he needed to fill his tennis void, so he picked up paddle tennis. Rod Workman took him under his wing to teach him the sport. It didn’t take long for their roles to be reversed.

Brian has always been known as a strategic thinker. His outrageous spins and ultra-aggressive style literally changed the way the game is played. At the highest level of competition, it has been emulated by a lot of the top players today. These spins allowed Brian to play an offensive style at net that previously hadn’t been done before. Brian always seemed to want to end points as quickly as possible, so he played the use of crafty overheads, such as the infamous Albuquerque, FYM, and many other slash overheads. Brian’s style of play forced opponents to change their strategy.

His talent was simply to take over the match. I for one learned to hit my lobs twice as high as normal so he wouldn’t spin the ball. The problem was when you did hit a short lob the point was basically over. I went back in my mental library, and I think I’ve only lost 6-0, 6-0 once in my career. It was at the 2006 Chicago Charities in the quarters [against Brian]. I invited a bunch of my friends to watch this really good match, and they hadn’t even finished their first beer and we were already shaking hands.

Brian was consistently ranked top eight in the country for over a decade while playing with many unranked players. He then paired with David Keevins in 2005, where they ended the year ranked number one, followed by National Championships in 2006 and 2008.

Brian has been heavily involved in the Chicago area paddle community on and off the court. He has been involved in the Chicago League supporting it financially as well as participating in clinics and exhibitions. In fact, it is well known that he changed the après league paddle night by instigating the Rolling BBQ at the Onwentsia Club. Rumor had it that any team that played at Onwenstia cancelled all business and family obligations in order to play and enjoy the food. On any given night, Brian made sure the grill was fired up and ready to go. This raised the bar in Chicago paddle leagues and just about every other club took their paddle events up a notch. A legacy anyone would be proud of. I believe he took the Rolling BBQ on the road and entered a bunch of chili and barbeque cookoffs and won those, too.

In talking about Brian with others prior to tonight, outside of his significant talent on the court, it is his character and work ethic that really shine through. He is truly humble, certainly not a grandstander, and I’m sure many of you never knew all his accomplishments before tonight. He is a true and loyal friend, I know this personally, and it was made very evident by friends through conversations I’ve had. Brian continues to be an avid supporter of the game, both personally and through his sponsorships, and for that we are all truly grateful. He currently lives in Chicago with his wife Karen and his four beautiful kids.

It is my privilege to introduce this year’s Hall of Fame inductee and recipient of the APTA’s highest honor, Chicago’s own Brian Uihlein.

See video of Brian’s Acceptance Speech