Sioux Falls native Billy Clayton,
now of Ft. Lauderdale, FL is being inducted into the
2006 South Dakota Tennis Hall of Fame for his dominating
play in junior tennis throughout the Midwest during the
mid-1960s through 1971.
A two-time state prep champion,
Billy was the leader of the 1971 Lincoln High School
tennis team that claimed the first official team title
in the state, as recognized by the SD High School
Activities Association. By winning the individual title
himself as a sophomore in 1969, and as a senior in 71,
Clayton spearheaded a Patriot team that won 37 straight
Billy’s love for tennis started
when parents Bill and Sally Clayton bought a home one
block from McKennan Park tennis courts. Between hitting
with his parents, and learning through the city park
program headed by Don Grebin, Clayton’s determination to
be one of the best started early as his play led to a #1
ranking in boys 12 singles in the Northwestern Tennis
Billy said he was inspired by
watching countless singles battles between Dave Weber
and John Simko on the old McKennan courts. And the fun
continued, said Billy, when he and his siblings (Stuart,
Kiki, Tom and Bobby) joined other local tennis families
like the Sandvigs and the Volins, along with other
contemporary players like Joe Henkin and Mike Reardon.
St. Louis pro Doug Smith, formerly
of Aberdeen and Sioux Falls, says Billy’s sheer
determination was a key to Billy’s on court success.
After beating Rapid City’s Randy Stolpe to win state as
a sophomore, Billy suffered a serious right hand injury
the winter of his junior year. Still recovering from his
injury, Billy dropped a 10-6 decision to Brookings’
Marty Johnson for the state title as a junior. However,
Billy then teamed with Randy Kochenderfer for the state
Smith recalls how Billy went to
work, learning how to hit under the new realities with
his hand injury, then won state again as a senior. I
always thought it was Billy’s signature moment and a
truly remarkable demonstration of what one can do with
sheer determination, said Smith.
Summer highlights in those days for
Billy meant tennis most weekends, all across the region.
Highlights included playing at major regional
tournaments in St. Louis and Minneapolis as well as the
US Junior Tennis Championships in Kalamazoo, MI. There,
Billy and frequent summer doubles partner Marty Johnson
got to face the likes of Jimmy Connors and Harold
Along summer’s way, Billy earned
high rankings in the NWTA, and won such tournaments as
the CC Lee, Hawkeye Open, SD Closed and Open (with
doubles partners such as Henkin, Reardon, Kochenderfer
The NWTA recognized the Claytons
with its Tennis Family of the Year Award in 1966. Today,
Florida could certainly take a look at Billy and wife
Sylvia for tennis family recognition. The same
opportunities Bill and Sally afforded Billy, he has
passed on to his four children. And they, too, have
seized the tennis opportunity in a big time way.
All are among the top players in
the USA, with the three oldest competing internationally
and getting to play some professional and ITF events.
Christopher, 20, will be a
sophomore at Harvard, where he played #2 on the tennis
team and was 19-14 his freshman year, earning 2nd
team all Ivy League. (He was top 20 in the USTA boys
Alexander, 18, has been top ten
USTA in boys 16s and 18s and won the 2005 US National
Clay Court singles (18s) and won the 2005 US Open boys
doubles title with Donald Young. He’s been selected as a
hitting partner for the US Davis Cup team with the Bryan
brothers, Andy Roddick and James Blake.
Courtney, 16, has been ranked #1 in
FL, and the USA and as a 15 year old in December, 2005
reached the quarterfinals of the Girls 18s at the Orange
Bowl Junior Tennis Championships in Key Biscayne.
Mary, 14, has won several state
titles in FL in girls 14s and 16s and is nationally
Billy received both his
undergraduate and law degrees at Northwestern University
(where he played varsity tennis). His law practice is
with Greenberg Traurig, P.A .of Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Billy’s area of experience includes: complex commercial
litigation including intellectual property cases;
construction, employment and insurance litigation, jury
trials, real property and title insurance litigation and
His professional honors are
numerous and he is a noted legal author and co-author.
He has appeared nationwide as a speaker on many legal
issues. In 1998, the ABA Sports Lawyers Conference named
him one of the most Influential Sports Lawyers.