John Mayotte Jr. was as surprised as anyone when he heard he was going to be elected to the USTA New England Hall of Fame.
And for the longtime tennis player and instructor, the moment was worth the wait.
"It was a great honor for me and to represent my family," said Mayotte, originally from Springfield, in a phone interview with The Eagle.
Mayotte, 68, grew up just east of the Berkshires, but towns like Pittsfield and Lenox have played an integral part of his tennis journey.
Mayotte was elected to the USTA New England Hall of Fame on June 11 at a ceremony in Newport, R.I. at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The elder brother of famed tennis star Tim Mayotte, John had thought his moment to be inducted into the regional Hall of Fame had passed. Then he received a phone call last fall that he was to be inducted into the 2016 class.
"It was a little bit of a surprise," Mayotte said. "A lot of my friends were inducted in the '90s; guys I competed with in tournaments around the country and around New England. I am a late inductee.
"My brother Tim was inducted in ," he said. "Of course, he was a better player than me. I didn't know that I would ever get nominated or inducted. "
Starting out on the tennis courts at Forest Park in Springfield, Mayotte taught himself how to play tennis without formal instruction. Instead, he watched other players and learned that way. His unusual training paid off in high school with multiple Western Mass. and state championships in the early 1960s.
From there, Mayotte went to Holy Cross to play tennis in college. Mayotte stopped playing professionally shortly after and instead focused on getting a law degree. While Mayotte studied at Western New England for his degree, he began teaching tennis in the Berkshires.
Mayotte was a staple at Blantyre as the tennis professional, and he was also the tennis pro at the Berkshire Indoor Tennis Club. Mayotte taught many residents of Berkshire County, and was an active face in a booming tennis scene.
At the age of 25, Mayotte began competing again. This led to, according to him, one of his greatest accomplishments as a player — winning the Western New England tournament at the Country Club of Pittsfield. Mayotte won the event in 1978, and retired again from playing shortly after.
"Stopped playing competitively at 30, in 1978-79, when I won that Pittsfield tournament," Mayotte said. "That was a big relief to me. I took a big breath; it was a big accomplishment. I had a great year that year."
Tennis, though, wasn't done with Mayotte.
With John's younger brother Tim rapidly rising through the ranks — Tim was the No. 1 player for Stanford and won an NCAA singles title in 1981 before going on to play in the Wimbledon and Australian Open semifinals — John helped Tim choose a management company for his career. Tim signed for Donald Dell's ProServ, which was one of the first sports management companies in the country. While Dell started ProServ to represent tennis greats Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith, the company grew to represent athletes from a variety of sports, including NBA legend Michael Jordan. But after helping Tim choose ProServ, John took it one step further and began working for the company. John stayed with ProServ for 12 years before retiring.
Tim was with John at his induction ceremony, as were the other two Mayottes who played tennis, brother Chris and sister Mary. Mary originally nominated John for the Hall of Fame two years ago, then last year Tom George, a friend of John's from his Holy Cross days, nominated him again. John Mayotte was selected for the Hall of Fame after the second nomination, and was informed of the decision last fall.
After his time at ProServ, John Mayotte began playing again in the USTA senior divisions.
"I just wanted to start playing again," Mayotte said of his return to action. "Time was passing by, I wanted to stay in shape and get in better shape. I wanted to see some of my old friends, and I'm pretty good. I wanted to step back in, and I've enjoyed it very much."
Mayotte has done well for himself since returning to play. In 2014, Mayotte won the USTA's grass-courts championship in the 65 age group, which is for players between the ages of 60 and 65. Mayotte reached as high as No. 3 in the national rankings.
He continues to play the senior circuit, and now lives in Clarksville, Md., with his wife, Elizabeth.
On the wall in his house, Mayotte still has a picture from when he won the Western New England tournament in Pittsfield. He considers the win "almost my pinnacle" in his career.
And now he'll have a Hall of Fame plaque to put next to it.
Contact Geoff Smith at 413-496-6254.