David Dixon: The Man who changed Tennis forever

David Dixon: The Man who changed Tennis forever

If there’s one man to whom today’s tennis players should be indebted for their huge earnings by playing tennis, it would be none other than David Frank Dixon. A businessman from New Orleans, he changed tennis forever.

He not only gave colour and sound to the game, but also created World Championship Tennis (WCT), a tour for professional male  tennis players in 1968. It not only revolutionised the game like never before but also gave way to an open era in tennis.

It forged ahead by challenging the then prevailing conservative norms and introduced the tiebreaker system and coloured clothing for the players.

Not only WCT encouraged spectators to cheer for players but also publicly announced their prize money structure and bonus pool to attract top players. These explicit changes helped the game to rise in popularity in no time.

Besides, he was also called the ‘Father of professional football in New Orleans’.

A successful businessman in the plywood business, David Dixon badly wanted to bring professional football to his city and in the 1960s, he had begun sharing his ideas to anyone who would listen. Dixon and a local civic group had worked over five years for an NFL franchise and had hosted record crowds for NFL exhibition games in New Orleans.

And by 1966 November 1, on a Catholic All Saints’ Day his efforts bore fruit when the NFL (National Football League) officially sanctioned the New Orleans Saints, the new NFL expansion team.

To talk about the Louisiana Superdome (now Mercedes-Benz Superdome), the home ground of Saints, it was Dixon’s brainchild. He hired an architect friend to build a simple model of a covered arena, and he carried the prop around the state to get support for the construction.

When John McKeithen became the governor of Louisiana in 1964, Dixon visited him with his prop. Once he had done pitching the governor on the dome idea, McKeithen stood up and declared, “By God, we’re going to build that sucker.”

Dixon also founded the United States Football League (USFL), which played three seasons from 1983 to 1985. In his lifetime, Dixon not only saw the Dome host six Super Bowls but also enjoyed the thrill of the Saints winning a championship of their own.

Though he announced the “Fan Owned Football League” in 1996, in which 70 per cent of the stock would be with the general public the proposal did not go beyond the planning stage.

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