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The tennis community remembers Thomas L. Dempsey

The tennis community remembers Thomas L. Dempsey

The tennis world is mourning the loss of Thomas L. Dempsey, the visionary who developed Saddlebrook Resort in 1979 into one of the most iconic tennis hotspots in the world. Details about Dempsey's passing are still forthcoming.  

Florida Tennis received the news that Dempsey had passed away from Greg Sharko, former director of public relations for the ATP. Sharko reached out to several former ATP Tour players who trained at Saddlebrook who knew Dempsey and got a sense of the gravity of this loss from those within the upper echelons of tennis world.

According to former ATP world no. 4 James Blake, "Tom Dempsey, TD as we knew him, was a pillar down at Saddlebrook. That was where I spent almost my entire career. It was such a joy to see what he had built there and get the opportunities to share a meal with Mr. Dempsey and his lovely wife. He was always so aware and astute about what was going on in the tennis world. I will always be grateful for the opportunities he afforded me at his academy. He will forever be missed."

Former ATP world no. 1 Pete Sampras said, "I will always be grateful to Mr. Dempsey as Saddlebrook was a very big piece of my tennis career. I appreciated him giving me the opportunity to train there. I would like to send my condolences to his family."

Former ATP world no. 7 Mardy Fish said, “TD was a visionary. A man who loved sports and had a great passion for tennis. I will remember him and Elle from our dinners at his restaurant at Saddlebrook, to seeing them at Stacey’s wedding in Los Angeles. A beautiful man who will be missed but always remembered."

And former ATP world no. 8 John Isner said, "Tom was someone who was always so kind to me during my time in Tampa, Florida at Saddlebrook. He opened up a lot of doors for me professionally and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for that. He was a great, great man. Rest in peace Tom."

Others from outside the tennis world also remember the legacy of Dempsey. ESPN Senior NFL Reporter Sal Paolantonio who stayed in the Tampa area while covering the Bucs said, "Tom Dempsey had the vision to build something truly unique at Saddlebrook — an oasis that was family friendly and inspired a healthy lifestyle. His tennis academy and tennis complex was just marvelously inviting — swaying palm trees and gentle breezes. It was just a perfect place to immerse yourself into playing a game we love."

Paolantonio added, "But Tom will always be remembered as someone who was extraordinarily generous with his time and money. He supported young tennis stars and people in all walks of life. To me, Tom was like a second father. He nurtured and helped me grow my career. I’ve  traveled all over the world in the US Navy and now for ESPN — and I can tell you Tom Dempsey was one of a kind.”

According to Business Observer Florida, "Saddlebrook Resort was first developed by Thomas L. Dempsey, who was then chairman and CEO of Penton Publishing, a subsidiary of the Pittway Corp., after Pittway bought the 480 acres in 1979."

Known worldwide as a hub for tennis, Saddlebrook soon turned into the training ground for some of America's top tennis players, including Pete Sampras, Andy Roddick, James Blake, Jennifer Capriati, John Isner, and Jim Courier.

Isner's former coach, Craig Boynton, who was also a former Director of Tennis at Saddlebrook adds, "When Harry Hopman [Tennis] Academy and Camps were looking for a new home, Tom Dempsey welcomed them with open arms."

In 2023, Dempsey sold Saddlebook Resort to a group of investors, led by Mast Capital. "I’m very pleased; it has a long way to go," Dempsey told New Tampa & Wesley Chapel Neighborhood News.  "A great group of people bought it and intend to expand it in the future and we’ll be working with them in the future."

Florida Tennis recently reported that the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) is moving their home office to Saddlebrook Resort later this year.

On behalf of so many within the tennis community, Florida Tennis extends its deepest sympathies and condolences to the many friends and extended family of Thomas L. Dempsey.

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