By Daniel Lovering
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (Reuters) - The International Tennis Hall of Fame suspended former star Bob Hewitt after an investigation into sexual abuse allegations, the organization's director said on Friday.
The Hall of Fame hired an attorney to conduct the investigation, which included interviews with alleged victims, who were between the ages of 12 and 15 when coached by Hewitt decades ago. Hewitt flew to Boston from his home in South Africa to be interviewed, said Mark Stenning, chief executive of the organization based in Newport, Rhode Island.
Members of the Hall of Fame's executive committee voted unanimously on Wednesday to suspend Hewitt indefinitely "based on their belief that what was presented to them was in fact credible evidence," Stenning said.
"The allegations brought to us were extremely troubling, and we're confident we've taken the appropriate action," Stenning said.
Plaques honoring Hewitt at the hall were removed, as was his entry on the organization's website. "Bob Hewitt ceases to exist in the Hall of Fame," Stenning said.
The Hall of Fame became aware of the allegations that Hewitt sexually abused and harassed young women in the United States and South Africa when they were reported by The Boston Globe last year, he said.
Born in Australia and later a resident of South Africa, Hewitt was a top-ranked tennis player in the 1960s and 1970s.
He won men's or mixed doubles titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. and French opens, and the Australian Championship.
A woman quoted as saying Hewitt had sex with her in the 1970s when she was 15 did not immediately respond to a phone call from Reuters seeking comment. Hewitt was not immediately reachable.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Bill Trott)