Known fondly as “Mr Tennis”, Ken Willis is considered the icon of post -World War II tennis in Canberra.
After moving permanently from Yass to Canberra in 1946, Ken was a founding member and administrator of the Turner Tennis Club, fulfilling roles as both President and Vice-President. He subsequently became Secretary of the ACT Lawn Tennis Association from 1954 to 1963, progressing to the role of President, a position in which he remained until 1977. For the next 15 years Ken continued to serve as Chair of the National Tennis and Sports Centre and then Patron of the Association, before retiring from the role in 1998.
At a time in which the city was rapidly expanding and tennis participation booming alongside this growth, his leadership was critical in advancing the tennis landscape and guiding the sport’s move from its home at Manuka to the current site in Lyneham. Ken’s vision laid the foundation for the world class facility that is now the Canberra Tennis Centre.
Ken was awarded Honorary Life Membership of the Association in 1977, Australian Tennis Veteran of the Year in 1983 and an Order of Australia Medal for services to tennis in 1978. As part of the 75th Anniversary of the ACT Tennis Association in 1998, Ken received the highest award “for the most outstanding contribution over the Association’s history” and was an inaugural inductee to the ACT Tennis Walk of Fame in 2016.
Having not picked up a racquet until well into his twenties, Ken developed a lasting passion for the game, still playing until his 90th birthday. He passed away in September 2017.