Johannesburg: Former South African tennis great Bob Hewitt has been accused of sexually molesting young girls during his heyday, with one of them filing a rape case against him at a police station here.
The allegations first surfaced after a six-month investigation by 'The Globe' newspaper in Boston saw nine women, most now in their forties and living in different countries, giving details of sexual abuse at the hands of their idol and mentor as they dreamed of a successful tennis career.
Now Suellen Sheehan has confirmed to the daily 'The Star' that she has filed a rape charge against the international Tennis Hall of Fame star at a police station, but did not give further details.
The 71-year-old Hewitt's case has been further affected by another former South African tennis ace, Ray Moore, telling the daily that he had approached tennis authorities at the time to take action against Hewitt about the rumours that were circulating about his relationship with his young female charges.
Moore said he was told that nothing could be done unless formal charges were laid against Hewitt.
Young players were reported to be in awe of Hewitt, who was ranked as one of the greatest tennis doubles players ever on the international circuit in the 1970s and 1980s. This resulted in many of them fearing ostracisation if they reported any incidents.
Amanda Wienhold, now 31 and living in the US, said her parents had tried to lay sexual harassment charges against Hewitt but were told that it would be her word against that of a famous tennis player.
"The final straw was when he caught me alone at the next tournament and said 'You may have won the battle, but you will never win the war'," Wienhold said.
Some of the women, who have come forward about their alleged abuse at Hewitt's hands have demanded that the international Tennis Hall of Fame and the South African Sports Hall of Fame exclude Hewitt.
The International organisation has appointed a team to investigate this while the local body said that they would only consider this if Hewitt, now a television commentator, was found guilty by a court of law.
Hewitt has declined to discuss the allegations, which also featured in an HBO TV documentary last month, but may now be forced to react after the official rape charge was laid by Sheehan.