Larry Turville obit courtesy of the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

Larry Turville, a prolific and hugely successful competitor in senior tennis and an influential figure in the early days of the professionalization of the sport, died aged 71 on October 10 after a long battle with cancer.

Turville, who was born into a tennis family (his father was a former Davis Cup captain and President of the United States Lawn Tennis Association – now USTA), embraced the notion of tennis as a sport for life and not only competed, but succeeded, in the sport well into his later life.

The Florida native attained the world No. 1 ranking on the ITF Seniors Tour in November 2010 and won the biggest titles available in his age category – including both the 60+ ITF World Individual Championships in 2010 and for USA at the ITF World Team Championships.

He played over 300 matches on the ITF Seniors Tour, with a remarkable win-rate of 93%, and won 24 singles titles and numerous ITF doubles titles – including victories in the ITF World Championships in 1995, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2010.

Turville’s love-affair with the game began at junior level, and, benefiting from a tall, rangy frame, the six-foot-seven-inch American went on to become the No. 1 ranked player in Florida at under-18 level. He played collegiate tennis at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, earning All-American honours, before looking to forge a professional career.

At the time, the USTA and ITF didn’t provide aspiring tennis professionals opportunities to earn money and ranking points so they could develop into successful pros on the ATP Tour, so Turville and fellow touring pro Armistead Neely set out to do it themselves.

In 1971, the duo formed the first professional satellite tour called the WATCH (World Association of Tennis Champions), putting together a series of tournaments with $10,000 in prize money throughout Florida.

“We were the original circuit recognized for ATP points,’’ Turville remembered in 2017, while competing at that year’s Super-Seniors World Individual Championships.

“We were the model for satellite tournaments. I was still in the Army and Armistead put together 10 tournaments in Florida, with the first one at a two-court condo in Miami Beach.”

Five years later, the ATP took over the WATCH circuit, which eventually spawned the USTA and ITF Futures and Challengers circuits. “I’m proud of that,’’ Turville said. “We had 128 players in qualifying and had to have a second three-day circuit for qualies so we wouldn’t have them all sleeping in the locker room. “The following year there were 30 circuits around the world giving out $1 million in prize money.’’

In Turville’s seven-year professional career he reached a career-high ranking of No. 210 in 1976 and achieved milestone wins over No. 1 Guillermo Vilas in doubles and Jeff Borowiak, once ranked 20th, in singles. He also competed in the men’s singles at the 1969 US Open, men’s doubles at 1975 Wimbledon and mixed doubles at 1979 Roland Garros.

Turville will be sorely missed by the ITF Seniors Tennis community.