Chris Mayotte was a gifted tennis player, and as proud as he is of his accomplishments, he gives tribute to his former coach, Ron Smarr, and teammates for helping him achieve at a level that not only saw him become a two-time All-American for South Carolina, but also enjoy a successful professional career. Now he’s one of eight members of the 2023 class for the University of South Carolina Association of Lettermen’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
“I was very excited about getting in,” said Mayotte, a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, who now lives in Norwalk, Connecticut. “The credit really goes to Ron for being persistent in getting me in. Two years ago, he told me he was going to really make an effort to get me into the South Carolina Hall of Fame. I’m very proud of my accomplishments at South Carolina. I guess I do feel like I deserve it relative to the other tennis players that are in there, and it’s just really exciting to be in.
“The guys on the team were always great. And Ron was always really good. Ron was always there. He recruited me. He was at every practice. There was never any drama. He gets credit for getting me in there, and he gets credit for all my results because he created the environment that he promised me when I was recruited. He did that for all the guys. I was an Irish-Catholic guy from the North. Coming to South Carolina was a big transition, culturally. The cultural experience of being in South Carolina, I appreciate it more now than I did then.”
“Ron recruited Barry Gilbert, and I was already there. Barry had a brother, Brad, who became number four in the world. We were the ‘brothers of’ (great players). We used to argue who was going to have a better career, my brother Timmy, or his brother, Brad.”
Mayotte starred for the Gamecocks from 1976-79. posting a 93-25 record in singles and a 62-18 mark in doubles. From 1977-78, he recorded an impressive 42-10 mark in singles play. He was the recipient of the 1979 Rafael Osuna Award, signifying outstanding sportsmanship, character, scholastic achievement, and tennis-playing accomplishments. The competition he faced in college put him against some of the top players in the world. Following his collegiate career, he went on to play professionally, winning three doubles titles and was the first Gamecock to play singles in all four Grand Slam events.
“Getting into South Carolina was great,” Mayotte said. “That first year, I was maybe number five on the team, and that summer I really took off and sort of found my rhythm.
“I played the U.S. Open in 1980 and 1981. At that time, one half of the players in the U.S. Open were kids who came from colleges in the United States. In 1978, I think we were 16th in the country, and we went to play Stanford, and I played (John) McEnroe. At that point, he was already around number six in the world. Before he went to Stanford, he got to the semis at Wimbledon. Then he went and won the NCAAs. My brother, Timmy, won the NCAAs two years later (at Stanford).”
“I loved the game, and it led to some great opportunities for me.”
Mayotte played on the Junior Davis Cup Team in between his sophomore and junior years, which gave him some wild card entries into professional tournaments where he could earn ATP points and be ranked among the top 150 in the world. After playing in the Futures Tour, he was ranked high enough to play at Wimbledon, U.S. Open, Australian Open, and French Open.
“I was on the tour for four years and I played all the majors,” Mayotte said. “I did everything I could to break though, but the guys were just so good. I got to number 85 in the world, and I saved some money. Surprisingly, at that point I said I wanted to get out of tennis. There were a lot of personal reasons, so I decided I wanted to try the world of finance. I stopped playing in 1984 and went and got my MBA from NYU. I was a stockbroker for a while.
“When I left the tour, I was an emotional mess. I also knew that I had some great accomplishments to come back and help me. I loved the game, and it led to some great opportunities for me.
“Between 1985 and 2000, I re-found myself. In 1990, I met the love of my life, Cathy, who was from South Bend (Indiana). We didn’t get married until 2000. In 2000, I decided to leave the world of finance and went back into the tennis world and started teaching.”
After his daughter Lindsey was born, Mayotte became a stay-at-home dad for ten years and later went back to teaching tennis in southern Connecticut. Now, he’s looking forward to being back on campus and soaking in everything associated with Hall of Fame Weekend.
“To be on the field at Williams-Brice is going to be bizarre for me,” Mayotte said. “Cathy and Lindsey really want to see the campus. I want to walk them around the Horseshoe. I did a lot of walking when I was on campus. It’s such a beautiful campus.”