Bill Lenoir accomplished so much in his tennis career, his high school days would almost seem to be a footnote.
But his achievements at Phoenix West and Tucson High are remarkable even when viewed apart from his later exploits, and for them Lenoir is a member of the 2013 class of the azcentral.com Arizona High School Sports Hall of Fame.
Lenoir’s love of tennis was evident from a young age. Although he was a shy person throughout his life, his intense drive shone through on the court, where he was never satisfied.
“When he had a goal and he was committed to it, he worked so hard at it,” Lenoir’s widow Linda said by phone from Florida, where the couple lived until Bill died in 2007 after a battle with thyroid cancer.
“He always felt that he didn’t have tremendous natural talent, but his biggest talent was his self-discipline and his diligence.”
He had enough talent to become one of the more accomplished tennis players in Arizona history.
He started at Phoenix West High, which he led to back-to-back state championships and fifth-place national finishes in 1957 and 1958.
He moved to Tucson for his junior and senior seasons, winning two more state championships. As a senior in 1960, he also helped Tucson to a national title, beating fellow greats Arthur Ashe and Charlie Pasarell in the process.
With his storied high school career finished, Lenoir moved on to the University of Arizona, where he became a three-time All-American and reached the semifinals of the 1962 NCAA championships. He also played at Wimbledon in 1963 and 1965.
“He would just study and play tennis,” Linda said. “I was impressed with how someone could focus in so much on a few things. I’ve never really known anyone like that before.”
Lenoir went on to coach the tennis programs at both Arizona and Arizona State, before becoming the teaching pro at Scottsdale’s Chaparral Racquet Club.
Prior to retiring in 2005, he also spent 21 years as tennis director of the Tampa Yacht and Country Club.
On and off the court, he was known as much for his integrity as a man as for his prowess as a tennis player. There was no shame in losing to Bill Lenoir. And he’d be the first to congratulate you if you managed to beat him.
“As accomplished as he was in tennis and in certain other things,” Linda said, “the thing that impressed me the most was his outstanding character and the man he was.
“He was just amazing.”