Daniel Island’s Steve Zalinski to be inducted into S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame
Steve Zalinski was a high school athlete in Chicago and dabbled in many sports in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including football, basketball and tennis. There is good reason why Zalinksi decided on a career path that ultimately led to tennis.
He played football at Swerz High School and once faced a team that had an imposing linebacker: Dick Butkus. Zalinski collided with the future Hall of Famer and after suffering a broken nose, he knew the gridiron would not be his stage.
Then there’s basketball. He liked hoops but remembers going up against Cazzie Russell. Russell, who went on to have a great career at both the collegiate and NBA levels, drove to the basket and leveled Zalinski, smashing into his face.
After that, Zalinski again realized his future would be strictly tennis. More than a half century later, his dedication and love for the sport would be rewarded.
Zalinski, of Daniel Island and Greenville, will be inducted into the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame along with Domino Boulware of Columbia. Their achievements will be celebrated Dec. 9 at the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame banquet at the Omni Hilton Head Resort on Hilton Head Island.
“I just have that love for the game,” Zalinski said. “It is an incredible honor. My mom and dad played tennis and they shared their love of tennis with me.”
Zalinski earned a tennis scholarship to play tennis for DePaul University where he became a top ranked player and was inducted into the DePaul Athletic Hall of Fame. He was the top ranked player in Chicago for nearly two decades and became a tennis pro in the Chicagoland area.
He moved to the Palmetto State in 1992 when he was named vice president of sales for Dunlop, a position he held for nearly two decades.
He retired in 2007, but didn’t slow down. He joined the USTA Southern Section staff as the tennis service representative for the Palmetto State. He worked with the Palmetto Championships in Belton to develop the Dunlop Scholarship, which recognizes an incoming college freshman who has participated in junior tennis in South Carolina. In 1996, the Zalinskis received the USTA SC Tennis Family of the Year Award. He has served on the board of the Lowcountry Youth Tennis Association and the Lowcountry Tennis Association. Zalinski also frequently volunteers his time with Family Circle Cup, which is now the Volvo Car Open.
His biggest tennis joy just might be his involvement in the 10-and-Under tennis program. Young players use smaller rackets, smaller balls and play on smaller courts to hone their skills.
“They have been using that program in Europe since 1984,” Zalinski said. (Roger) Federer, (Justine) Henin and (Kim) Clijsters and other European players came up that way. It’s just a wonderful way to play tennis for all involved. I think the future is bright for American players with this program in place.”