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Bob Hewitt formally charged with rape in South Africa

 Bob Hewitt holds a plaque from his induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport in 1992.

MIKE BAZ

Bob Hewitt holds a plaque from his induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport in 1992.

BOKSBURG, South Africa — Former Grand Slam doubles champion Bob Hewitt was charged in a South African court Friday with two counts of rape and one count of sexual assault of minors in cases that date back as far as the early 1980s.

Prosecutors charged the 73-year-old Hewitt with raping a girl under the age of 16 in 1981 in Sun City in northern South Africa. Hewitt also was charged with raping another girl under 16 in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg, in 1982.

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A third charge of sexual assault of a girl under 18 in Boksburg in 1994 was read out at Boksburg Magistrate’s Court.

Hewitt, who won 15 Grand Slam doubles titles, has previously denied the accusations. He did not attend his case’s first court hearing, citing ill health, but defense lawyer Alwyn Griebenow said Hewitt denies all the charges.

Hewitt is suffering from anxiety attacks among other health problems, is taking medication and couldn’t travel from his home in Addo, on South Africa’s southern coast, to attend the hearing, Griebenow told reporters.

The charges followed a two-year investigation by South African authorities into accusations against the Australian-born Hewitt, who moved to South Africa and became a coach toward the end of his tennis career.

The two alleged rape victims have said they were being coached by Hewitt at the time that the offenses are said to have taken place. The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse.

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Hewitt won doubles and mixed doubles titles at all four Grand Slam events between 1963 and 1979 and played with greats like Billie Jean King.

Hewitt was indefinitely suspended from the International Tennis Hall of Fame last year because of the allegations. The organization, based in Newport, R.I., inducted Hewitt in 1992, calling him an ‘‘enduringly elegant player’’ and a ‘‘master of the doubles craft.’’

Prosecutors said they would apply for Hewitt’s trial to be held at the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg because two of the three alleged offenses occurred within its jurisdiction. The defense argued that Hewitt was too old to travel and said it would make an application for the trial to be held in the Eastern Cape Province, where he lives.

The case was adjourned until Oct. 4.

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