Rape case against Hewitt postponed

The rape and sexual assault case against former Grand Slam doubles champion Bob Hewitt was postponed Friday for three months.

South Africa’s public prosecutor applied to have the charges against the former tennis Hall of Famer centralized and heard in the same court.

Hewitt is accused of two counts of rape and one of sexual assault of young girls. Two of the alleged victims were under the age of 16 at the time and the third was under 18.

Prosecutors say the offenses date back as far as the early 1980s, when Hewitt was still a big name in tennis. Two of the offenses allegedly occurred in Boksburg, a city east of Johannesburg, and a third offense in South Africa’s North West province.

Because of the different court jurisdictions, the state wants to bring the charges into one case.

Hewitt denies the charges and has previously threatened to sue his accusers.

A court in Boksburg on Friday postponed the case until Jan. 10.

The 73-year-old Hewitt was not present, citing continued ill health after he missed the first court hearing in August. His lawyer told The Associated Press they would go ahead with their own application to have the case heard in the Eastern Cape province in southern South Africa, where Hewitt lives. Lawyer Alwyn Griebenow has argued that Hewitt is too old to travel.

Griebenow said his application could be submitted only after the prosecution goes ahead with its request to centralize the case. Prosecutors want Hewitt to face the charges of abuse against the girls he coached in a court in Johannesburg.

Hewitt was inducted into the tennis Hall of Fame in the United States in 1992. He won doubles and mixed doubles titles at all four Grand Slams from 1963 to 1979 and played alongside greats like Billie Jean King. But his legacy and any reference to him was stripped from the Rhode Island-based hall last year after an investigation into the allegations of sexual assault.

At least one woman in the U.S. also has accused Hewitt of raping her when she was a minor.

Follow Gerald Imray at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP