Posts Tagged Bud Collins

Lunch With Laver And Conversation With Collins

Bud tells tales at a luncheon. Pam Shriver watches and Bud's wife Anita (seated) listens

Bud tells tales at a luncheon. Pam Shriver watches and Bud’s wife Anita (seated) listens

Rod also listens to Bud after telling his own stories

Rod also listens to Bud after telling his own stories

The day after the latest tennis greats including Martina Hingus had been inducted into the Hall of Fame, I was able to attend a luncheon at which Pam Shriver was the mistress of ceremonies. I was directed to an almost empty table and settled down to my lobster roll and potato chips. Within minutes Rod Laver was directed two seats to my right and Bud Collins and his wife were placed directly across. Our conversation was limited of course, and neither had any idea who I was or why I was at their table. But it sure gave me a kick to be breaking “bread” with these stars. Too funny. I love coincidences and random events like these. Keep ’em coming, Lord…

By the way, Bud was one of the first journalists who moved successfully to TV coverage in 1963 and specialized in tennis commentary, wrote books about tennis and wears astonishingly colorful clothes. Check his fashion style out here .

Another acclaimed tennis personality who spoke at the luncheon and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame the day before was TV sportscaster Cliff Drysdale, who co-founded the men’s pro tennis “league” and was the first president of the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals). In his speech at the ceremony to hundreds–maybe 2000—people, he made fun of one colleague when he said that although he (Cliff) was given five minutes to speak, this named buddy would probably not be able to focus on it after 30 seconds, because he had the “brain and attention span of a mosquito!” When I asked Cliff later about that dig, he said his buddy could handle it. Wow. That’s show biz I guess.

At the luncheon he made fun of another person’s shirt color, and for the rest of the day I heard people mentioning the guy’s shirt and color (it was chartreuse-y). I actually have a shirt almost that exact color, so I was personally offended by Cliff’s ridiculing it (just kidding). But it amazes me that he would be so critical, undiplomatic and insensitive and think it was funny. But then I am not a famous sportscaster and famous tennis executive.

snappy dresser Bud Collins (in orange pants) leaves the ceremony

snappy dresser Bud Collins (in orange pants) leaves the ceremony

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Andre Agassi Inducted Into The International Tennis Hall Of Fame

Andre Agassi and my daughter Skylar

I just spent four breathtakingly fabulous days watching the Campbell’s ATP Tennis tournament at the International
Hall of Fame facility in Newport, RI. And I also played on the grass courts there myself for seven hours during two of the days. (This included a 2 1/2 hour clinic, where I learned many useful tips I am eager to try out.) Prior to this trip, I had only hit on grass one hour in my life. Quite a thrill.

But even more exciting was attending some events that attracted a number of Hall of Famers, particularly this year’s two inductees, Andre Agassi and Peachy Kelmeyer, who launched the WTA and equal rights and prize money for women. Did you know that tennis is the most popular professional women’s sport in the world?

I was privileged to be able to thank Andre (who was sitting five feet from me) at a luncheon for his inspiration and contributions to the game and the world. I also saw and heard speak his wife, Steffi Graff and other previous inductees, including tennis greats Todd Martin, Vic Seixas, Rosie Casals, Donald Dell, Owen Davidson, Pam Shriver, tennis journalist/broadcast commentator Bud Collins, and famed tennis photographer Mike Adams.

Agassi gave a speech that was so emotional and filled with gratitude that some people—including Andre—were tearing up or crying. He said that he had been on the podium there twice before: once to introduce his wife, when she was inducted into the Fall of Fame in 2004, and secondly in his father’s imagination since the day Andre was born. Andre’s speech in the video starts at 10:30. You may want to listen to the first 30 seconds to hear a bit of what Andre has accomplished. A humble man who has given back so much. His foundation and college preparatory academy in Las Vegas that he hopes to replicate in other cities graduates 2000 inner-city kids a year. He has raised $150 million to help transform kids who might never have had a decent education, any self esteem and a chance for college. Andre himself only attended school up to 8th grade.

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Goliath Beats David At Newport

John Isner launches his 140 mph serve

The finals at Newport were between 6’9″ John Isner and a much shorter Olivier Rochus. How short? Bud Collins said at a luncheon I attended that he was 5’4.” When I told him afterward that the ATP website said he was 5’6,” Bud said his number was right. Wikipedia says Rochus is 5’5.”

Regardless it was a tense match, even though the scores might not reflect it: Isner won 6-3 and 7-6 (6). I like watching both players. Isner reminds me of a slow-moving giraffe, and Rochus is the fast and wily fox. Isner has incredible height and power, and his 140 mph serve is totally dominating. When he puts a kick on it, the ball often bounced over Rochus’s head and extended racket. Even Ollie smiled sometimes…though it was almost impossible to break him.

Isner’s serve is so powerful and accurate—he had 22 aces in the two sets and, I believe I heard 72 in the tournament— that the hope was for Rochus to just hold his serve and somehow win in a tiebreaker. You can imagine what an achievement it was to lose 6-8 in the tiebreak. But Ollie kept delivering his slice backhand low over the net to John’s backhand, and picking up points as John would hit the small-bounce-on-grass ball into the net. Quite exciting.

Rochus (left) and Isner at Newport—2011

Rochus (left) vs Karlovic in an earlier tournament

The tallest player on the ATP tour, Ivo Karlovic, was also at Newport, though he lost early on. Ivo is 6’10,” and I stood next to him and also watched him play. Karlovic holds the fastest serve recorded in professional tennis, measured at 156 mph, and he is considered one of the best servers on tour. His height enables him to serve with high speed and unique trajectory.

Editor Patrick Hruby faces the Isner serve in 2008

Incidentally, Isner’s ATP ranking was 46 at the time of this tournament. Rochus was 73. Karlovic was 127. And Rochus has beaten Karlovic two of the three times they have played.

I found an adorable article describing editor Patrick Hruby’s 2008 stunt of facing the Isner serve and living to write about it:

For the first time in my writing life, I feel a genuine kinship with a shooting range target silhouette.

Isner tosses the ball. I bend my knees, shift my weight to the balls of my feet, make sure the racket face is positioned squarely in front of my groin. I hear a pop, see Isner’s lanky right arm swing down like a guillotine blade. The ball hits the ground in an eye blink—thud!—then rises toward me, appearing to accelerate while doubling in size. Before my brain registers the second sound, I’m acutely aware of a third: the thwack! of the ball striking my racket strings, right in the synthetic cat gut sweet spot, without which I now would be in considerable physical anguish…

A University of Virginia senior and the reigning college singles champion, Somdev Devvarman, beat Isner in last year’s (2007) NCAA final. The two became friends and even played doubles at an ATP tournament in Washington, D.C., last summer.

So, I asked, what’s the best way to break Isner’s serve?

“I never broke his serve,” said Devvarman, who captured the NCAA title in a pair of tiebreaks. “I didn’t even get to deuce. He dropped 24, 25 aces on me.”

Devvarman sighed.

“The motion on his serve is so good, so hard to read. You have absolutely no idea where he’s going on any serve. You’re always trying to guess.”

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