Posts Tagged Rod Laver

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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Rod Laver Comes To Newport Tennis Tournament

ira and Rod Laver

ira and Rod Laver

Just spent four days at the annual ATP tennis Hall of Fame tournament in Newport, Rhode Island. Been going for over five years and love the grass matches, hitting on a court myself, seeing the tennis greats. Always check out the history documented in the Hall of Fame, of which I am a member. Who could believe I became such an enthusiast for a sport.

There are many tennis celebrities there each year whom I have come to recognize, hear their stories at some luncheons, talk to occasionally–it’s usually just chit chat…but I like it for sure. This year I heard or saw Stan Smith, Rod Laver, Martina Hingus, Owen Davidson, Todd Martin, Pam Shriver, Bud Collins, Vic Seixas, Rosie Casals.

I always see fans asking the greats to pose with them, while a friend takes a picture. Not me. I even laugh at the superficiality of it all. But this year it was different. I was in my seat watching a match, when I realized that Rod Laver was three feet away. After hesitating a few minutes, I asked a friend to photograph us and bothered this titan of tennis to pose with me. He graciously rose slowly from his seat with some apparent effort and smiled for the camera. I am proud to document my closeness to his history.

Rod may be the greatest tennis player in the game. He is an Australian who holds the record for most singles titles won in the history of tennis, with 200 career titles. He was ranked World No. 1 for seven consecutive years. He is the only tennis player, male or female, to have twice won the Grand Slam (all four major singles titles in the same year), winning in 1962 and 1969. He is the only male player to have won “The Grand Slam” during the open era. He also won the Pro Grand Slam in 1967. He is the only player in tennis history (man or woman) to have won 3 combined calendar year Grand Slams (won all available majors). Laver won a total of 19 Major singles titles, including 11 Grand Slams and 8 Pro Slams. He also won a total of 9 Major doubles titles including 6 Grand Slam men’s doubles and 3 Grand Slam mixed doubles. He holds the all-time male records of 22 singles titles in a season (1962) and 7 consecutive years (1964-70) winning at least 10 singles titles per season. In addition to this he won 9 Championship Series titles (1970–75).

In terms of yearly prize money won, Laver was the leader from 1964 until 1971. Wikipedia shows that he won a total of $1,565,413. Today’s tennis leaders enjoy the benefits of TV money, increased popularity and higher tournament ticket prices. The five top male players these days have earned between $20 and 78 MILLION dollars, and they are still competing. A few times this weekend, one of the old timers mentioned how he received a handshake as his prize, or $100 for winning a tournament or even $10,000 for a Grand Slam win…these days the top prize for a Grand Slam like Wimbledon is $2,400,000! How the times have changed.

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