LOIS PRINCE | By Nancy Gill McShea
Here, in our world of tennis, there exists a true ambassador, a bright, elegant lady who earned so much respect as a volunteer administrator during her 42-year tenure in the game, insiders simply refer to her as Lois. Seriously. When a local tennis employee once asked Mary Carillo to use her clout to effect an important change in tennis policy, Mary said, “Sure, I’ll talk to Lois at the Open.”
That would be Lois Prince, who served as the volunteer chairman of the U.S. Open junior tournament from 1992 to 2001.
How cool is it to view your mother as a celebrity? Just ask Wendy Prince, a Manhattan attorney who once won the doubles title at the New York State High School Tennis Championships and also logged time as an Eastern volunteer. “You walk around the U.S. Open with my mother and everybody knows her and stops to talk to her,” she said. “All her juniors grow up but they remember her. They know she’s rock steady. She cuts through the noise and gets to the heart of the matter.”
Wendy recently walked into a roomful of attorneys for a meeting and laughed when one colleague polled the group: “Anyone whose mother appeared in Tennis Week this week raise your hand.”
Lois has worked in administrative positions at tennis clubs and within the USTA national and Eastern sectional organizations since the early 1960’s. Before being elected Eastern’s president in 1994, she had been honored as the “Tennis Woman of the Year.” She has also served as the section’s delegate to the USTA, as vice president, secretary, chairman of the Junior Competition Committee and as ranking chairman of five different boys’ age divisions. In addition to chairing the juniors open, she has been a member of five other national committees.
And when she was president of the Junior Tennis Foundation, from 1996 to 2001, she was the epitome of the gracious hostess, welcoming everyone to this Hall of Fame celebration.
“What can I tell you, they kept moving me up,” Lois has said. “I could see myself getting in deeper and deeper because I couldn’t say no. But I’ve truly enjoyed it. I love tennis and kids. It’s a natural flow…”
Lois is a star because of that willingness to become involved, coupled with years of experience serving people in the field. Doris Herrick, Eastern’s executive director from 1978 to 1998 and now the executive director of the Junior Tennis Foundation, has said, “Lois brought to the office of president a strong history with the organization. She knew the members well – both adults and juniors – and a president who knows the cast has an advantage.”
Eastern presidents added similar sentiments:
Louis Dimock: “Lois is among the best of people and has donated thousands of hours. She was great as our president, traveling to all the events waving the Eastern flag and welcoming people into the game.”
Alex. Aitchison: “If volunteers were paid for dedication, sincerity and attention to detail, Lois would command a very high salary.”
Elaine Viebranz: “Lois has always set an example through a dedication to the section and her loyalty to its people.”
A Long Islander to the core, even though she was born in Missouri, Lois strayed briefly to attend the Highland Manor Boarding School in Tarrytown, N.Y., before graduating from Forest Hills High School. She ventured beyond her roots again in the early 1950’s and earned a bachelor’s degree in early education from the University of Wisconsin but then returned to New York to attend the masters program at Columbia University. She and her husband, Al, settled on Long Island, joined the Renaissance Club in Roslyn and started to play a little club tennis. She also enjoyed a regular game with friends at Alastair Martin’s family estate in Old Westbury. In the early 1960’s she joined the Shelter Rock Tennis Club in Manhasset. She impressed the club’s directors by organizing their baby-sitting operation and was moved into prime time as the tournament director of the Shelter Rock’s sectional events and the USTA National Men’s 35 and Boys’ 14 Clay Court Championships.
Lois later took a job teaching nursery school and then survived a Woody-Allen-kind-of-introduction to managing a tennis club when she answered a call to run the Great Neck Tennis Center and their 12-and-under tournaments. “Ron Rebhuhn was the pro,” she said. “He’d call me at ten o’clock at night and say ‘Lois, the lights are out, the bubble is falling down, the heat is off.’ There were leaks in the roof. The boss went out to play in hiking boots. Players complained about water on the court. I’d say ‘look, I’ll give you two hours of free time.’ That only worked for so long. A woman finally said to me before I even opened my mouth, ‘And I don’t want any more of your free time.’ I’d drive down East Shore Road in the morning on the way to work hoping that the bubble had not fallen down. And then I’d think, ‘If only I could get a job where they would leave me alone.’”
She admits that in retrospect the Great Neck experience was comical, but she was ready to move on when the club was sold in the early 1980’s. The owners of the Jericho-Westbury Indoor Tennis came calling and hired her to manage their operation. She tried to take a hiatus after a six-year stint there, but in 1987 Dick Zausner of the Port Washington Tennis Academy called. “He said, ’You’ve been sitting around doing nothing long enough. Come on over, we can use you over here.’ The next thing I know I’m the tournament manager of the International Junior Championships and working with Dick at the USTA Amateur Championships and other tournaments at the Concord Hotel [in the Catskills]. It was almost like going to camp.”
You realize Lois has to be on a first-name basis with generations of accomplished Eastern players if you flip through draw sheets dating to the early ‘60s before the beginning of the Open era. Imagine the stories she could tell about individual personality quirks, stories she will never tell because “I wouldn’t want to offend anyone. I just enjoyed the idea of being involved in a tournament, watching the matches and seeing who wins, who loses. Look at all the nice people I met. I bonded with all of them.”
The names jump out from the draw sheets and the ranking lists: McEnroe, Carillo, Peter Rennert, Eugene Scott, Renee Richards, Sammy Giammalva, Whitney Reed, Paul Annacone, Kathleen Horvath, Fritz Buehning, Jimmy Arias, Marcel Freeman, Pam Casale, Reggie Weir, Marco Cacopardo, Justin Gimelstob, Melissa Brown and the whole Van Nostrand clan.
“I’m a big fan of Lois Prince,” said Kay McEnroe, whose three boys -- John, Mark and Patrick – grew up knowing Lois as their junior ranking chairman and tournament director. “She had to be such a great diplomat to deal with all the personalities of parents, players and fans. You knew when you got to a tournament she would knock herself out to welcome and accommodate the boys. And they knew she would bend over backwards to be fair. Patrick once got so sick to his stomach when it was blistering hot he had to walk off the court. Lois was so gracious she was almost too good to be true.”
It is appropriate that the late Barbara Williams have the last word. “Lois Prince has given a lifetime of outstanding volunteer service to tennis. She is eminently qualified and most deserving of being elected to the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame.”
Photo Credit: Edward Goldman
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NEIL AMDUR | By Nancy Gill McShea
For almost half a century, Neil Amdur has survived the relentless pressure of daily deadlines in his position as one of the leading sports writers/reporters and editors in this country -- with a special affection for tennis. He has thrived as the sports editor of The New York Times for the past 12 years, from 1990 to early 2003, and before that, as the editor-in-chief of World Tennis magazine, from 1984 to 1990. He was also a daily sports reporter at The Times over a 15-year period, from 1968 to 1984, and a tennis reporter for the Miami Herald in the mid-1960’s.
Neil has kept tennis in the spotlight. He has either covered every great player and important match in the Open or assigned reports to do the job.
How has Neil coped with the pressure? “I started running 3 to 4 times a week, anywhere from 3 to 6 miles a day, around 1976, and have run everywhere I have gone as a reporter – Moscow, London, Paris,” he said. “And I play tennis when I can.”
“Neil is a great reporter and writer who became an even greater sports editor,” said his friend Tony Kornheiser, a Washington Post columnist and the host of a show on ESPN. “Under Neil’s watch, The Times set the table for every sports section in the country...”
Ray Corio, a veteran copy editor at The Times, concurred: “Like Lincoln, Churchill and Havlicek, Neil has been the right one at the right place and the right time. Black power salutes on the victory stand…Billie Jean crumbling Bobby Riggs. Rosie Ruiz taking a subway shortcut to Central Park. Renee Richards earning a U.S. Open invitation. Borg out dueling McEnroe in a marathon Wimbledon final.”
When the late Howard Cosell reviewed one of Amdur’s five published books, he wrote: “Neil Amdur is a writer for his time. He understands the role of sports in contemporary society.”
Amdur recently took on a new assignment as the paper’s senior editor for staffing/national recruiting. At his farewell party, friends and staff, among them Bob Lipsyte, agreed he’s a natural for the new job since “he has an almost supernatural gift for picking talent.” Bill Pennington called the gift stalking, rather than tracking, talent, and said Neil first called him when he heard “I had shown promise in Sister Grace’s second-grade creative writing class.” The columnist George Vecsey, a colleague off and on since 1968, wrote: “[As] sports editor [Neil] brought…incessant drive and knowledge…It wasn’t always pretty…but we produced fast break columns…I can hardly wait to see him in his new calm management recruiter mode…”
Others kidded him for favoring tennis. “Too much tennis, I always told him,” Dave Anderson said. “He knows everyone who ever stepped foot on a tennis court to play before a crowd,” Kathleen McElroy emphasized. “We gave you tennis shoes with taps on them [when you left the last time],” Fern Turkowitz recalled. “When Neil was with the Miami Herald I was thrilled…a real, honest-to-God legitimate journalist was interested in covering tennis,” Billie Jean King said. “…I wish Neil…most improbably: a respectable backhand,” Bud Collins wrote.
Hold it Bud, Neil was the president of the U.S. Tennis Writers Association in the 1970’s and claimed a Wimbledon doubles title when he and Ubaldo Scamagetta won the press tournament. “I was the beneficiary of a great partner,” Amdur said.
Neil joined the media in 1955 at age 15 – and was billed as the youngest sportscaster in the country – when his radio show “Between the Goalposts” aired weekly on WBAX in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., during the high school football season. “My father bought 30 minutes of airtime, sold it to four sponsors. I wrote the scripts, recorded the show…and sent out predictions to all the high schools,” he said. He was also the runner-up among thousands who entered a national junior sports casting contest, sponsored by the New York Yankees. The Prize? He taped an inning of a game at Yankee Stadium.
But his voice was more suited for late-night disc jockey work than it was for sports play-by-play, so Neil switched to writing in 1957 during his freshman year at the University of Missouri. He offered his services at the local paper and was assigned to cover the all-black Douglass High School football team. “George Brooks was the coach. I was a kid, 17…I had never had any contact with blacks growing up in northeastern Pennsylvania and I traveled with his team at a time when high schools were still segregated,” said Neil, who just last month, 46 years later, talked to Brooks again. “Without doing anything but showing me kindness and a sensitive, caring soul, he showed me how to deal with people from your soul, not just your heart, that what you felt on the inside was more important than what you showed externally…The experience changed my life.”
Neil graduated from Missouri’s school of journalism in the early ‘60s and set out to discover and record the core of the human spirit through the challenge of sport.
Chris Evert believes he succeeded. “Neil was always one of my favorites…fair and human with a great sense of humor,” she said. “I felt…when he was interviewing me it wasn’t for his own agenda…but rather to ask thoughtful questions…that helped to reveal the real me.”
He does that by asking people what kind of fruit they are, and then, to make them feel comfortable, he volunteers that he’s an apricot, “a singular fruit, not flashy, but…loyal and consistent. An apricot bruises a little, is a bit sensitive, but it has a tough core and absorbs the blows.”
Now famous for his ability to “beam in” on people and hot news items, Neil has been described as a spectacular reporter who would routinely break big stories that had people scurrying for their basements. As an editor, he has been notorious for leaning on reporters every hour of the day or night. Said Joe Lapointe: “My favorite call was on Christmas Eve at 6 p.m. Me: Hello? Neil: ‘Uh, Joe, it’s Neil. Uh, what are you doing tomorrow?’”
“Life is about timing,” Neil said. “I started at The Times in January of 1968 at the beginning of the Open era. The game was opening up, players were being paid, you had to treat it more realistically. Personalities were becoming more public. I tried to look beyond the game for stories that had more than a result. I looked at the people, the issues, whether they’re real. ”
He was the first to report that Donald Dell would be named U.S. Davis Cup captain in 1968. “I concentrated on the meaning of Davis Cup, a certain level of nationalism.” He broke a 1970 story on the front page of The Times citing rebellion on the pro tour: “Women Tennis Stars Threaten Boycott Over Unequal Purse,” and quoted Rosie Casals: “It’s discrimination…We play just as hard. We contribute…to the success of the tournament.” In the article, Neil ran a rebuttal from his good friend, the late Arthur Ashe: “…Men are doing this for a living…They have families, and don’t want to give up money just for girls to play.”
In 1972, Neil’s plane was hijacked to Cuba when he and his wife, Marilyn, were on a flight from Allentown, Pa., to Washington Dulles. The hijacker released the passengers after 4 hours of captivity and Neil, probably the first reporter to file from a hijacked plane, got a page 1 story in The Times that day.
He scooped the competition with the news that Slew Hester was moving the U.S. Open in 1978 from West Side to a new national tennis center. ”The story led the sports section,” he said. “There had been no previous thoughts or stories about leaving Forest Hills. This was Slew’s mission, and he did not have a lot of popular support, so he searched for confidantes…He was one of the most genuine people I have ever met, true to his convictions…Flushing would have never been built without him.”
As early as 1991, after Neil had returned to The Times as the sports editor, he sent a reporter to Compton, Calif., to check out 10-year-old Venus Williams, reported to be a ghetto Cinderella, and assigned features on other rising stars.
Favorite players: “Arthur Ashe and Chris Evert, for sure, because I followed their careers. Billie Jean, because of her determination and spirit. Connors, even with his flaws. Some people I just liked for who they were in the universe…Ion Tiriac because he got so much out of the game and is so intuitively smart…Renee Richards, for her courage in stepping forward…Ellsworth Vines, so smart…George Lott, so thoughtful…Gar Mulloy, ageless and instinctive…Pancho Gonzalez, really true to himself to the end…Bobby Riggs, crazy as a fox but would give his shirt…Agassi, for learning about life and the game…Sampras, who gave the game the best he had and wasn’t appreciated for all his natural skills…Virginia Ruzici, a true gypsy…”
Favorite matches: “Borg and Mac at Wimbledon (1980).” Neil reported the match in The Times: “…Borg posted a five-set victory over…McEnroe today that gave tennis followers something to cherish long after both players have left the sport…Like well conditioned fighters, they traded shots for 3 hours and 53 minutes…The top-seeded Borg won, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7, 8-6, only after the determined McEnroe had saved 7 match points in the fourth set, including 5 in a dramatic 34-point tiebreaker that will stand by itself as a patch of excellence in the game’s history…” And Neil quoted the experts: “’How the guy got up to serve those match points I don’t know,’ Fred Stolle said in a tribute to McEnroe’s courage…”
Other favorites: “Laver-Rosewall in the WCT finals (1971-72, Rosewall won both)…Panatta-Connors at the 1978 U.S. Open (Connors in 5, round of 16)…1984 Super Saturday at Flushing, when every match went the distance (Lendl beat Cash in 5, semifinals; Navratilova beat Evert in 3, final; McEnroe beat Connors in 5, semifinals)…Lots of Martina-Chris showdowns…King-Riggs because it was so socially significant…Laver’s Grand Slam in 1969…Virginia Wade winning Wimbledon in ’77…Arthur winning Wimbledon in ’75…”
Neil Amdur compares life to a five-set match on clay with no tiebreaker: “Clay is the toughest surface to win points. You have to extract every point, think through shots and strategy. That’s what life is. It’s not about serve and volley, or the true bounce on hard courts, or the insular indoor surface. Clay tests you, as life does. You can think of yourself as down a set and a break, but you have to keep trying. It’s survival.”
Photo Credit: Edward Goldman
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PAM CASALE TELFORD | By Nancy Gill McShea
Pam Casale’s spirited performances on the world’s tennis courts made for the kind of dramatic theatre that could have put her into Oscar contention with the screen divas Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida.
Casale played with such a sense of urgency, in fact, results of a mid-1980’s professional-player survey published in a national tennis magazine revealed that Pam and Jimmy Connors were voted “Most Competitive” while Pam and John McEnroe were a lock in the category of “Worst Temperament.”
A quick outline of Pam’s career stats indicate that she played professional tennis from 1981 to 1989, when a recurring knee injury sidelined her for good. She won her first pro tournament at age 16 in the spring of 1981 and a few weeks later was the runner-up in the Wimbledon Plate (Consolation) Championships. Top schools called with scholarship offers, but she said, “No, no, no…I was on a roll and really wanted to play. It was my time.” She turned pro later that year, after zooming in eight months from unranked status to the edge of the world’s top 20 and among the U.S. top ten. By 1984 she was ranked No. 15 in the world. She advanced to the quarterfinals or better in some 40 professional tournaments and was the 1986 Domino’s Pizza Team Tennis Player of the Year.
The people closest to her say career stats are no substitute for live action, that Pam’s performances were compelling because she left her heart and soul on the court. Her mentor and coach, Nick Bollettieri, explained: “Pam approached a match as if it was a battle, so fiercely fought that the fans felt this same emotion. Her strokes were ugly, especially the backhand which had her elbow out so far in front of her body you thought the elbow would land before the ball…Her success was…directly related to street fighting and competing…giving 110 percent all the time…”
Eastern’s tennis diva arrived on the junior scene out of Fairfield, N.J., in the early 1970’s after her father suggested that she include tennis in her sports repertoire because she was such an active kid. “It was frustrating at first,” she said, “but my father wouldn’t let me give up…He said tennis is just like softball. Just keep your eye on the ball and hit it as hard as you can. Then I started hitting the ball over the net.”
She left home to train at Bollettieri’s tennis academy at 14 after Nick saw her play his protégé Kathleen Horvath at the junior nationals in West Virginia and was impressed by her talent and fight. She lost, 6-4, 7-5, to Horvath that day but won five national junior titles before the age of 15, including the Rolex and Orange Bowl International Championships and the Easter Bowl. Once, after she qualified for a pro tournament in Tampa and was scheduled to play Renee Richards and Andrea Jaeger, Bollettieri sent a busload of kids from camp to cheer her. “It was hilarious,” she said, “Every time I won a point they’d scream. We became family. All of us [at Bollettieri’s] from the East were good friends—Kathleen [Horvath], Jimmy [Arias], Tom Fontana and Paul [Annacone]. Paul was really like a brother to me.”
Pam is the epitome of professionalism, integrity and compassion,” Annacone said. “We will always have a special bond. She is a true friend…I have vivid memories of watching her ‘flawed’ backhand zip past her opponents and watching her climb the women’s rankings while all the so-called experts said she could not achieve the elite level with a technically flawed game. She has ferocious tenacity on the court, yet can sit down and discuss life’s complexities off the court with endless pools of compassion and understanding. She embodied athleticism, heart, desire, focus and knew her game and how best to maximize her strengths while covering her weaknesses. And she did all that with class and humility.”
Pam’s flamboyant court presence was on full display at the 1980 professional Volvo Cup tournament at Mahwah, N.J., when she was still an amateur. A fan favorite, the Jersey native came through the qualifier and then beat touring pros Marjorie Blackwood, Wendy Turnbull, Susan Mascarin, Virginia Ruzici and Bettina Bunge before losing, 6-2, 7-6 (8-6), to Hana Mandlikova in the final. Her father underscored the drama by playing the music from “Rocky” to inspire his daughter before each match.
“My father thought I was Rocky,” she said. “The year before, I was sitting in the stands and told him ‘I want to play this.’ He said, ‘You will one day.’ There I was, a nobody, Bettina misses an overhead on match point under the lights and I get to the finals. It was very special; I was unseeded, it was my home state. Everybody was there -- family, friends, my sister, aunts. It was a real celebration…balloons, music…But I don’t get a car, I get a dog! They gave me a Basset hound and I named him Mahwah.”
Al Picker, the tennis guru of the Newark Star-Ledger, recorded Pam’s entire career through high school, the juniors and in the pros and said she was always frank and open in interviews, allowing readers and fans to…gain great insight into the world of women’s tennis. She spoke about the rigors of the worldwide travel, especially for a young player on the women’s tour. “A lot of hard work,” she would say. “Not as glamorous as one would think…No time for sightseeing…Anxious moments playing against good friends…Always a difficult assignment…Being an athlete, you had to be concerned with results, your ranking. You always made time, though, to try to watch and support your buddies on the tour.”
Picker recalled a difficult third-round match Pam played at Wimbledon to describe her character. “She was at the court in time for her scheduled tussle, but her veteran American opponent was very late,” he wrote. “Usually, Wimbledon rules would have penalized or defaulted the veteran but leniency was shown and the …match went on…Not only did the veteran test Pam’s resolve, so did the officiating. Numerous balls flew over the baseline and not a single call was made…The famed Casale temper flared several times, and she was positively in the right as I sat behind this veteran official. Close calls I could understand but when they continued to land 10 to 12 inches out, it became a joke. I moved…to get a better look at the linesman and got the shock of my life. He was dozing on and off. Pam received severe warnings from the chair umpire but this was a day that she had every right to complain. Despite her distress, she was the consummate performer and remembered her court etiquette, shaking the hand of her foe and the chair umpire. She is a true sportsman.”
Pam Casale feels lucky. “I enjoyed traveling the world playing pro tennis. I loved competing, especially on the slow clay at Paris because I love to run,” said Pam, the only player to beat a seed, 6-0, 6-0, at the French when she upset Zina Garrison in the first round. “I was shocked that I did well on grass at Wimbledon. Made it to the quarters of the mixed with [Jaime] Fillol...Also loved the atmosphere at the U.S. Open. I was up 3-1, 40-15 on Tracy Austin the year she beat Martina for the title (1981), and I got so excited I hit an overhead right into the fence.
“Some people are in an office all day, 9 to 5, and hate what they do. How can you be in a lifestyle that you love and not feel lucky!?”
Photo Credit: Edward Goldman
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Sandy Mayer | By Nancy Gill McShea
If you consider that Sandy Mayer first hit tennis balls over the net at age 2, and that this June, at age 52, he will mark his thirtieth appearance on the grass at Wimbledon, you assume that his life evolved within the confines of the tennis court. But a closer look shows that his affection for the game is a complex tale involving a tug of war over career choices, until he recognized he was born to teach tennis.
Mayer, an independent teaching professional in Portola Valley, Calif., is proud of his record at Wimbledon. He played at the All-England Club 13 times as a professional and 17 more as a senior. His favorite memory dates to 1973 when he upset top-seeded Ilie Nastase in the round of 16 right after he won the NCAA singles and doubles as a Stanford undergraduate. He reached the Wimbledon semifinals that year and was twice a quarterfinalist, in 1978 and 1983. In doubles, he and Vitas Gerulaitis became the first American team in 18 years to win the men’s title in 1975, and he won the seniors in 2000 with Peter Fleming.
“Beating Nastase was the biggest splash I ever made as a player, it was an out-of-body experience,” he said. “I had no clear vision of how good I could be.” Yet when he first played Wimbledon [in ’72], he lost to Stan Smith 9-8 in the fourth and realized afterward that he could have won the match. He also kept an eye on the rankings, saw that he had beaten the 14th guy on the money list four times and thought, “I can do this.” He reasoned that Nastase and Smith were the two best players in the game at that time. He never lost to Nastase and never lost to Smith again.
Yet in early 1974 Sandy was in a quandary. He still had amateur status in tennis and was planning to go to law school, but he was also ranked 15th in the world. “There was pressure to go to law school,” he said. “I sort of finessed it and decided to try the pro tour for three years. Right then there was a major uptick in the level of the game, a transition to the big returns of serve and huge ground strokes, no weakness tennis.” He was prepared for that transition, having developed an attacking, all court game under the tutelage of his dad, Alex, a renowned coach who once was a member of the Hungarian Davis Cup team.
The law would have to wait. Sandy turned pro in June of 1974, when he signed with the New York Set of World Team Tennis, and by December of 1975 his dilemma was the subject of a cover story in Tennis magazine. The writer Barry Tarshis described him as “lean and intense, with dark curly hair, restless brown eyes and the slightly preoccupied manner of a high-strung Shakespearean actor…” Tarshis noted that “…rising young athletes are rarely burdened with the ambivalence that…complicates the lives of people in less goal oriented …work. But Sandy Mayer is an intriguing exception…the more successful he becomes at tennis the more seriously he talks about going to law school.
“As Bill Riordan, an advisor to Mayer, put it: ‘Sandy’s only problem is trying to decide whether he wants to be the No. 1 player in tennis or a Supreme Court justice. You can’t do both.”
The three-year trial run on the pro tour turned into an 11-year pro career. He captured 11 singles and 24 doubles titles and was MVP of the World Team Tennis League. He earned career-best world rankings of No. 7 in singles (1982) and No. 3 in doubles (1985). Sandy and his brother, Gene, established pro records as the first brothers to win the French Open doubles title (1979), the only brothers to rank concurrently in the world top ten (1981) and the U.S. top ten (1983).
“Sandy has a very cerebral approach to the game, he is very committed and intense,” Gene Mayer said, adding that his brother had numerous injuries but always rebounded and was once named Comeback Player of the Year. “He had an unrelenting, attacking style and was one of the best returners of serve and volleyers of his time.”
The family connection runs deep. Sandy’s dad, Alex, had been a cum laude law student and a successful gentleman farmer in Austria-Hungary before the Second World War. When Hitler took over Hungary, Alex lost everything and eventually moved to Munich, where he met and married Sandy’s mother, Ingeborg. They immigrated to the United States in 1951 and Alex took a job as an elevator operator at the YMCA in New York City. The family settled on Long Island and Alex taught tennis all over the Eastern Section, including at the Woodmere Club and the Martin estate in Westbury. Sandy watched his dad hit with Don Budge, Bill Talbert and other greats and became firmly entrenched in the game.
“Dad was hands down the best coach that ever was; no chance I’d ever be a decent tennis player without him,” Sandy said. “With my brother Gene he had a genius like McEnroe with a feel for the ball. With me, he had to teach me from the ground up how to walk, run and how to chew gum. We discussed every inch of racquet travel, all the nuances of strategy. When I played Kalamazoo at 15 he had me going to the net on all first serves. I didn’t stay back for another ten years.”
Sandy made it to the finals of the Boys’ 16 nationals at Kalamazoo, but he wasn’t having fun. “I was heavy growing up, so I decided to quit playing,” he said. “I told my dad I wanted to be the head counselor at his tennis camp. It was just a ploy so I wouldn’t have to tell him I was quitting tennis. He said ‘Great, we’ll talk about salary later.’ He didn‘t even raise an eyebrow.
“Quitting was a good idea. It made me realize I’m a tennis player even though I wasn’t sure it was going to be a major league sport.”
Sandy refers to his “weekend treks” in recounting favorite memories of junior tennis. “We made our own tennis plans,” he said. “I would get on the Long Island Railroad, go to Woodside and hit with Bob Kahn and Charlie Masterson on Friday afternoons. They booked a court and let me play. I never paid a dime. I’d go to the city on Friday night and at 5:30 on Saturday morning I’d play in [Paul] Cranis’s Project Upswing at the Midtown Tennis Club. Then I’d go out to Roslyn to Bobby Kaplan’s place and hit with Jason Schwartz until the club closed. I also played at Port (Washington Tennis Academy) with King Van Nostrand and Tony Palafox. I had a great time, loved the action.”
After Sandy retired from pro tennis in 1985, he became involved in various business ventures, specifically real estate partnerships coupled with personal financial management. But when his dad died in 1995 he said “what most affected me about the funeral was the number of people who came by and told me, ‘Your father taught me how to play and now I’m a doctor or a teacher.’ I thought, ‘Look at all the lives he affected doing this.’
“My family’s goals were education and professionalism. That’s why Stanford. Tennis was just a glitch. Becoming a professional athlete was not a sophisticated endeavor. But I started teaching tennis with my dad at 7 or 8; it was part of the fabric of my life. So I turned to my money management firm and said ‘That’s it. I’m going to do what I was born to do. Teach tennis.’”
Photo Credit: Edward Goldman
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