DR. CHARLES F. MASTERSON | By Nancy Gill McShea
Charlie Masterson was, by nature, a teacher and a mentor, as much a role model for tennis players who frequented the famous courts of Brooklyn and the West Side Tennis Club -- where he played the game most of his life -- as he was for VIP’s in the corridors of higher education, politics and business.
When Masterson died on May 31, 1998 at the age of 80, he was remembered as a scholar-athlete who was admired for his grace, impeccable manners and a classic playing style, on and off the court.
“Charlie was one of my heroes; he practiced with me and encouraged me,” said Dan Rivkind, who met Masterson in the late 1940’s at Brooklyn’s Mammoth Tennis Courts.
“Charlie asked me to play when I was just starting the game and he adopted me,” added Dick Scheer, who met Masterson in the mid-1960’s at Brooklyn’s Highway Tennis Courts. “I was thrilled; he was a legend.”
As a player, Charlie was ranked among the U.S. top 20 and often in Eastern’s top ten (with highs of No. 4 in singles and 3 in doubles). He collected his share of victories in men’s singles at the U.S. National Championships between 1942 and 1959 – once losing to Ham Richardson in the Round of 16 -- and later competed in the men’s 35s tournament at the Open. He possessed the talent and tenacity to defeat four Wimbledon champions – Sidney Wood, Vic Seixas, Dick Savitt and Bob Falkenberg – as well as such top-ranked players as Straight Clark, Frank Guernsey, Charlie Oliver, Jack Tuero and the South American champ Enrique Morea, at some point during his outstanding amateur tennis career.
He was a runner up in the national 35 clay courts (doubles) and the national 45 indoors (singles) and once teamed with Eastern’s Sid Schwartz to defeat Straight Clark and Hal Burrows in the final of the New Orleans Sugar Bowl tournament. He also participated in Church Cup competition, Gordon Trophy matches and in the Metropolitan Club championships, and was a member of the International Lawn Tennis Club of the USA.
Off the court, Charlie was a veritable Renaissance Man. It has been noted in the archives of President Eisenhower’s Library in Kansas that he was asked to join the White House staff as a special assistant/speech writer in 1953 because “Dr. Masterson…was a man of varied talents…in public relations…as a college professor…an author…and for ten years he was ranked among the top tennis players in the United States.” Before Masterson began his four years of service in Washington, he taught high school English while studying for his Ph.D. at Columbia University (1952) and he was a professor of English, History and Public Speaking at Long Island University and Pace College. In 1954, he became a member of “Who’s Who in America.” Masterson also authored two textbooks (World History, 1949; and History of Asia, 1950) and was an elder and delivered sermons at Brooklyn’s Union Church in Bay Ridge.His experience in the business sector included positions as a New York public relations executive with the Rumbough Co., and as the executive director of the Office of Trustees in the N.Y. office of the National Safety Council. In charitable work, he was a director and vice president of the New York City Mission Society, which was established in 1812 to erase poverty through churches and community centers in disadvantaged parts of the city.
One newspaper reporter, who was assigned in 1969 to write a story on Masterson, reasoned correctly that he is “something of a phenomenon on and off the tennis courts…the Charlie Masterson story is too big a thing for a few thousand words to handle.”
Yet when Masterson’s son Mike was asked recently to try and prioritize his father’s major commitments in life, he said, “I would say teaching. He loved to teach. Ethics and beliefs were important to him and the idea that nobody should be left behind. He thought that education gave people the chance to experience a fuller life.”
Maybe that’s why Charlie chose tennis, because it’s an equal opportunity sport. Learning tennis is an education unto itself, anyone can walk onto a local court without previous credentials and there are no age barriers. Scheer had met Charlie exactly that way, by chance, when he was new to the game in the mid-‘60s. Dick was 34 and an attorney; Charlie was in his 50’s and was working for the National Safety Council. A few years later, Kenny Lindner joined them at the Highway courts. “The three of us played together for years and developed quite a bond,” Scheer said. “[By then] I was about 40, Charlie was in his late 50’s and Kenny [a television broadcasting agent today] was 16.”
Rivkind was 17 and Charlie was in his early 30’s when those two met. “If you walked past a court and saw Charlie playing, you knew he was a fabulous athlete. He invited me to play tennis in the early winter mornings over a two-year period when he was teaching at Poly Prep, and during that time I was a finalist in two major Eastern indoor tournaments,” said Rivkind, the retired director of the Dick Savitt Tennis Center at Columbia University, who also served for 16 years as Columbia‘s junior varsity tennis coach.
Perhaps the most startling example of Charlie Masterson’s commitment to equal opportunity was an incident that occurred in 1961 involving the West Side Tennis Club. Charlie was a member there and had won 16 club titles (eight singles and eight doubles) over a 20-year period, from 1942 to 1961. That year, Ralph Bunche, the winner of the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize and the Under Secretary General of the United Nations, applied for a West Side membership. He was denied entrée and Masterson resigned his membership, in protest.
In the April 1963 issue of World Tennis magazine, Paul Cranis described Charlie, the sportsman, who had triple match point against Gardnar Mulloy:
“For five years Gardnar Mulloy had been the best senior in the country. No other player…had even come close to him. Once every two years someone managed to deuce a set. He had been unbeaten on clay, grass and boards. Then he met Charlie Masterson in the second round of the National Senior Indoor Championships.
“Charlie is an extremely hard hitter. He is aggressive as a lion on the tennis court but…he has the disposition of a lamb. He would never take a point from an opponent, and everyone who has known him in competition, respects not only his game but his great sportsmanship.
“Masterson played Mulloy at the 7th Regiment…last month…Charlie took the first set 13-11 and led 40-0, triple match point. One linesman and an umpire had been working the match. The balls were not easy to see and the calls had been favoring Gar by about 8 to 2. Mulloy served the first match point against him to Charlie’s backhand. Masterson hit a ball that whizzed down the line, past the umpire’s chair and by Gardnar. Said the umpire: ‘Game, set and match, Mr. Masterson.’ Mulloy stood there, hands on hips, and stared at Charlie. ‘It was out,’ he cried.
“Any other senior would have raced up to Gar, pumped his arm in the traditional after-match handshake, and dashed to the showers…Not Masterson. He walked up to the Umpire and told him the ball was out. The umpire thereupon awarded the point to Mulloy and the match was continued. Result: Gardnar won the game, set and match, 11-13, 13-11, 6-2.”
Mike Masterson recently said he always felt proud that his father was able to do so many things and do them well. “My father was a giver, not a taker; he was a remarkable, dedicated guy,” he said. “And he was my best friend. I miss him.”
Photo Credit: Unknown
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MARJORY GENGLER SMITH | By Nancy Gill McShea
When Jeanne Gengler enrolled her nine-year-old daughter Margie in a tennis clinic near the family’s home in Locust Valley, Long Island, she couldn’t have imagined that the game would become an integral part of her eldest daughter’s daily life, or that she had just written the first installment of “A Tennis Legend: The Gengler Sisters.”
There have been sisters in tennis before and since – the Everts, the Williamses and the Maleevas, to name a few. But picture five petite blondes marching into an Eastern junior tournament to support one another, or polishing their classic strokes together in a practice session, and they become the stuff of folklore.
“I won my very first trophy in that clinic, at the Piping Rock Club,” Margie recalled recently. “There was one other girl in it, and she and I stood at the service line while the pro tossed us the ball from the other side of the net. We were allowed to miss twice. She missed her second shot on the 100th ball and I got 101 and the trophy.”
A star was born, and in the early 1960’s Jeanne Gengler began waking Margie and her younger sister Louise at 4 a.m. every Saturday to prepare for the drive from Long Island to Manhattan so the girls could train from 6 to 9 a.m. under the watchful eye of the legendary coach George Seewagen. The 7th Regiment Armory was one of the centers for Eastern’s top junior development program back then, and Margie said she didn’t mind rising at such an uncivilized hour because “I had a huge crush on Butch Seewagen – one of the older guys – and occasionally he would show up.”
When Butch did show up, he noticed that Margie was a very talented player. “She had a textbook classic game, a beautiful game,” he said. “Stroke for stroke, she could stay with anybody.”
In the mid-‘60s, Margie and Louise were asked to be ball kids at the Nassau Bowl Invitational in Glen Cove because they could throw a tennis ball the length of the court as well as the boys could. The Nassau tournament featured many of the world’s best players, as it was part of the famous Eastern grass court summer circuit that concluded at the U.S. National Championships at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills. Margie, then 15, was excited when she was assigned to work a match between two 20-year-old college guys, her friend Butch Seewagen and Stan Smith, who had just reached the singles finals at Merion, a leg of the circuit in Philadelphia. “Margie gave me a lucky safety pin before the match,” said Seewagen, who beat Smith in three sets. “She was happy for me but then she wound up marrying him.”
Not until eight years later, though. After the Nassau match, Margie confided to her mother that Stan was really nice but she was disappointed that he didn’t notice her. Her mother advised her to bide her time until she turned 18 and the five-year age difference wouldn’t matter anymore. Sure enough, Stan and Margie met again a few years later at a tournament they were both playing in California, and he asked her out on her 18th birthday.
In the 1960’s and early ‘70s, the Gengler girls added dozens of installments to their story. Margie and Louise and their sisters -- Nancy, Jeannie and Marion -- were regulars on the tennis circuit and all five of them earned Eastern’s No. 1 junior ranking before starring in college. Margie attracted national attention when she won the Girls’ 12s title at the 1963 Orange Bowl and she went on to rank first in the East in every age category and consistently among the U.S. top ten. In 1965, Margie and Alice deRochemont won the USTA girls’ 14 national doubles title – “My first and only gold ball,” she said – and she was a member of the Junior Wightman Cup team.
Margie later achieved the No. 1 ranking in Eastern women’s singles the same year she and Louise finished first in doubles and seventh in the country. She competed in singles at the U.S. Open and played mixed doubles at Wimbledon with Gene Scott, advancing to the third round before losing to Billie Jean King and Clark Graebner.
Margie also set tennis records at Princeton University. Louise did, too, as Princeton’s undefeated tennis team captain (retiring this year after coaching the team for 25 years). Nancy also played for Princeton, captained the squash team and was the National Intercollegiate squash champion. Jeannie was the tennis captain and played No. 1 at Colgate University. Marion was the tennis captain and played No. 1 at the College of William and Mary.
But it was Margie who first added clout to the Gengler legend at college. She was thrust into the role of pioneer at Princeton, as Ivy League schools went co-ed and offered athletic programs for women. She was a member of the Class of 1973, the first women’s class to graduate from Princeton. She was also undefeated in tennis throughout her collegiate career, and in 1972 was the captain of the undefeated women’s team that swept the Eastern and Middle States Intercollegiate Championships. That season, Margie was awarded the white sweater with the orange “P” that had been reserved for men-only captains of Princeton teams that won Ivy League championships, and she was featured as “Princeton’s Best Athlete” on the cover of the alumni magazine.
Eve Kraft, her coach at Princeton, said at the time: “…Margie’s mastery of the whole court makes her so formidable. She’s got all the strokes…she maneuvers her opponent like a puppet on a string from one side to the other and then does a very crisp down-the-line put-a-way…She’s disciplined and accurate…and a tremendous ambassador for Princeton.”
Margie represented Princeton at conferences such as “Equality and Equity in Women’s Athletics“ and played in tennis exhibitions with stars Jimmy Connors and Clark and Carole Graebner to benefit charity fundraising efforts. She thought about becoming a stockbroker or working for a tennis promoter and acknowledged that “women at Princeton face a crisis when they graduate. They’re not ready to get married and lead a housewife role.”
She may have reflected the conflict of her generation, but she had already set her future in motion when she first dated Stan Smith at 18. She played mixed doubles with Stan at the U.S. Open when he was ranked among the world’s top ten, in 1973 and in 1974, the year he won the second of his four U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. They were married two months later, in November.
Today, Margie and Stan Smith live in Hilton Head, S.C., and are the parents of four children, who all play tennis. Ramsey was born during the 1978 U.S. Open on Labor Day, a few days before his dad won his third men’s doubles trophy there, and the tournament director Billy Talbert announced Ramsey’s arrival on center court. Ramsey was a member of Duke’s Class of 2001, was the No. 1 player and captain of the tennis team, and later played the pro tour. Trevor, Princeton Class of 2003, was captain of the tennis team. Logan, UVA Class of 2005, played tennis for one year. Austin, 17, hopes to play at a Division 1 school.
In 1978, the Genglers were honored as Eastern’s Family of the Year. Almost 20 years later, in 1995, Margie and Stan Smith accepted the Southern Tennis Association Family of the Year award.
Jeanne Gengler wrote the first installment of the legendary Gengler sisters, and before she passed away, in the year 2000, she added a personal epilogue. At the age of 65, after her husband Herbert died, she began competing in USTA national senior tournaments. Jeanne achieved U.S. top ten rankings in doubles and top 15 in singles. But her biggest thrill came in 1999 when she played an invitational senior match on center court – right before Jennifer Capriati – during the women’s professional tournament at Mahwah.
One question remains: Who will emerge from the new generation to write the sequel?
Photo Credit: Edward Goldman
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PATRICK W. McENROE | By Nancy Gill McShea
The kid next door has grown up! We watched him play tennis on local courts when he was a child in the 1970’s. We watched him work the U.S. Open courts when he was a ball boy and the main heartthrob in the early ‘80s. And when he turned pro in 1988, we admired the various lengths of his wavy reddish blond hair, along with his lethal backhand. Two weeks ago we watched Patrick McEnroe again -- all grown up now and the captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team -- as he and his young American squad vaulted into the final four of this year’s competition, courtesy of a record-breaking serve by Andy Roddick.
The United States defeated Sweden 4-1 in the Davis Cup quarterfinals on April 11 in Delray Beach, Florida, and will play Belarus in the semifinals in September. Roddick announced immediately, “We’re halfway to our dream of winning the Davis Cup,” while Captain McEnroe high-fived the team for its effort and reiterated his belief that hard work pays off.
Patrick’s reaction might sound like a “same old, same old” spin touting the benefits of team tennis, except that in his world, “team effort” and “hard work” are truly operative phrases that can be traced to his family roots in Douglaston, N.Y.
“Patrick was so cute, and shy, always trying to keep up with his brothers,” recalled Nancy Lynch, who lived three doors down from the McEnroes when she was growing up. “You’d see the three of them [John, Mark and Patrick] walking back and forth with their rackets to the club across the street. That’s what they did. You’d hear the thump of the ball against the backboard, starting first thing in the morning, and there was always a good chance it would be Patrick.”
Patrick loves the job of Davis Cup captain because he’s a team player, as evidenced by his run as a three-time All American and captain of the tennis team at Stanford University, the NCAA champions in 1986 and 1988. He also understands what it takes to get the most out of players, having worked very hard himself to move forward in the men’s professional world singles rankings, from No. 670 in 1989 to a career-high No. 28 in 1995.
That attitude was underscored when Robbie Ginepri was trailing two sets to love against Austria’s Jergen Melzer in the first-round Davis Cup encounter this past February in Connecticut. McEnroe asked him if he had ever rallied from two sets down. Ginepri said he hadn’t and McEnroe said, “Today’s gonna be the day.” Ginepri, who according to one writer had “started walking around in concrete soles…staring ahead as if just another male unwilling to ask for directions,” perked up and won the match, 6-7, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
Patrick learned the intricacies of a five-setter -- and probably grew up as a tennis player – in the first round of the 1991 U.S. Open when he was leading Jimmy Connors two sets to love, with Connors serving at 0-3 and 0-40 in the third set. Patrick’s mother, Kay McEnroe, had warned Connors jokingly before the match not to be tough on her baby. The battle continued into the wee morning hours and local fans circled the wagons in the courtside boxes to support Patrick. But Connors had it going and prevailed, 4-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. “I thought I had it won,” Patrick said, “but after experiencing that I came back from two sets down at least six or seven times. That was the positive.” His most memorable comeback occurred four years later, in the third round of the 1995 U.S. Open on his favorite Grandstand Court, when he trudged back from a two-set deficit to beat Russia’s Alexander Volkov, 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(4), 6-2.
“I wasn’t the most gifted player,” admitted Patrick, the co-author of the 1998 book “Tennis for Dummies” who had doubts about the pro tour and took the law boards when he graduated from Stanford in 1988. “But my mother always called me a plugger, and I had been successful in juniors and in college, so I had to give the pros a shot. [I thought] if I’m good enough I’ll make it.”
Patrick has made it in every phase of a tennis career that went public in 1978 when he was ranked No. 1 in Eastern boys’ 12s.
“The first time I met Patrick, he was 10, I was 12 and he was beating us all up at a tournament at C.W. Post College [in Brookville, Long Island],” Allan Van Nostrand said. “He was two years younger than we were…a little boy who had the best backhand of any of us, and he still does.”
In the juniors, Patrick won a few major titles – in singles at the USTA boys’ 18 grass courts and in doubles at the French Open and the USTA boys’ 18 clay courts (both with Luke Jensen) and also earned his share of sportsmanship awards. When he first joined the pro tour he played European Challengers for about a year and a half. “I was doing well in doubles, but I was taking my lumps in singles,” he said.
He won a Grand Slam doubles title at the 1989 French Open (with Jim Grabb), and that year broke through in singles, reaching the semifinals of a Challenger in Denmark, which boosted his world singles ranking 314 spots, to 356 by year’s end. He returned home and started running twice a day to get into better shape, and in 1990, he had a good run in Asia. He made it to the third round in Tokyo, the quarters in Singapore and Hong Kong and climbed to No. 120 in the world. He played the 1991 Australian Open, advancing to the semifinals of singles, before losing to the eventual champion Boris Becker. He was also a finalist in doubles (with David Wheaton).
Patrick posted a 3-1 record as a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team in 1993, 1994 and 1996. He was a singles quarterfinalist at the 1995 U.S. Open, losing again to Becker, this time in a gripping, four-hour marathon, 6-4, 7-6(2), 6-7(3), 7-6(6). He earned career best rankings of No. 3 in doubles and No. 28 in singles while appearing in 42 ATP singles and doubles finals. Shoulder surgery cut short his on-court career in 1996, but jump-started his new adventure as a tennis analyst for ESPN and CBS Sports. He now does tennis commentary at all four Grand Slam events.
Patrick McEnroe today is a man in transit. He is a co-owner of the Sportime World Team Tennis Team. In the past four months he has shepherded the Davis Cup team to the semifinal round. On February 18, the USTA officially introduced him as the Olympic tennis coach for men, who will compete in Athens, Greece, from August 15 to 22. In between, he returned to his familiar on-camera role with Cliff Drysdale: at the Australian Open, in January; at the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells, California, in March; and at the Nasdaq-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, in late March.
“I think Patrick’s been great for Cliff,” ESPN analyst Mary Joe Fernandez has said. “…Patrick keeps him on his toes and hip. That combination has been fabulous. They feed really well off each other. They are not afraid to take punches at each other…that makes for interesting commentary.”
Patrick also flew home to New York in late March to see his wife, the actress and singer Melissa Errico, who was appearing at the Oak Room at the Algonquin. Last spring, Melissa received a Tony Award nomination for “Best Leading Actress in a Musical” for her role in Amour. When Melissa’s name was announced the night of the awards, Patrick was captured on television as the chivalrous husband, kissing his wife’s hand in appreciation of her inspirational performances.
Maybe because Patrick was a privileged little kid – “He was the baby and we all just loved him to death,” Kay McEnroe said – he finds pleasure in giving back to others, and is an enthusiastic volunteer at Eastern and national junior clinics. “I do it when I’m asked if it fits into my schedule,” said Patrick, once a volunteer member of the USTA board of directors. “Kids are what it’s about. It’s our future. It’s pretty simple.”
Photo Credit: Edward Goldman
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ROBERT RUSSO | By Nancy Gill McShea
Bob Russo, the director of Sport Science Education for ProHEALTH Care Associates in Lake Success, N.Y., and the veteran U.S. Tennis Association athletic trainer for the men’s professional circuit, could fill a couple of best-selling books with inside scoops about life on the tour. But he has a reputation for respecting players’ privacy, so he talks instead about the great tennis matches he has covered, courtside, in the modern game.
Russo was so impressed when 39-year-old Jimmy Connors rallied from 2-5 down in the fifth set to beat Aaron Krickstein, 3-6, 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, 7-6, during his dream-like run to the semifinals of the 1991 U.S. Open, he told a New York sports writer that Connors “is like a street guy…like somebody the Mets should have…I was electrified…all that stuff about opening night on Broadway and a prize fight at the Garden, he’s got it. He’s got this New York heart.“
It takes one to know one. Bob grew up playing stickball on the streets of Queens across from the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills and fantasized about his own dream-like run in tennis. He went to the U.S. Open at West Side every year when he was a kid and worked as a ball boy there. He was such an insider, in fact, one vivid West Side memory dates to the mid-‘60s, when he watched from the clubhouse as the Beatles’ helicopter landed on the grass and the group scurried out to perform their concert. Nobody could get within three blocks of the place without a ticket. Also special were the hours he spent hitting tennis balls on the club’s back courts with his brothers and friends, absorbing tennis history and sometimes pretending they were part of great matches, like a Davis Cup final between the U.S. and Russia.
Destiny complied some 30 years later, when Bob was part of the action as the U.S. Davis Cup team traveled to Moscow in Dec. of 1995, and Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Todd Martin defeated Russia, 3-2, in Red Square to win the championship. “It was dramatic, my first visit to Russia,” he said. “In my mind I had already played it a million times even though I wasn’t playing. Professionally, it was an accomplishment highlight for me.”
He had also been the trainer at two earlier U.S. Davis Cup victories -- in 1990, when Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Rick Leach and Jim Pugh topped Australia, 3-2, in Florida; and again in 1992, when Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras beat Switzerland, 3-1, in Fort Worth, Texas. “There were spirited conversations in the locker room,” he said. “That had to be the greatest Davis Cup team ever assembled, with four guys who were No. 1 in the world. Who do you sit out?”
It figures that Bob’s list of memorable matches would include riveting battles contested in his neighborhood, starring a couple of local heroes:
--1979 U.S. Open Final – John McEnroe defeated his friend, the late Vitas Gerulaitis, in straight sets. “I kept thinking, of all the players in the world, what were the odds that two kids who grew up in Queens would play this final…There were no losers that day.”
--1980 U.S. Open final – McEnroe beat Borg in five sets. “You knew history was being made. It was fire and ice and another clean match on the court.”
--1984 U.S. Open semifinal – McEnroe outlasted Connors in five, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. “[This time] It was fire and fire, Saturday night in New York, a prize fight crowd. After the match we were stretching them both in the trainers’ room, John on one table and Jimmy on the table right next to him, for half an hour. There was this long, loud silence…..”
Bob earned a masters degree in sports medicine from Long Island University in 1976 and immediately launched his career as an athletic trainer, first for the N.Y. Cosmos soccer team at Giants Stadium in New Jersey (1976-84) -- during which time the Cosmos featured such stars as Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia and won four North American Soccer League titles (1977, 1978, 1980 and 1982) -- and then for the U.S. Open (1977-present).
In 1977, the West Side Tennis Club was hosting the Tournament of Champions and needed an athletic trainer familiar with professional sports. Somebody at West Side remembered that Bob was working in that capacity with the Cosmos and asked him to cover the tournament. Later that summer, the USTA asked him to be part of the player medical staff at the U.S. Open. He has since served as the director of trainers for the USTA, establishing a network of certified athletic trainers and assigning them to cover the USTA Men’s Professional Circuits. He has also worked for the ATP Tour, World Team Tennis, the John McEnroe Tennis Over America Tour and the AT&T Challenge of Champions, among other pro events.
Off the court, he has authored 14 publications in the area of sports medicine. He is currently the chairman of Eastern’s Sport Science Committee, has served as a member of the USTA National Sport Science and Wheelchair Tennis Committees, and has won awards from the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation and the American Red Cross.
Bob helps tennis players to prolong their amazing careers, or at the very least, helps them to get through a match. He evaluates their physical situations, measures individual capabilities and applies sound scientific sports medicine principles to help them enhance their innate ability. He supervises players’ pre-match preparation and post-match recovery, is always available for on-court emergencies and organizes players’ rehabilitation schedules at tournaments.
The following testimonials lend insight to Bob’s influence in the game:
Peter Fleming – “Trainers…keep players healthy enough to compete day in and day out…Often emotional stress can…undermine an athlete’s health as much as physical stress…Bob’s peaceful, confident air…is one of his greatest healing tools.”
Tim Mayotte – “Trainers are unsung heroes…They make it possible for us to push ourselves…even when our bodies don’t…want to cooperate…Bob is one of the best in the business…It was a relief to walk into a tournament locker room at some distant end of the planet or the U.S. Open and see Bob. He did everything from taping my ankles to putting me in touch with the world’s best specialists for major injuries.”
Paul Annacone – “His knowledge and selfless motivation go beyond words.”
Stan Smith – “Bob has done a terrific job working with all the players. He has a helpful attitude and knows his job very well.”
Mary Carillo – “This is a very special man...The tennis professionals he’s treated, trained and befriended would tell you…this is the…guy you want on your team.” Dr. Irving Glick – “He gives unselfishly of himself. His expertise is a great asset to the game and his profession…Few know of his efforts to help young players, handicapped participants and those less privileged.”
Dr. Glick was referring to the ProHEALTH awards, which Bob Russo established in 1997 in memory of his childhood friend, Vitas Gerulaitis. To date, the charity has given more than 100 children an opportunity to play in area tennis programs. Last year, tennis scholarships were awarded to children who had a parent serving in the War in Iraq; and before that, the beneficiaries were families of firemen and policemen who were victims in the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center.
Vitas’s sister, Ruta Gerulaitis, has said she is grateful to her old friend for his unselfish dedication, and especially in keeping alive the work her brother did with kids through his youth foundation…Bob Russo’s dream-like run in tennis might not play out with the same dramatic flair Jimmy Connors created at the 1991 U.S. Open, but he’s got the same New York heart!
Photo Credit: Edward Goldman
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