GEORGE W. GOWEN
George Gowen is a senior partner in the Manhattan law firm of Dunnington, Bartholow & Miller and has been affiliated with his firm for almost 50 years He is also a seasoned tennis veteran, having served 18 USTA presidents - in the roles of advisor, counselor and historian - and survived countless revolutions within the sport for almost 40 years.
Gowen served as Easter's vice president in the early 1970's, but he initially established a presence in the game in 1969 when he was appointed general counsel of the USTA by President Alastair Martin. Martin was working to consolidate tennis's amateur and professional games as the sport moved into the Open Era. Bob Kelleher (1967-68) was the first president I worked for but I was officially appointed by Alastair (1969-70). said George, who is known as one of the game's most polished diplomats. "They were both outstanding presidents during a major revolutionary period.”
"I was very lucky. It was a position that was 100 percent the presidents' call...I didn't ever assume that it would continue and I am grateful to those individuals who. for better or worse, selected me. The late Eugene L. Scott pondered Gown's role in the Nov. 22, 1975 Tennis Week "Vantage Point" column: "|George] has lived and suffered through the gargantuan growth of tennis... He has negotiated license agreements, stadium lease agreements and television contracts. He has been a mediator in player strikes on one hand and player bans on the other. And he has been smack in the middle of thorny anti-trust actions directed against his Association... He has always been cool in crisis, and his integrity is respected everywhere. He also has a nifty sense of humor... rare in administrating or even in playing the game."
Gowen needed a sense of humor and integrity, plus a whole lot of other qualities, along with his instinct for keeping things simple and straight forward. Open tennis was the first hurdle. The history books report that Open tennis was a done deal in 1968. when in reality the game wasn't completely open. Several groups were vying for power and a classification of registered players existed. "Five of the world's top players boycotted the Open in 1971." George said.
America's Stan Smith won the 1971 Open and the next year George advised USTA President Robert Colwell in working out an agreement with the players - Gowen-style - with a minimum of excitement and litigation. The larger issue was to ensure that Open tennis would truly be open. In those days, many tennis organizations felt that the players should do what they were told, which prompted rebel. lion and a boycott at the 1973 Wimbledon. "The USTA leadership believed that the players should be treated as valuable individuals, independent contractors," George said. "It was worked out because we recognized that a new age was coming. It was bound to come with more or less blood shed.
And I think it ended up with very little blood shed" In Gowen's view, many tennis leaders stood up to effect change. The tie breaker, invented by Jimmy Van Alen, was introduced by tournament director Bill Talbert at the 1970 US Open, after Alastair Martin gave the go ahead. It was more than a revolutionary act within the game: it allowed schedule makers and television producers to estimate the timing of a match.
The tie breaker may have been the biggest economic benefit to tennis to date," George said. "The old scoring system.. with a match of 22 to 24 games was hardly appealing to television producers." Litigation defined professional tennis in the 1970's. "It's a pleasant irony that Gladys Heldman is being inducted the same time I am because in 1971 we were on opposite sides of pretty heavy litigation, he said. "They (the "Houston 9*) all signed a contract. The good news is that we negotiated a settlement that combined the two women's tours so-called USTA tour and the [Virginia Slims] tour that Gladys put together."
Another revolutionary change occurred in 1975 when Slew Hester, then the USTA's first vice presi-dent, introduced night tennis under the lights at Forest Hills. George said "Slew was told he couldn't do it, people would object, but he just went ahead and got the lights. It was revolutionary but he did it rather than endure agonizing studies." Stan Smith was the first leading American tennis player to play under the lights. The USTA took leadership positions in introducing indoor tennis and in allowing Billie Jean King's World TeamTennis (WTT) players to compete in the Open. "Billie Jean is a historic figure," George said, "not only as a tennis player or as the architect of pro team tennis, but also with respect to women's rights.
Tennis in many ways has a broader historical and sociological impact than most sports and Billie Jean is an example of it." When the Open moved in 1978 from the West Side Tennis Club to the National Tennis Center, the USTA President Slew Hester broke with West Side, which had hosted the tournament since 1914. "West Side got 50 percent of the deal," George said. "Slew said West Side asked for too much. He just walked out and said 'We can do it ourselves. It was pure guts! The first shovel was stuck in the ground in October of 1977 and 10 months later we were playing the US Open in a stadium of 20.000 and another stadium of 5.000. In retrospect, nobody can believe... that you could start and finish a giant project in that length of time.
"We financed it by getting a loan from Citibank and selling box seats. It was an incredible achievement. I was Slew's counsel and was involved in every aspect of the move. Less people were involved in those days. The USTA didn't have any money so every cent counted. I remember Slew saying 'We're not going to put in an extra light bulb because we can't afford it. Now it's matured into this incredible event."
Gowen drafted the contracts for the move to the National Tennis Center. The building was done in less than a year but four park commissioners kept hassling them. "New York was in a decline." George said, "and perhaps that worked in our favor because we were more prone to be creative. I remember getting orders from the park commissioner to shut down construction. I guess I shouldn't say this, but I ignored the order." * president (1989-90), he built the Arthur Ashe stadium, which directly influenced the Open's present success and popularity.
Is there a favorite match, a favorite player? "Any match with Jimmy Connors," George said. "McEnroe had the ultimate touch. Billie Jean transcends tennis. Newcomer Chris Evert made it to the '71 Open semis. Agassi, in all his phases. And Sampras, sick and reeling on court (in the 1995 Open versus Corretja), put in a second serve ace, won the match and the tournament.
"Every Davis Cup match is memorable, especially...oversees. I went to a match in Prague in early 1990 right after the Berlin wall came down date 1989). It was also historic because the Czech Republic was free again. I went to Zimbabwe in 2000, an unusual place to go. John McEnroe was the Davis Cup captain; Chris Woodruff and Agassi won critical matches and we won."
And how about your tennis, George? "The only strength I had was a good forehand. But at the (1979) USTA Annual Meeting I teamed with Bill Clothier (twice a finalist at the U.S. Championships) and beat Stan Malless (a former USTA president) and Ken Nidrie of Puerto Rico, 6-0, 6-2. That was my greatest moment." Reminded that he has the most extensive corporate knowledge in the USTA's history and knows all of the inside scoops, he chuckled and said, "Well, some, yeah. That's just because I've been around so long." But you keep your own counsel, right? "Well. it's kind of a lawyer's job to keep quiet. "If the leadership is open and creative, it's fun.
And tennis continues to evolve. We have like 500,000 league players. The emphasis now is in the parks and public playgrounds. That's where it starts. That's a challenge. The US Open continues to get bigger and better. We're on a roll."
Manhattan-born Gladys Heldman graduated Phi Beta Kappa and first in her class from Stanford University and was the architect of the women's professional tennis circuit. Gladys was described variously as brilliant, indomitable - and by Bud Collins as "slight and shy, witty and wise, her steel will concealed well." In 1953 she founded and was the publisher, chief editor and writer of World Tennis magazine - known as the international literary voice of tennis - and became one of the most influential people in the game. In 1970 she arranged for the Houston Racquet Club to hold a tournament and asked nine of the top women players (the Houston "9**) to sign $1.00 contracts with World Tennis to play in the event - among them Billie Jean King and her daughter Julie Heldman - and enlisted Joe Cullman of Philip Morris 10 donate prize money and sponsorship, which was the beginning of the women's pro tour Before she passed away in June 2003, Gladys received many accolades for her dedication to the sport and in 1979 was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
“My mother was an energizer bunny. The words "she started" and "she saved" keep coming up. She started World Tennis magazine, she started the women's pro tour, she saved the U.S. Championships at Forest Hills, she helped save the Santa Fe Symphony. There was more. You have no idea how hard she worked.
Her work ethic started when she attended Stanford. My mother always said that she almost flunked out of high school. Well, that's not quite true. Only in her later years did she hint at what a rebel she was. She told me that her teacher once said "Read Hamlet," and my mother refused, reading Othello instead. My grandfather, a famous New York lawyer, had friends in high places.
He got my mother into Stanford on the recommendations of Tom Dewey and Herbert Hoover. At Stanford, she was determined not to let them down, and as she said, "not to flunk out," so she taught herself how to succeed. To be sure, she was smart enough - but to guarantee being a winner she applied her prodigious intelligence to focusing on what her professors wanted, and then spewing it back to them. She taught herself to work harder than everyone else. She ended up with an all "A" average.
From then on, she applied that dynamic focus to each task she undertook. Take her tennis play do son anon was three months old. She said She did it to see my father (Julius], a tennis champion, on the week-ends, which he spent at the Berkeley Tennis Club.
She charged hard, practicing hours and hours. She always said she wasn't a natural athlete. So her improvement came out of will and sweat. In just a few years she went from total novice to being ranked number one in Texas and winning tons of trophies.
My sister Trixie and I are her daughters, but you may not be aware that there was another child in our house - and that child's name was World Tennis magazine. From 1953 to 1972 my mother worked like a whirling dervish, performing all the magazine's tasks, from menial ones like managing subscriptions (early on when she got cash, she stored it in her bra), to writing and/or editing all the articles. She was the magazine's graphic de-signer, but then her tools weren't computers; they were rubber cement and printers' proofs.
She started out with a storefront office near our New York apartment, and when the magazine was going to press, we'd bring her lunch, dinner, breakfast and then lunch again. She'd work 36, sometimes 48, hours in a row. She never let the magazine be printed even one day late.
World Tennis was the most demanding member of the family. All the human members of the family were expected to help take care of the baby. My father, who ostensibly had a day job as a vice president of Shell Oil, did double duty as a tennis analyst and proofreader extraordinaire, while my sister and I stuffed envelopes, filed photos, and manned the magazine's booth at Forest Hills, starting when we were seven and eight years old. We also helped clip tennis results out of the mountains of newspapers from around the world that arrived daily at our home. Those results were printed in six-point type in the back of the magazine. Tennis players around the world turned to World Tennis as their bible.
Magazines make money from their ads. My mother sold all the ads in World Tennis. She'd invite prospective advertisers to lunch at a fancy French restaurant, and then pitch them her ideas of how to connect the advertiser's name to an event or an award or a column. She was a pioneer of modern sports marketing. If my mother failed to sell the ads she was pitching, she took herself to Tiffany's to buy a consoling treasure. When she died, we discovered her stash of gold pins, gold cigarette cases, and gold necklaces.
My mother didn't sleep much normally, so she had hours to fill with her apparently unbounded energy. During the World Tennis years, she wrote several tennis books, did voluminous research in preparation for writing an encyclopedia of Greek Mythology, and became a substantial collector of rare books (another place she would take herself if she failed to sell an ad she was pitching).
Onto this extraordinarily busy schedule she moonlighted several promotions. In 1962 the U.S. Championships at Forest Hills was in dire straits.
The best players were skipping the event, instead playing in Europe, where they got lots of under-the-table money. So, my mother turned to her address book, called 9 rich friends, and convinced them to join her in bringing an airplane load of the best international players to Forest Hills. It was a slam-dunk. The airplane came, the top players competed, and Forest Hills was saved.
In 1970, she gave birth to another tennis baby, the Women's pro tour. Without remuneration she began and promoted the tour for its struggling yet exhilarating first three years. World Tennis didn't take a back seat, though. To manage both her tennis babies, my mother went on hyper warp speed, even finding the energy to fight the United States Tennis Association, which was constantly battling the women's pro tour. Women's sports can be a hard sell. I was one
of the original players on the tour, and I can assure you the media mostly didn't know what to do with us. Often they'd assign the fashion reporter to cover the matches, and we'd have to explain to them what the words "forcehand" and "love" meant. Under my mother's passion and skill, women's tennis thrived. No other women's pro sports can boast such fame and fortune. The women's pro tennis tour would not be as successful without my mother's pioneering work.
In 1972, my mother sold World Tennis magazine to CBS publications, although she remained the publisher for two years. She cut back to writing only two articles a month for the magazine. She liked to say that CBS publications hired 7 men to replace her. That's not true. It was 9.
In the mid-1970s, Nana Sato, a highly ranked Japanese tennis player, came to live with my parents for two years. She became their Japanese daughter. My mother loved to speak Japanese with Nana, and in her fifties, in another of her more Herculean efforts, she learned to write in Japanese.
She had a wall full of books in Japanese, all of which she read and annotated.
In the late 1970s, she tried to close a trust account at a bank in Houston, and a banker condescendingly went to my father to make her change her mind. He chose the wrong woman. My mother believed that he would have acted differently if there had been women on the bank's board of directors. So she started a service to place women on the boards of Fortune 500 corporations.
Even in retirement, my mother didn't slow down. She wrote a first novel, which was published, no mean feat for someone in her mid-fifties. Once my father retired, they moved to Santa Fe, where my mother as Julie and Trixie, worked hard and creatively to help save the Santa Fe Symphony.
My mother was the happiest ever in Santa Fe, maintaining an extremely active social life, learning to have true friendships, and playing tennis six days a week. She continued to hard charge through life, but with more fun. In her eighties, she was still improving her tennis. Earlier in her life she was afraid of going to net, but under the tutelage of Claudia Monteiro, she started serving better and improving her volley. Six days a week she played happily and well. She loved her tennis buddies The day before she died, she was serving up a storm and attacking the net. Life was good. She went out at the top of her game.
If you recognize that tennis is more than "just a game," that when it is played at its most challenging level it's a struggle engaging the body. mind and spirit, then you'll understand why Julie Heldman's on-court joumey reads like a two-act play. The first act was fueled by intensity, the second by joy, and an epiphany in between prepared her for Act Ill.
"Tennis was my foundation." said Julie, whose collection of tennis memorabilia traces the 15 years between 1963 and 1975 when she ranked as high as No. 5 in the world and No. 2 in the United States. From an early age, her lifestyle was tied to the sport. For years, she and her sister Trixie sold their mother Gladys's World Tennis magazines under the stadium at Forest Hills. Julie also wrote articles and captions for the magazine in her teens and cut tennis clippings and scores out of nine papers a day.
"Our family discussed tennis at the dinner table: it became my identity." she said, recalling that she won the Girls' 18 Canadian National Championships when she was 12. “I needed it," said Julie, who skipped two grades and felt like an outsider when she attended the Dalton School in Manhat-tan. "I won the national 15-and-unders one summer and back at school a bunch of us sat around discussing vacations. One went to camp, another had her nose done. I told them I won a tennis tournament." The response? "What's that?"
Julie trained at the Hoxie tennis camp in Michigan at age 8 and also began riding the subway solo to practice at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn. "I was focused from the moment I started playing.' she said. "It was all about winning or not losing. My nickname was tiger. My sister saw ferocity across the net. I wasn't aware of it... It was com-plicated, as most things are. The obvious clue to Julie's championship tennis game is her intelligence. Not surprising, considering her family background, what she achieved on the court and in her life after tennis.
She entered Stanford University at 16, in 1962, graduated in 1966, and in 1981 was named the UCLA Law School Graduate of the Year. Her father Julius was a national tennis champion, camed a Ph.D. from Stanford and was a vice president of the Shell Oil Company. Her mother graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford, founded World Tennis and was the architect of the women's pro tour.
Trixie was a national merit scholar finalist, attended Ivy League schools, and played guitar in a rock and roll band she formed in Colorado. "Our family, fortunately or unfortunately, was distinguished or cursed with being bright." Julius Heldman said recently. "It's difficult, but when all is said and done, I take a great deal of pride in it." Julie's savvy approach to the game prompted Bud Collins to call her “junk ball Julie." She had good hands, excellent command of the drop shot and hit the ball fat and with topspin. Her on-court image was so mercurial that one writer described her as "both vivacious and pugnacious." She enjoyed entertaining the audience. making fans laugh by way of body language and facial grimaces, but could turn around a minute later and get ticked off. “I learned from Mr. Hoxie how to outsmart an opponent by using high balls, angles, and using different tactics depending on whom I was playing." she said.
Julie knew that Evonne Goolagong's second serve was weak so she'd run around the backhand and thump a forehand winner down the line. When she beat Billie Jean King in the third round of the 1973 US Open, the temperature was in the 100 degree range and she had already gone through heat prostration. "Billie Jean was suffering from the heat," she said. "I decided to get the ball low over the net so that when she charged it would wear her down." Julie was ahead 4-1 in the third set and Billie Jean retired. Julie first quit playing tennis in 1966 - "I decided to stop. for good, or so I thought," she said - when she was not named to play on the Wightman Cup team (she was on the team, but not picked to play) and was also over-reacting to a breakup with a boyfriend. She finished at Stanford, went home to New York and got a job as a secretary at the Wells, Rich, Greene advertising agency.
"I hated being indoors so much that I envied the delivery boys... they could at least be outside." she said. She quit that job, hung out with a hippy group and tagged along when they drove cross-country in a van to California. Once there, she went to live with Dennis and Linda Van der Meer. Dennis was the pro at the Berkeley Tennis Club and ran a summer camp there.
I was happy to help teach the kids," she said, but Linda got me out on the court and I felt like playing again. Linda reminded me that I didn't have to push myself; tennis could be just for fun. That was an eye opener for me." Dennis helped change her backhand and serve and late that summer she beat Billie Jean in the Pacific Coast tournament at the Berkeley Club. She realized she could still compete at the top level, which ushered in the epiphany and the beginning Julie Heldman and her
of Act ll. “I decided to play again, just for fun, to use my racquet as a passport to see the world." she said. "In 1968 and 1969. I traveled all over, including stops in Europe. Johannesburg, to Mexico for the Olympics, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Russia and Tel Aviv for the Maccabiah Games."
In 1969, she won the Italian Open, ranked No. 2 in the U.S. and No. 5 in the world (she repeated as the world's No. 5 in 1974). "The travel was exhilarating," she said. "But the women's pro tour started in 1971, so I had diminished opportunities to roam the world. Julie was one of the "Houston 9" who signed a $1.00 contract with World Tennis magazine to help pioneer the [Virginia Slims] tour. She was injured at the time, heard that the players who had entered the tournament would be sus-pended, so she played one point - against King-to show her support, and then defaulted.) “When pro tennis came around it became a job. I gave up my tennis passport ... for money and solidarity, losing Naples for Oklahoma City. It was an advantage for so many people, including me. to make my own money. The first thing ! did…. was..buy a stereo. The next thing I did, when I won a big tournament, was buy a sports car...Plus, I trained very hard, so I saw very little other than the hotel rooms and the tennis courts. There were some successful times, a few more injuries, and I quit the year I turned 30."
Overall, Julie won more than 20 pro titles and played on U.S. championship teams, in Wightman Cup (for which she was twice captain, 1974-75. and the MVP. 1969), Fed Cup (captain, 1975) and Bonne Bell Cup (captain, MVP. 1974). She earned three Olympic medals in Mexico City in 1968 - gold (in mixed doubles with Herb FitzGibbon). silver and bronze - and three gold medals at the Maccabiah Games. She received the USTA Service Bowl and has been inducted already into several Halls of Fame.
She also enjoyed meeting a wide range of players. She felt honored to play mixed doubles at 14 with the great Gardnar Mulloy, but regrets that she once gave the Wimbledon and Australian champ, Dick Savitt, the chicken pox. "And he got it badly." she said. "When I got the measles a few months later, he refused to have any contact with my mother, even on the phone."
She worked as a tennis jouralist and as a television commentator for CBS. NBC and HBO at Wimbledon and the US Open. *I loved commentating. She said. "I was lively and knew tennis. I had learned a lot from my father and was able to explain what I saw going on on the court." Thus far, in Act IlI, she has practiced law in Califoria, raised her daughter Amy, now 18 and studying film at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, Cal. In 1983, Julie and her husband Bernie started Signature Eyewear and they now have 300 employees.
Julie, by her own admission, is no longer hyper-competitive, but believes her two-act tennis career taught her how to succeed and gave her a sense of accomplishment and confidence to excel in Act III.
Suzanne Maguire may be best known as the US Open marketing director who negotiated the Open's first million-dollar sponsorship. but in truth she has been a tennis insider, in a literal sense, all of her life.
Suzanne grew up in the Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y. Actually lived in the building! Her father was an avid golfer there and tried to get her hooked as well. But the club's caddies told her father that golf was not her game, that he should buy her a tennis racquet, and a tennis star was born. She fell in love with the sport and began a lifelong devotion to Davis Cup when she watched Australia defeat Sweden, 3-2, in a 1950 Inter-zonal final on the grass in her front yard at the Westchester Country Club. She was a teenager then, and she and a group of friends wound up going to the movies with the Aussie Davis Cup team.
She played tennis in the 1950's at the Rosemary Hall prep school in Connecticut under the tutelage of the late Clifford Sutter, once an ETA president and a member of Easter's Hall of Fame. After she was married and had children. she returned to the Westchester Country Club to play tennis on the 'B' team in the Metropolitan Inter-Club Tennis League that Barbara Williams created there. She directed the club's women's and children's tennis programs and helped to set up two professional events: the Women's Medi-Quik Open and the Men's Lionel Tournament.
Suzanne worked at those pro events with the tournament director Marilyn Fernberger, the USTA director of women's tennis Edy McGoldrick and the umpire Lee Jackson. "No one could have had better individuals to learn from." she said. Or to be fooled by. Ion Tiriac once asked her at the Lionel event to teach him how to drive a stick shift courtesy car. She struggled, not having a clue about stick shifts. "He was just kidding me," she said. ger and better things to help our sport."
Later in 1978, at the suggestion of Lee Jack-son, she applied to the USTA for a job when the US Open was moving from Forest Hills site to Louis Antonine stadium. I had never been to Forest Hills I did this based on sponsorship. longevity and location," she said. “Mike only changed about four of the subscribers I had placed. Needless to say. I had no idea of the intensity of feelings subscribers have to their seat location. As it turned out it was the safest way to do it. It was done by a fair protocol, all on the up and up, so I survived."
She worked directly for Burns on the US Open for a few years and when the Capital Sports (C.S.) contract was up for renewal, she asked him if they could sell the US Open sponsorships and not renew the C.S. agreement. They met with the USTA president, who agreed to give them a chance. "It went very slowly at first," Suzanne said, *and Mike had to convince the president to give us some more time." It eventually all came together and people started buying what she was selling. Many of the companies that now sponsor the Open came from their early efforts.
She took over marketing of the US Open in the early 1980's. "My best sponsor experiences were landing Coca Cola and Infiniti," she said, explaining that it's very easy to sell something you totally believe in, and she totally believes in the Open. She said that when Infiniti called, they initially asked about renting a hospitality tent. The Open had just lost Avis as the sponsor of the men's singles, so she suggested to Infiniti that they take over that sponsorship.
"Joanne Fairchild and I flew to California." Suzanne said, "and I sold Infiniti the men's singles for a million dollars. It was our first million dollarUS Open sponsor. “...I flew back from California without the plane!" Suzanne realized a dream to work on Davis Cup when the U.S. defeated Czechoslovakia, 4-1, in 1981 at the National Tennis Center. "I had loved Davis Cup from the beginning and when I was a child that beautiful cup was showcased in the lobby of the Westchester Country Club," she said. "I was fortunate enough to travel with our team for about 11 years - working with Ed Fabricius, Arthur Ashe and Tom Gorman, and players like Andre (Agassi), Pete (Sampras) and John (McEnroe), Michael Chang, Peter Fleming, Jimmy Connors and Jimmy Arias."
Her friend David Markin remembers a humorous aside involving Suzanne at a Davis Cup match in Paraguay, with U.S. stars Aaron Krickstein and Jimmy Arias. "She broke a front tooth and was moaning and groaning," he said. "I said 'Go to the dentist.' She came to dinner that night with two teeth - one in her mouth and one in her hand. When we asked why two, she said the dentist cautioned "In case it breaks. Sure enough, she bit into a roll and it broke?" Suzanne was transferred to the National Tennis Center in 1989 when the Arthur Ashe Stadium was being constructed and she became involved with many aspects of the new stadium - the architectural design, food service and décor. She was responsible for luxury suite sales and, once again, seat relocation.
"Suzanne has very good people skills," said Markin, who supervised the construction of the Ashe Stadium when he was the USTA president. "There were 86 luxury boxes to sell in the new stadium.
She was involved in placing and selling boxes. She made sure the appropriate people got the appropriate assignments when she transferred everything from the old Louis Armstrong Stadium to Ashe. Guests were placed in proper seating areas. She instinctively knew who the VIPs were and those who wanted to be. There were no errors in protocol." In fact, she worked very closely with the USTA presidents and their wives, as she had done throughout her career, in managing day-to-day operations of the president's box, including attending to the décor, menu, linens, flowers, invitations and staffing. At the end of her USTA career, before she retired in 2004, Suzanne worked directly for the USTA President Alan Schwartz.
Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf have sent warm congratulations to Suzanne on the occasion of her induction into the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame: "Suzanne Maguire has been such a tremendous asset to the game of tennis. She is a talented, dedicated and passionate woman who is very deserving of this honor."
Bronx native Tony Vincent, a well-known veteran of the world's tennis courts and backgammon tables for most of his 80 years, has a reputation among friends and fellow players for being an enigmatic character who plays his cards close to the vest.
"Tony isn't very forthcoming,' ," said Fred Kovaleski, who has won many national senior doubles titles with Vincent. "But everyone who knows him understands his mind-set. He is neat and methodical, loves a challenge and was one of the few young tennis players who maintained a similar level of proficiency as he moved into the senior ranks. Tony is also a great gin rummy player and a master at backgammon. The guy played in the backgammon world championships in Bermuda."
Exactly as billed. Tony was methodical when he recently traced his roots and the chronology of his life in tennis. He may prefer to keep his own counsel. but he laughs easily and often. Chastised for labeling his mother, Mary Campanella, as "just a housewife" who raised Tony and his three younger siblings, he chuckled apologetically and said, "Okay, okay!" He sounded understandably proud,
Tony Vincent: always though, when he said that muscular physique. his father, Salvatore De Vincenzo, reputed to be one of the best trombonists in the world, played with the New York Philharmonic under the great conductor Arturo Toscanini at the Metropolitian Opera and other venues.
So where is the tennis connection? When Tony was about 14, after his family moved to Elmhurst, Long Island, he saw kids knocking tennis balls around in the local park, thought the game looked like fun and borrowed a racquet from his aunt Jenny to teach himself to play. He made it to the finals of a parks tournament there. went on to win the New York City High School Tennis Championships and captained his Newtown High School and University of Miami tennis teams. During the college years, he established a presence in the sport's upper echelon, winning Good Neighbor and other titles with Althea Gibson. Art Larsen and Gardnar Mulloy.
At the height of his 65-year tennis career, he defeated many of the great players of his time and ranked five times among the U.S. Top 20, in between high school and college, in 1943 at age 18, he took a time out from tennis to aid the World War 11 effort. He joined the Air Force, went to cadet school and became a flight officer, a bombardier. Did he play tennis in the service? "I carried my racquet all over the place!" he said, laughing at the thought, "but I never hit a tennis ball. Not once!" It was your security blanket, right? "Right!"
After the war, from 1946-50, he attended the University of Miami on the G.I. Bill and was a walk-on on the tennis team. Tony had accumulated enough credits to graduate from college in three years, in 1949, but his coach asked him to stick around and play for a tennis scholarship. "The coach asked me, 'Can he play tennis? I said no. So I taught him how to play for one year... he went down there and the coach gave him the scholarship."
Tony graduated from Miami in 1950, remained in Florida with his brother until 1954, and worked at the Coral Gables Country Club. He continued to play tennis and during a tournament in Havana, Cuba, he met his wife, Coila, who passed away a few years ago. "We were together for 50 years, we were very close." he said. "She was a model...an actress and was Rita Hayworth's understudy. I was sad when she died, all broken up, but I'm better now." And what were his weapons?"I had good legs." he said. "I could run. And I had a great backhand.
“My best shot. No topspin. Flat or spin." And his serve? "The worst!" Did he practice his serve? "I've been practicing my serve for the last 50 years," he said, laughing. Tony's friend Paul Weinstein, who played tennis with him after the war at Rip Dolman's courts in New York City, agreed with the backhand assessment. Weinstein still remembers the day he was playing at Rip's courts on Sutton Place - where every ranked amateur and pro in the country played when they were in New York - and suddenly " great shot maker appeared ...Tony Vincent. And then I saw his backhand. I never saw anyone actually follow the ball into the racquet the way Tony did...I could (eventually] gauge how well I was playing by the number of drop shots he hit. If he tried to hit 25 or 30 a set, it meant I must be playing well."
Tony moved to France in the late 1950's and lived in Lyon, Paris and Bordeaux while working as a wine salesman for Chateau La Croix. He played tennis on the European circuit and won 12 international championships - in Canada (1); at Aix-en-Provence (2); in Toulouse (1); LeHavre (1);
Biarritz (1); Sagarro, Spain (2): City of Paris (1): Estoril, Portugal (1): Cannes (1): Germany (1, doubles with Budge Patty); and was twice a finalist at Monte Carlo. He was also a singles quarterfinalist at the French and Italian Championships and advanced to the Round of 16 at Wimbledon. During those years, he recorded several wins over French champions Nicola Pietrangeli and Andres Gimeno. He also defeated Wimbledon champ Lew Hoad of Australia, Italy's No. 1 Fausto Gardini and England's Tony Mottram.
Tony returned to Elmhurst in the 1960's and worked in New York for 30 years, 20 of them as a Wall Street investment broker - 10 with Dreyfus & Co. - and another 10 years as a consultant for RIR Nabisco. During that time, he defeated Tony Trabert at Forest Hills and was the champion at nine national men's 35 clay court events (five singles, four doubles). He also won six senior Grand Slam doubles titles - one (45s) at Wimbledon with Mulloy; and five at the US Open: one (45s) with Bobby Riggs and four (60s) with Kovaleski.
"Tony was the Beau Brummel of tennis, always well groomed... with creased trousers and a fresh shine on his shoes," Kovaleski said. "And he prided himself on...his 28-inch waist. He would kid around and claim he was the exact height and weight as Martina Navratilova was at the peak of her career. "He and I used to take on corporate guys who had big egos in the boardroom and on the tennis court and we never lost to any of them."
Weinstein chimed in again with a similar anecdote. "I once walked into the indoor courts on 28th Street and saw Tony playing Jack Dreyfus," he said. "They used the half court to play on, so that Jack only had to hit forehands. Tony would give Jack five games a set, and by the time I finished playing - about an hour later, there must have been three dozen balls at the side of the court, since they used new balls for every set and I was sure Jack hadn't won any of them."
Before Tony retired at age 70, he also played tennis with the Nabisco VIP's, including Ross Johnson and his wife. You socialized with the whole jet set crowd, right? "Right!" And you had fun "Absolutely!"
"Tony reminded me of Humphrey Bogart," said Lois Prince, once the tournament director of the national men's 35s at the Shelter Rock Tennis Club in Manhasset, N.Y., where Tony often played.
"Not any more, "he said. "I look pretty good, but I don't have any hair."
So what do you think, Tony, you've had a great life, right! "Not too bad," he said. "And I can still play tennis about three or four times a week."