Collins' 50 years in tennis began as default assignment
By Dunn Neugebauer, Special to The Palm Beach Post
Sunday, April 4, 2004
KEY BISCAYNE -- At the Nasdaq-100 in Key Biscayne, The Post
caught up with longtime tennis announcer and author Bud Collins. Collins has a new book on the market called Total Tennis
and was at Nasdaq reporting for The Boston Globe
How long have you been covering tennis and how did you get into it?
It happened by accident. This will be my 50th year covering it, though it hasn't always been just tennis. Tennis, back then, wasn't any big thing. It occupied the lowest post on our sports page and it was something nobody wanted to do. Since I was the new guy, my boss said, 'You do it.' He didn't realize that I liked tennis; I played in college.
Where did you play?
At a school called Baldwin-Wallace in Berea, Ohio. I was probably between third and fifth best on the team in singles. There were a couple of guys better than me.
What else have you covered?
Pretty much all of the Boston sports. Boxing was a big beat of mine. I covered Ali and all the sports teams -- the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and so forth. In 1968, I shifted more towards tennis.
You've been everywhere with tennis. What's your favorite place to go and why?
The Australian Open for me has the most advantages for a sportswriter. They have two different stadiums so you never have to worry about a rainout. The season is young, so the players are all fresh and in a good mood. It's just a great situation. I think Sydney is a little ahead of the rest of the world as far as tennis is concerned.
What are some of the most memorable matches you've covered?
I'd have to mention the Borg-McEnroe Wimbledon final in 1980, the one with the 18-16 tiebreaker. I also did the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs match, though a lot of people nowadays don't know what that was. Also, Agassi winning the French in 1999 coming from two sets down was a good one. I could probably talk all day about the matches I've been fortunate enough to cover.
Who are some of your favorite personalities in tennis?
One of them would have to be Billie Jean King. I call her Mother Freedom because of all the doors she opened; not just for women's tennis players but for women in all sports. Also, Arthur Ashe was a great fellow. He was a humanitarian, an extraordinary person and a trailblazer.
There are others that come to mind. Rod Laver, the best male player with his two Grand Slams. Martina Navratilova is another.
Basketball changes its rules almost every year. Are there any changes that should be made in tennis? If so, what are they?
The problem with tennis is that nobody knows the meaning of the verb "try." That's what they do in other sports; they try things. A gentleman named Jimmy Van Alen had some great ideas 40 years ago. One of his best was to make the early rounds of tournaments round robin formats until the quarterfinals or so. That way, the players get to play more than one match and the fans get to see more of their favorite players.
Another thing is, somebody needs to put a formula on the rackets. They're too big now; you don't even have to hit the ball in the center for it to go over the net. Make them 27 inches in length, 9 inches in width, for example.
Technology has gotten out of hand. Somebody needs to stop it.