From the International Tennis Hall of Fame obituary for Tony Trabert:: American tennis great Tony Trabert, a 10-time major champion and 1970 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee, whose lifelong devotion to tennis was seen across an immense body of work in the sport, has passed away. Trabert died on February 3, at the age of 90, at his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.Trabert’s life in tennis covered just about every stage imaginable – all at the highest levels of the game. 

March-Legends.png
Tennis Club Business Tony Trabert

As an amateur, he won ten major titles, including three of the four singles majors in 1955. Also that year, he was ranked world number one. Soon after, Trabert turned pro, as he and his fellow pros barnstormed across the world and kept the candle burning for Open tennis— the quest for players to be able to make a living competing as professionals. Later came a term as US Davis Cup captain, Trabert leading the American squad to two titles. Read full article.

Tennis Club Business HEAD Radical

Did you know Tony Trabert?

We asked our readers and many of you replied.

February 6, 2021

 

Yes, I knew Tony. When I was playing the "Nuveen Tour of Champions" in which Jimmy Connors was the owner, I met him there while he was a TV commentator and calling the matches. He was a great man and a great commentator. For me, it was always a pleasure to see him.

 

Rest In Peace Mr. Tony Trabert.

 

Best regards

Mansour Bahrami

Paris, France

February 6, 2021

Unfortunately, I did not know Tony personally. I met him a few times so I knew him to say hello. But I saw him play many times when I was a young player and I respected him and his game very much. He was a classy gentleman from the old school. Patriotic, honest, direct, courteous, and admirable.

Allen Fox
San Luis Obispo, California

February 6, 2021

Fifty years ago, many weekends, I would travel from the University of Oklahoma to Dallas, Texas. Would play doubles with Hamilton Richardson, Tut Bartson, and Tony. All three encouraged me to try and play professionally after I finished college. All, of course, were excellent coaches and helped me to fine-tune my playing skills. Over the next five years, we would occasionally cross paths and he would go out of his way to let me know that he was following me. He was one of the first to offer congratulations when I reached the US Open mixed finals. He was a true gentleman and I will always appreciate his help and kindness.

Gerry Perry
Springfield, Missouri

February 6, 2021

Yes ... I was lucky to know Tony Trabert! What a nice person and a huge champion! I had the chance to commentate with him Roland Garros, for an Australian channel, about 18 years ago or so...

I felt very comfortable commentating with him as he was very pleasant and relaxed, which gave me confidence.

 

By the way, he won Roland Garros when I was born in 1955.

 

My thoughts go to his family.

 

Virginia Ruzici

Paris, Franc

February 6, 2021

Hi Rich,

At a chance meeting in 1956, Tony Trabert created a lifetime of tennis for me. 

Tony played Pancho Gonzales in Lincoln, Nebraska. This was indoors on a canvas court. Tony had just won 3 Grand Slams and the Davis Cup. Pancho was the best professional pro in the World. I was fascinated watching my first professional tennis match. Afterward, I stopped Tony after his very tough match. I was the #1 Freshman at Hastings College. My college record was singles 0/8 and doubles 0/8. The following week was the Nebraska College Conference State Tournament. Tony said "My past record was unimportant. Tomorrow I will defeat Pancho. Just pick a target. Totally relax, see the ball and follow through. Take my racquets and practice on the canvas court. Just imagine you are me against Pancho." It worked. I couldn't miss. 

The next week my doubles partner and I won the Nebraska State Tournament. The gold medal was my first ever of many tournament trophies. In 2021 I am retiring as high school coach of Trenton Catholic Academy after continuously coaching and playing for 65 years.  Thanks to Tony Trabert it has been a wonderful career. I still have players in college, so I will continue to coach them. 

Donald Swanson

Hamilton, NJ

February 6, 2021

 

Besides remembering him from his early great victories in the 50’s, my only experience with him was from a conversation in the mid 70’s, where he gave praise to Earl Bossang and Howard Zaeh, his early tennis instructors in Cincinnati.  They were, as so many teaching pros in that era, so good about teaching proper fundamentals.  He felt that the surge of tennis in the early 70’s resulted in a shortage of quality tennis teachers available to handle the demand.  I remember that, because looking back on that that old-school comment, it seems it was right on at the time, but no one saw that coming and it took the industry a while to catch up. 

 

Rod Heckelman

San Rafael, California

February 6, 2021

 

My brother David Archer works with Mike at Salt Lake Tennis and Health. Tony was one of the GREATS!! Thanks for the notification for all of tennis to celebrate him, his accomplishments and American tennis.

Neil Archer

Yuba City, California

Tennis Club Business Stones Net

February 6, 2021

 

Tony Trabert was a wonderful human being. A real loss but he lived a full life and contributed greatly to our sport.

 

Ray Benton

College Park, Maryland

February 6, 2021

 

Dear Rich, I really enjoy your very comprehensive and insightful publication!

I had the honor of doing a promo ad with Mr. Trabert in a 1986 for Ford Motors campaign nationally in Detroit. He was a very gracious charismatic gentleman! I also was good friends with his beautiful daughter Brooke who was a tennis professional at the Atp center at Sawgrass!


Mr Trabert was the epitome of class as an ambassador of our sport!

 

Robert Fisher

West Palm Beach, Florida

February 6, 2021

 

Rich, I knew Tony Trabert! I ball boyed for the Handsome Eight when they were all on Tour with Bobby Riggs in 1962.   Rod Laver always told me that Tony had the best backhand of any pro on tour. Tony was the quiet one of the Handsome Eight! 

 

Tom Brennan

Laguna Beach, California

February 6, 2021

 

Rich, 

 

Mr. Trabert went to my high school alma mater in Cincinnati (Walnut Hills High School).  I was the first freshmen to play #1 singles there since Tony.  He came to Cincinnati to our local awards banquet there and kindly sought me out to congratulate me. Years later,  I mentored a player who went on to attend our high school, achieve a perfect SAT score and win the state championship in Ohio.  Mr. Trabert called him personally.   He was also a member of the tennis club at the end of my block growing up (Cincinnati Tennis Club) and he would often come in town for the National Father and Son Clay Court Championships that we hosted to present the winners trophy. While he was so nationally and internationally known, his honor and attention to his own local roots throughout his entire life was truly remarkable and forever left a mark on me.   A truly great player and man.  

Josh Osswald

West Hollywood, California

February 7, 2021

 

I first met Tony when I was 10 years old . My mother worked at the Jack Kramer Tennis Club and Tony was a salesman for a sock company. My mom talked him into giving me a private lesson. That one lesson was very helpful but he was so kind and patient with me that I will not forget it

 

Many years later in the first year that I turned pro, Tony was the Davis Cup captain and I was selected to go with the team as practice partner/alternate. The US squad of Arthur Ashe, Vitas Geuralatis Stan Smith and Bob Lutz defeated Sweden in Sweden (pre Borg). What a lifetime experience that I was able to be a part of. Captain Tony was again very kind and welcoming. I was fresh out of college and broke and he didn’t like my coat and tie and personally took me to the clothing store and bought me a proper outfit to wear while I represented the US in Davis Cup. 

 

As you said not only a great player but also a great man who was kind, emphathetic, and supportive

 

We are lucky to have known him and be blessed by him

John Austin

Los Angeles, California

February 8, 2021

 

Hi Rich,

 

Yes I New Tony Trabert. He used to come to South Africa when I was young.

 

Lovely man and he taught me much about the game, and was always willing to take us on the court and show us what we needed to work on and he would hit balls with us.

 

Good luck with your tribute hope it’s very successful. Tony was a gentleman and deserves to be remembered as one.

 

Michael Reynolds

Johannesburg, South Africa

February 8, 2021

 

Hi Rich!

I was blessed to know Tony and Pat when I was 11 years old. I went to the Tony Trabert Tennis Camp in Ojai at the Thatcher School. Best time of my life. I had a lot of interaction with Tony on and off court. On court I remember getting individual help from him during free time. I opted for extra lessons and he helped me with my serve. He was great. So kind and always positive and smiling.

 

Offcourt, I was a bit of a mischief maker. Go figure. He nicknamed me “Slick”. I was quite the opposite. I would try to sneak out at night and go to my friend’s rooms at and got caught quite a lot. I had to sweep the pergola often.  It was all in good fun. They are my favorite tennis camp memories.

 

Pat was also so kind. I remember she was diligent about giving me sunscreen. That was before people really cared about sun protection. She was super to me, too.

 

They were great people to a little girl a long time ago. I will always have a special place in my heart for both of them.

 

Karen Ronney

San Diego, California

February 8, 2021

Forwarded by Barbara Wintroub:

Dear Barbara,

 

Did know Tony very well as he was a very close friend of David May’s family whom I worked for during the late 70’s and early 80’s. He was a wonderful coach and loving man. He was there for the young players coming up and made Kathy May a top player on the women’s tour. He will be missed by many.

 

Tory Fretz

Rancho Mirage, California

February 8, 2021

I did know Tony Trabert a little.

I was the men's tennis coach at Miami University in Ohio and when I met him. I used that as a point of reference to start a conversation since he was from Cincinnati.  During our conversation we were talking about tennis prior to the open era and the transition to the pro game.  I asked him if he had ever heard of the book "WorldClass" by Burt and Jane Boyer.  I told him the book was about just that and it was the book I read that made me want to be a pro tennis player.  He told me not only did he know the book, he also knew the authors very well as he was the consultant on the book who provided the information.  He introduced me to the Boyers because I asked him if he knew where I could get more copies.  In an era before email and cell phones we exchanged several letters.  I would ask about training players, match play tactics, mental perspectives, and every other topic involved with the development of a player.  He was very kind and gracious and always responded to my letters.

Cheers to Tony!

 

 

Bruce Lipka

Rockville, Maryland

February 6, 2021

I did not know Tony well, but on the few occasions we talked tennis, he was highly knowledgeable and gracious. Tony was also one of the very few tennis authorities who actually asked me my opinion when we were analyzing a tennis controversy for an essay I was writing. He also wrote a wonderful bit of praise for my first book, Tennis Confidential.  

 

His TV tennis commentating was always expert, fair-minded, and upbeat -- and never hyper-critical or egotistical. 

 

Because he was a standout basketball player, he brought increased credibility to tennis during the 1940s. In his insightful, 1988 memoir, Trabert on Tennis: The View from Center Court, Tony wrote: "In the early 1940s when I started playing, tennis was simpler in a lot of ways. But walking around in those little white shorts, I got funny looks from people. It seemed you weren't a real athlete in Cincinnati unless you were in a sport where you were knocking people down. Tennis players were considered the "pansies" of the athletic world, a limp-wristed group of guys who weren't talented enough to make the team in any other sport. I managed to ignore all the stares, taunts, and comments because I was in love with tennis and the challenge the game offered."

 

His Hall of Fame record in both singles and doubles (with Vic Seixas), highlighted by winning three of the four singles majors in 1955, his unfailing sportsmanship on the court and his friendliness and generosity off the court, and his various other contributions to the sport are what I most remember and appreciate about Tony, one of the preeminent tennis figures in the 20th century.

Paul Fein

Agawam, Massachusetts

PTR-Ad-0321.jpg

February 8, 2021

Dear Rich,

 

I served on the board of the ITHF when Tony was President.  What an honor to know and spend time with this talented genuine gentleman in Newport, New York and Ponte Vedra. His love of the game and  his family was admirable, giving so much of himself to both and to all those in his presence!  Bob and I became socially involved with Tony and his lovely wife Vicki. We are heartsick over his death.

 

Lace Milligan

Newport, Rhode Island

Tennis Club Business Tony Trabert

Tony Trabert, Lace Milligan, Bud Collins

February 12, 2021

Tony Trabert will be missed. The first thought that comes to my mind about Tony Trabert is GENTLEMAN. I wish I could ask him, but I think that’s the one word he would want me to use.

 

I styled my game after that gentleman. He was my hero.  I participated in my first public tennis clinic the year Tony won three Grand Slams, and by the following year was very serious about my tennis and studied all I could find about Tony and his game.  It served me well playing at the University of Maryland, and later when I joined Wilson Sporting Goods.  I worked in the well known Tennis Promotion Department where we looked after the best players in the world, and scouted those with high probability of replacing them. I tell you this because Tony was one of my go-to guys to ask for his opinion about a player, or a new racket we were testing.  In those days, we only wanted to bring products to the market that had improved playing characteristics, and Tony’s comments were exceptionally clear and concise. Tony might also grab me or Don Juenemann at a major event and explain that a non-Wilson player had some problems. Perhaps his “sticks” had disappeared. Tony didn’t ask, he simply explained “The show must go on!”

 

But it wasn’t always the spotlight for Tony.  Tony played in the period before Open Tennis. I suspect it would be difficult for the average reader to understand tennis in the 1950s.  There were just a few courts left over from the 1920s. The average small town might have a few, and maybe one or two at the county club. Players memorized all the soft spots and cracks in each court, and they practiced their skills on these old cracked courts before going around the world defeating very talented champions from other countries. Tony never lost a set in 1955 as he won both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, after again winning the French Open. Only six others have won three Grand Slams in a year. Yes, Tony was very good!

 

The revenues from the major tournaments that Tony played went to the national tennis associations that hosted them, and these early players were lucky to cover their expenses. Tennis definitely was not the “cool” sport in the United States until a few players like Tony joined Jack Kramer and barnstormed the country in a tour.  It was exciting when our team at Maryland called lines for them and saw how tennis should be played.  Olen Parks, the man who established my department at Wilson, was their road manager and he stored the canvas court they stretched across basketball courts in the warehouse at Wilson. All of these players had a driving desire to promote tennis until it enjoyed the status it has today, and their motto was  the “Show must go on.”

 

Two decades later, at a time when tennis was suddenly popular again, newcomers to the sport gushed over the likes of Borg.  They would tend to unintentionally speak down to Tony by asking him if he was ever any good.  Many times I heard him answer by saying “My mother thought I was good.”  I never heard Tony complain about any of it, but others explained to me that it was only their love of tennis that overwhelmed the groveling they endured.

 

A remarkable personal trait was Tony’s ability to give you every ounce of his attention as the throngs of spectators surrounding him.   I suppose it was his championship ability to concentrate.  Often I would meet him just after he burst out of the television after a long match.  No doubt he had other intentions, but he focused on me with laser like attention.

 

Tony was on television in the spotlight for many years, and there were many unknown folks around him to operate the camera and microphones. Before that there were unknowns to call his service lines and the myriad of other jobs to run a top notch tournament. In my small town, the creed was to treat everyone with respect, not just those that can do something for you. I watched Tony go out of his way to recognize everyone with true respect; linemen, ball kids, and area tennis leaders. He became my role model how to be a gentleman.

 

I was also impressed how often Tony quietly worked behind the scenes to guide or change some aspect of tennis.  When the final announcements were made about one of these milestone accomplishments,  you would never hear his name mentioned although insiders realized he had his fingerprints all over it.  A good example of this I only learned a few years ago. Tony is the one who introduced the famous T-2000 to Wilson.  French inventor and tennis legend, Rene Lacoste was traveling cross-country by train, and Tony brought Wilson’s President with him to Chicago Union Station at about two in the morning. There they were hitting balls against the wall, I suppose as others tried to sleep.  It was never mentioned until we were working behind the scenes on another project to recognize someone else. He didn’t tell me that story as if he missed out on the millions Lacoste made, or the millions Wilson made. He simply told me as a matter of fact, and how we all need to do our part so the “Show can go on.”

 

Bon Voyage Tony. Although the “Show will go on,” you will be greatly missed.

 

Vaughn Baker

Salisbury, Maryland

Do you like our content? If you do so, please consider supporting us.  For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure the long-term future of TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS.

Click here to support and please share this with all the tennis lovers you know.