top of page

Rod Heckelman's career started in 1966 when he began his five-year role as a teacher at John Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch in Carmel Valley, California. Later he opened as the resident pro for Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch on Camelback in Scottsdale, Arizona.

In 1976 he took over as head professional/tennis director at the Mt. Tam Racquet Club in Larkspur, California, and added the title and responsibilities of general manager in 1982. 


In 2010 he was awarded “Manager of the Year” for the USPTA NorCal Division and the “Manager of the Year” at the USPTA World Conference. Rod has written several books including, “Down Your Alley” in 1993, “Playing Into the Sunset” in 2013, and most recently, “250 Ways to Play Tennis.”

He also produced the “Facility Manager’s Manual” and the “Business Handbook for Tennis Pros,” which is distributed by the TIA.


Maybe this will bring more players to the game and more non-players as spectators

By Rod Heckelman

It’s a Thursday night, September 20, 1973, and the money is exchanging hands as fast as possible as bets are being made.  It’s a frenzy of gambling because no one is quite sure who will win.  On top of that, it’s a very emotional moment, with each player being energetically supported by a strong following.  Although there is no organized association or venue for so much betting taking place, it turns out the whole country has become a casino due to the overwhelming interest in the event.  It is the King vs. Riggs match, arguably the most relevant sporting event in our country’s history.  It is also the first major tennis event where sides are taken, often the most important catalyst to motivate wagering. On top of that, it is also a major entertainment moment in sports, reaching not only tennis advocates, but many others with interest in the underlying story of the epic contest. In retrospect, this could be the introduction of gambling to tennis.  As illustrated, it turns out that given this dynamic, betting, and gambling is a natural for tennis.


In fact, the idea of risk-taking is married to how the game is played strategically.  Tennis competitors are always playing the odds.  Do you go for the first-serve ace, or just put it in play?  Passing shot or lob?  Stay at the baseline or take the net? 

corrected TappS_TCB 660x180px Ad c0a FINALok.jpg

The choices, which some might call “a gamble,” have been part of the game for some time.  In fact, with so many variables in tennis, including the various combinations of play…singles, doubles, and mixed, it may be the most complex and variable sport out there.  Also, consider singles play, there is a myriad of different opponents resulting in so many different choices and options a gambler needs to evaluate.  Put it all together, and it’s an odds-on favorite that tennis would naturally attract a gambling or betting venue.  The question is, can tennis include gambling and remain a respectable sport?

First, let’s reflect on some historical gambling incidents.  With the Black Sox, it was a team event.  Pointing your finger at one particular person was difficult, but nonetheless, the integrity of the sport was severely challenged.  With the other baseball incident that included Pete Rose, it was only one person, and as a result, only he took the heat.  In tennis, again mostly an individual sport, it will be a black eye for that individual person…like Pete, they may end up ostracized from the sport for life.  But unlike the elite top-tier player like Pete, this temptation can filter down to less prestigious players. Their income might not be as supporting or lucrative as those at the top, they may turn to desperate actions.  After all, if you lose a bet, it doesn't matter what level of player you bet on when there is cheating or corruption involved.  So, gambling on tennis matches may cause some issues for some, but like it or not, the atmosphere of tennis, being both competitive and entertaining, has been a natural host in all respects…unknown outcomes, many variables, and of course entertainment.

So, because the move to betting on tennis is more natural than we might accept, the only thing that remains unknown is whether tennis will stay clean and respectful.  We really don’t know at this point, but it’s safe to say we have danced with this challenge in the past, it just took place under the guise of hustling thanks to players like Bobby Riggs, and now it’s going to be upfront and very scrutinized.  Odds on favorite, the sport, like the rest of the mainstream sports, is headed to the gambling world.  Who knows, like events in the past, maybe this will bring more players to the game and more non-players as spectators… and it’s not that far a leap from betting to playing.


Do you like our content? If you do so, please consider supporting us.  For as little as $1 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.

bottom of page