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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bob Straus

Tennis Week publisher Gene Scott with friend, photographer, writer and director Gordon Parks.

Copyright © Bob Straus

Annihilation charged the air inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

On a September morning in 2005, several Grand Slam doubles champions— Mark Knowles, Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan, Mahesh Bhupathi and Jonas Bjorkman—convened in the US Open interview room one announcing their lawsuit against the ATP.

The players asserted the ATP’s proposed experimental efforts to "enhance" doubles competition was in fact a concerted effort to diminish and eventually eliminate doubles from the tour by 2008.

Watch: Federer's Australian Adventure

"There is no credibility left for the ATP," Knowles said. "They are basically trying to annihilate one form of the game, which is doubles.”

Tennis Week publisher Eugene Scott stood and demanded accountability.

“Where are the leaders?” said Scott scanning every corner of the room. “I don’t see a representative from the ATP, USTA or ITF here and they should be. Doubles is as much a part of tennis as the net. This is a very important issue; all the stakeholders in the game should be here to discuss it. Where are the leaders?”

Scott’s statement provoked applause from players while reinforcing his reputation as a voice of reason who had the guts and gravitas to hold authorities’ feet to the fire. He was one of the sport's toughest critics and one of the best friends tennis ever had.

Called the "conscience of tennis" by Tennis Magazine and a "tennis Renaissance man" by those in the sport, Gene Scott was a visionary who touched tennis at virtually every level for more than 40 years until his passing at age 68 from Amyloidosis, a rare protein blood disorder, on March 20th, 2006 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Scott was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2008.

As a player, publisher, agent, administrator, tournament director, who ran the ATP’s season-ending Masters at Madison Square Garden and created the Kremlin Cup that helped spark the Russian revolution, Scott had a staggering impact on Open Era tennis. 

Scott's unique perspective empowered him to see issues from all angles—a Vantage Point he occupied alone.

Relying on a strong serve-and-volley game, Scott reached a career-high world ranking of No. 11 in 1965 and was ranked inside the United States' Top 10 five times. He advanced to the French quarterfinals in 1964 and the U.S. National Championships semifinals (now the U.S. Open) in 1967 and faced Rod Laver on Centre Court at Wimbledon. He was undefeated in Davis Cup competition and won more than 40 senior championships. 

The New York native's passion for tennis was apparent in his life-long devotion to the sport. He played tennis with world leaders ranging from former United States President and fellow Yale alumni George H.W. Bush and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin on some of the most prestigious courts in the world and was equally enthusiastic partnering wife Polly at annual mixed doubles events at Manursing Island Club in Rye, N.Y. along with their kids, Lucy and Sam.

Boris  Yeltsin, Gene Scott
Copyright © Bob Straus: Russian president Boris Yeltsin and Gene Scott

An outstanding all-around athlete at Yale, Scott excelled in several sports, competing on the tennis, ice hockey, soccer, lacrosse and track teams at New Haven. He earned three letters in tennis, often playing singles then dashing over to the track to compete in the high jump before returning to the court to play doubles, three in hockey, two in soccer and one in lacrosse before graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in history in 1960. He earned his law degree from the Virginia School of Law in 1965.

Topspin author and player Eliot Berry grew up playing the same Eastern circuit as Scott, recalling his supreme athleticism made him stand out “like a God.” Tennis Week contributing writer Dan Weil, who once tried to buy partial ownership of the magazine, called Scott “an Ivy League-WASP version of Jim Thorpe.”

During his tenure as a Wall Street attorney, he took time off from work in the summer of 1967 to take the daily subway ride from Manhattan to Forest Hills, former home of the US Open. Competing as a part-time player and a full-time lawyer, the 29-year-old Scott, wielding the then-experimental steel Wilson T-2000 frame that would be popularized by Jimmy Connors a few years later, advanced to the semifinals before bowing to John Newcombe, who would go on to win the tournament.

"You can play tennis forever," Scott was fond of saying and he tirelessly pursued putting that philosophy into practice.

Despite undergoing double hip replacement surgery in his 50s, Scott was still among the best players in the world in his age group right up until the end of his life. He captured the USTA Men's 65 Grass Court Championships in September of 2004 in Philadelphia then went on to claim the International Tennis Federation's Men's Super-Seniors World Individual Championships in the 65 division the following week. Scott surrendered just one set in 11 matches en route to the sweep of successive titles. He was one of the few tennis writers in the world who could play a world-class match after covering a world-class match.

Scott was a complicated character: graceful and gritty, a traditionalist and a progressive, highly sensitive and scathingly sarcastic, a man of both vision and action. He exuded the integrity of Antigone while acknowledging an affinity for rebels and renegades.

Scott cited Pancho Gonzalez as one of his all-time favorite players, modeled his one-handed topspin backhand on Ilie Nastase’s classic backhand, served as Vitas Gerulaitis’ agent, awarded wild cards to the young Marat Safin, discovered the young Anna Kournikova and enlisted her to play exhibitions before Kremlin Cup matches, cited Marcelo Rios as one of the most talented players he’d seen, predicted Andre Agassi would win Wimbledon (and when Agassi did win Wimbledon he sent Scott an autographed plaque thanking him for his support) and was among the first pros to see the brilliance in the young John McEnroe. The pair partnered to win a doubles title early in McEnroe’s career though they failed to advance through Wimbledon doubles qualifying one year.

“Gene took perverse pleasure in telling anyone who would listen John McEnroe and anyone else were not the best doubles team in the world,” McEnroe told the more than 1,200 people who packed Scott’s memorial service at the Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York City on April 1, 2006.

Gene Scott
Copyright © International Tennis Hall of Fame

A thought-provoking journalist, Scott constantly challenged the game's guardians to grow the game as an inclusive sport with integrity and chided them when they fell short of expectations in his widely-read “Vantage Point” column. Media was malleable in Scott’s hands. He wrote more than 20 books on tennis, including collaborating with friends Bjorn Borg and Ivan Lendl on their books, and produced award-winning tennis documentaries. He wrote cultural reports for The Moscow News and The Paris Review, founded by Scott’s good friend and Tennis Week curator George Plimpton.

“Tennis is my language,” wrote Scott, who founded Tennis Week Magazine on May 15th, 1974 publishing 56 issues a year, 52 of which were 16-page newsprint tabloids.

Creating an underground tennis economy based on barter, Scott was a rarity: an independent thinker and owner in an age of corporate media. His “Vantage Point” column was one of the most widely-read and discussed editorials in the sport. Scott nurtured Tennis Week as an alchemy of authenticity and art. He emblazoned Andy Warhol images as cover images, boldly put the USTA’s tax return on one cover, oversaw cover stories on sexual harassment, drug use in the sport and advocated the use of line-calling technology years before it was implemented.

Scott used his platform as Tennis Week publisher to open the conversation to all who shared his passion.

Leafing through old Tennis Week issues insight pops from the pages even now in issues packed with lead writers and tennis lifers including Scott himself, Richard Evans, Bud Collins, Steve Flink, George Plimpton, Andrea Leand, Vic Braden and Joel Drucker—sometimes all in a single issue.

Five long-time Tennis Week staffers or contributors—founder Scott, Flink, Braden, Collins and photographer Russ Adams—are enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, which continues to honor Scott’s legacy with its annual Eugene L. Scott Award.

The award is given to a tennis figure who “consistently embodies Gene's commitment to communicating honestly and critically about the game, and who has had a significant impact on the world of tennis.” Several of Scott’s friends, partners and former rivals—including John McEnroe, Billie Jean King, Vitas Gerulaitis, Rod Laver, Martina Navratilova and Mary Carillo have received the award from his wife, Polly.

As a player and publisher, Scott valued risk in a sport that requires repetition.

“I might get too ambitious sometimes; try too many experimental shots,” Scott told author John Sharnik in his book Remembrance of Games Past. “But that’s the way I like to play—I’ve always played. I don’t like to hit the same shot in the same situation every time. I like to try different things. That’s the way you stay keen. You don’t do it for the crowd, you do it for yourself.”

Scott was a world-class mentor with a unique gift for cultivating the assets in others.

“God is keeping score of the world’s givers and takers,” Scott wrote in his August 25th, 1994 Vantage Point. “Somewhere there is a giant file with the aggregate credits and debits of who has given and taken.”

In life’s ledger, Gene Scott certainly gave much more than he gained.

“Knowing Gene and working with Gene opened doors for people,” former Tennis Week managing editor Andre Christopher said. “None of us are the people we would be if Gene were still alive. We don’t know as much as we would; we haven’t given thought to the things we should.”

To celebrate Scott’s 80th birthday today, December 28th, we caught up with about a dozen of his friends, fellow players and former Tennis Week staffers—including principal staff writers Richard Evans, Steve Flink and Andrea Leand—who share their stories of how they met, how Scott influenced their lives and their vision of Vantage Point 2018: What would Gene Scott be writing about if he were still with us today?

Contact Point: First Impressions

“I met Gene in December of 1985—right after my father died—when I brought the first Eastern Tennis Association yearbook I wrote to his New York office. He came into the room appearing tall and somewhat snooty in his navy blazer, and said ‘Hello, I am Gene Scott.’ I had been writing the ETA column in Tennis Week for almost a year. He told me my most recent news about Doug Sachs being recruited by Pepperdine was very good. But he added that some of my previous columns had sounded like ‘Johnny fell off his bike!’ I told him I was going to punch him out. He laughed, and we were friends. I was the street kid and he was the snooty Yalie. He was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.”—Nancy Gill McShea, Tennis Week writer and friend

“When I was 17 I was asked to go on a state department tour to Buenos Aires, Argentina and play the River Plate tournament and at that tournament Gene Scott and Jim McManus were the other Americans. Gene took me on in a mentorship role. He showed me how to conduct myself and helped me with the matches I had to play. What was interesting about it was I would be in his apartment and Gene was writing for Newsday. I noticed every few minutes he was opening his thesaurus. I said, ‘What are you doing?’ And he said, ‘I’m searching for a better word.’”— Butch Seewagen, former pro, coach and Tennis Week contributor

“We met at Wimbledon in the early ‘60s. He looked like a U.S. preppy guy. He was someone who was very easy to approach; we sort of became friends. When I came to America he was obviously a big star at Forest Hills. I suppose he became mostly aware of me when I started writing for Gladys [Heldman]. Ted Tinling introduced me to Gladys Heldman. I covered the 1965 Forest Hills for World Tennis Magazine and that immediately sort of got me well known in America and by ’77 I was writing for Gene and Tennis Week. He set standards for honesty, integrity, good writing and for caring for the English language. He had a vocabulary that left me floundering occasionally. Working for him was fun because you’re part of a family he created.”—Richard Evans, Tennis Week writer, friend

“I met him during the 1969 Wimbledon at Annabel’s, a night club in London. When I first met him I was just a young fan who had dreams of becoming a tennis reporter and by ’72 I was helping Bud Collins and John Barrett and others and by ’74 I was working full-time in the sport. When I was at World Tennis Magazine Gene would do these editorial comments in Tennis Week. And sometimes he’d write: ‘World Tennis editor Steve Flink gets it all wrong’ on an opinion I had he didn’t like. In fairness, sometimes he’d come back and give me credit when he thought I was right. In ’77 we gave the world No. 1 ranking to Vilas, which meant a lot to him. In fact, we had him come to the World Tennis office and pose with the world No. 1 ranking t-shirt the day after the Masters. The ATP had Borg ranked at No. 1 and we felt Borg needed to win the Masters to do it so we had Vilas at No. 1. Gene wrote something like ‘World Tennis editor Steve Flink bends over backwards to give Vilas the No. 1 ranking.’ I remember I wasn’t sure how to interpret that (laughs). And so I saw him a few weeks later and asked, ‘Gene, were you taking a shot at me?’ He said, ‘No, I simply meant what I said that you bent over backwards because others were giving it to Borg, but you were incredibly fair going with Vilas.’

"I liked that about Gene. He could make you uneasy and uncomfortable at times. On the other hand, he could surprise you with some compliments. He was always honest and very blunt. I knew if he disagreed, he’d say it right to my face. When World Tennis went out of business, Gene called me and said, ‘When all the dust settles, let’s sit down and talk.’ And several months later we met in New York and he asked me to write an article for Tennis Week. It was a French Open preview. Then we met again at Wimbledon and he said let’s keep it going. It was typical of how he operated. There was no signed contract. He just said, ‘Let’s keep it going.’ And that continued right to his death.”—Steve Flink, Hall of Famer, Tennis Week writer

“First time I met Gene was in the Bahamas when I played his exhibition. He had about eight to ten rookies on the tour down there. He was smart and charming and very hospitable, and we had a good time. It wasn’t until I worked at Tennis Week that I really got to know him. He was a true entrepreneur in that he was always looking for the next thing. He always stayed a step ahead of the game, always looking for the next adventure, always pushing to drive the game forward. Of course, whether it was his exhibitions in the Bahamas, which were phenomenal and fun, or he always had the Tennis Week swimsuit issue a take-off on SI’s swimsuit issue, he was always trying to do something innovative, unique and something that transcended sport. He was always fun to be around because he was dynamic. He had positive energy and thinking behind everything he did, which was very inspiring and motivating.”—Andrea Leand, world No. 12, Tennis Week writer, friend

Don Budge, Gene Scott
Copyright © Bob Straus: (left to right) Rolex CEO Roland Puton, Grand Slam champion Don Budge and Gene Scott

“We met in ’73 when Rutledge books was publishing what was the first-ever tennis coffee table book [Tennis: Game of Motion] with big photo spreads. Gene was the writer and I was hired as the supplemental photographer for the book to Fred Kaplan, a damn good Sports Illustrated photographer. Oscar Wilde’s wonderful line is ‘Anything that’s worth doing is worth overdoing.’ You don’t have to tell that to an Italian twice. I wanted to fill the frame with the player from the chest up, which had never really been done before. They wound up using about two-thirds of my shots for the book. That’s when we met. Honestly, I was not impressed when I first met Gene because we were from two different worlds. I was a high school drop-out and he was a Yale graduate and Virginia Law School graduate. We were from entirely different socio-economic backgrounds. I came from an Italian-Catholic family and Gene was really an Episcopalian, but he was more spiritual than religious. When the book came out I complained to a third party that there really should have been a photo credit on the cover of the book because initially it just said by Gene Scott. To Gene’s credit, in the second printing of the book, he made a revision and added special photography by Melchior DiGiacomo. He was always good like that. He always listened. He was always open and flexible—that was one of the things I loved about him so much that you could talk to him. If he agreed fine and if he didn’t he let you know, but he was always a gentleman and he would listen.”—Melchior DiGiacomo, Tennis Week photographer, friend

“Gene was, and remains, one of the most important figures in my life, and he knew it. He was my best friend and ‘godfather.’ A mutual New York City friend introduced us, which—in retrospect—might have been a date, though I never considered it as such, as I was 20 and he was 53 at the time. We went out to dinner to one of his favorite spots, it could have been Vico, and immediately hit it off. I was a recent arrival from St. Petersburg and he was the man who had staged the first ATP tournament in Moscow the year before. My first impression of him was that he was tall, athletic and slightly old-fashioned (his style was overhauled when he met Polly), but once we started talking he impressed me with his wit, humor and ease of manner. He didn’t have any of the cliché questions others would ask upon learning that I was from Russia. We skipped small talk altogether (Russians don’t have it as a concept), and somehow launched into a discussion about New York City, sports, Russia, culture and life. He seemed ageless because he was so young at heart, quick to laugh, and had a gift of making others around him feel at ease—unless they worked for the USTA.”—Vica Miller, friend, Tennis Week staffer, Kremlin Cup director of advertising

“I was working at the USTA at the time and Gene was on the board. We were at the USTA Annual Meeting—I believe at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida. Gene was in a semi-impassioned discussion with my boss, Page Crosland, about something. I really don’t remember what. But Gene being Gene, he had the upper hand. Page called me over to try to bring Gene to a point of satisfaction. I really wish I could remember what it was all about, but I can’t. I just remember that we sort of left it at a point of ‘we agree to disagree.’ Everyone at the USTA certainly knew who Gene was and knew his reputation for holding the organization’s feet to the fire. Being in the communications department, our big thing was, ‘What did Gene say about the USTA in the latest issue of Tennis Week?’ ”—Andre Christopher, Tennis Week managing editor

“He was such a great mentor. He loved that role. Telling people what to do—he wasn’t shy about that. He was a very competitive guy. I remember the first time we practiced together. I was 17. We practiced at the West Side Tennis Club and I beat him. It surprised him. In the locker room we talked about it and he started crying. He was just so upset about losing to me that he started to cry. I never experienced that before and it showed me how much it meant to him. What’s remarkable about Gene is to this day my thoughts will go to him. He made such an impression on me. Out of the blue, I will suddenly think about him.”—Butch Seewagen, former pro, coach and Tennis Week contributor

"I first met Gene in October 1992, Olympic Stadium in the Kremlin Cup main office. Vica introduced me to him. He seemed very friendly and smart. Throughout the years, he became a great teacher to me, a fantastic boss, incomparable partner and true friend.I did my best to live up to the example he set. I would love hearing him say to American associates about me 'My man in Moscow, Oleg.' My Soviet mentality changed dramatically after meeting Gene in 1992. I then gained even more knowledge through him in tennis, sports, business and real life. Gene was the first man to hand me over with the tennis racket. He simply introduced me into the tennis world.”—Oleg Pryakhin, friend, Kremlin Cup staffer, business partner

“I met Gene after being the winning bidder at an auction event for charity at Micky Mantle's restaurant on Central Park South in ‘98. The lot was ‘play an hour of tennis with a former touring pro.’ A day or so after the auction Gene's assistant, Elizabeth Lewis, called me and gave me the specifics. I would meet him at Gene's private club on the east side and I needed to wear all white and it would be doubles. The day of the match I was super nervous and the club itself didn't exactly help matters as every player in the super small locker room seemed to have their own staff person to dress or help them with something and the wooden lockers reeked of old money. The match itself was fun. I hit against Gene during the warm-up on our half of the court and I remember it seemed like every ball he hit to me had the same heavy weight to it. Gene decided that he and I would be a team against his two friends.

“Wanting to make a good impression, I over-hit, I crushed a big forehand second-serve return and missed way long, which I think annoyed Gene to no end and made him remark to me: ‘Nobody is impressed with how hard you hit the ball, if you don't get it in.’ Good advice. It was also a good thing we ended up winning 6-4, 6-4. After the match we thanked each other and went our own way. Or so I thought. About a month later—out of the blue—there was a message on my answering machine from Gene's assistant that literally said, ‘Gene and some of his friends are flying to Florida for the weekend in a couple weeks and he was wondering if you would be interested in coming along?’ As it turned out it was an all-expenses paid trip for me and one of the best weekends of my life. At one point during dinner he said: ‘You seem to really enjoy talking tennis history, I am having lunch with Tony Trabert tomorrow, would you like to come along?’ What a thrill! At the end of that trip, Gene asked me to come to work for him at Tennis Week. I mean who does all that for someone they barely know? Gene does.”—Don Henthorne, Tennis Week assistant art director, teaching pro

Behind The Baseline: What We Learned

“Amidst the force and the frenzy, there is serenity. Competitive fury is not always anger. It is the true missionary’s courage and zeal in facing the possibility that one’s best may not be enough.”—Gene Scott

“Everyone seemed to call him the conscience of the game because he would always try to keep the checks and balances. He was the one who would poke at the big guys, stand up for the underdog and keep everything honest and above board. I look at Gene more as someone who would push for the highest standard and did not settle for the status quo. He had the backbone, the spine and the intelligence to push issues forward and find a resolution. What I learned from Gene was you always have to strive for more, strive for an even better standard in evolving the game. Gene understood you had to keep the traditions, keep all the wonderful things about the history of the sport as traditions, but also push it forward so you grow your audience and grow the popularity of the sport.”—Andrea Leand, world No. 12, Tennis Week writer, friend

“As a player, promoter, journalist and ardent supporter of the great sport of tennis, Gene Scott brought so much to our world and we all are better for having worked with him to grow the sport. He challenged the way we look at tennis and pushed us to make the sport better for everyone.”—Billie Jean King, Hall of Famer, friend and Gene Scott’s opponent in one of the first “Battle of the Sexes” matches

“He surprised me all the time. He was such an individual writer with very individual thoughts and angles on what was happening in tennis. That’s what attracted you to a Gene Scott column—because you knew you were going to get a different slant. He was totally independent, obviously he had strong ties to USTA, but he was never shy of criticizing the USTA. Working for him was like an intellectual exercise. He was always challenging you. He was a teacher at heart. That’s what he would have been most comfortable doing: being in a classroom teaching people. He went very easy on me because I was sort of established and he felt, I presumed, he liked my writing otherwise he wouldn’t have asked me to write for Tennis Week. Occasionally, I would sort of get the quick barb on something I’d written. Mostly, he never, ever interfered with anything I wrote or any opinion I had. That wasn’t true with his younger writers. He could be pretty tough and not always very sensitive about criticizing young writers and what they presented to him. His heart was in the right place. He was just trying to improve everybody. And he did. He improved us all.”—Richard Evans, Tennis Week writer

“I had done an interview with Sampras at the end of ’99 and I was trying to make up my mind if I would write it for Tennis Week or The Independent. We were at the Tennis Week Christmas party, I went to use the restroom and Gene walks in at the next urinal. You always wanted to figure out the right time to hit him with ideas, and I thought ‘This is the right time.’ I said: ‘Gene, I just did an interview with Pete Sampras…’ He says ‘Great, you got some good meat there?’ I said ‘Yes, I think so.’ He says ‘Great, we’ll do it for the next issue.’ We come out of the men’s room together and he immediately tells the staff: ‘Steve and I had just a chat and we’re going to use the Sampras interview for the next issue.’ I liked that about him. He almost preferred the informality. I’m not sure I would have gotten the same reaction if I called him on the phone. I have to say the unpredictability of Gene was really kind of fun and it was a big part of him.”—Steve Flink, Hall of Famer, Tennis Week writer

“Gene Scott, wrote [of Pete Sampras’ 2002 US Open title run in his final tournament] ‘It just goes to show that at the end of the day, we didn’t know who Pete Sampras was.’ Gene later told me that he meant that as a reference to the depth of my competitive character. I was very proud when I read those words.”—Pete Sampras, Hall of Famer, in his memoir A Champion’s Mind

Don Budge, Gene Scott
Copyright © Bob Straus: (left to right) Gene Scott, Candace Bushnell, Gordon Parks

“We’re in an Italian restaurant and he starts to tell me a story about how his grandfather would test him with little games. He explained the game and said ‘Okay, what’s the answer?’ I gave him the answer. He said, ‘No that’s not the answer.’ I told him I knew that and Gene said ‘Well, why didn’t you say it then?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding? I just love it when you sit across the table from me and act like a pompous, supercilious ass.’ His face lit up, he laughed and he put up his hand for a high-five. Because when you’re that fucking smart I think you almost have a right to be a pompous, supercilious ass. That’s why we got along. We both had a sense of humor and could laugh at ourselves. I appreciated the fact that he was that brilliant, that clever, that wise, that generous and that kind. Gene took me to Antigua, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Wimbledon and Russia 10 times. This was the greatest introduction to the world in my entire life all because of Gene Scott. He introduced me to tennis, he introduced me to so many incredible people in tennis. I would never exist in tennis if it wasn’t for him. He completely changed my life.”—Melchior DiGiacomo, Tennis Week photographer, friend

“At my first Kremlin Cup in 1991 Andrei Cherkasov defeated Jakob Hlasek in the final; 18,000 spectators in the stands of the Olympic Stadium bursting with excitement. Russia’s own won the tournament; Russian president Boris Yeltsin and Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov among honorary guests. Suddenly, Gene tells me to be his translator for the closing speech. We line up on court, the winner and the finalist waiting for their trophies, sponsors and VIPs, international dignitaries smiling in the spotlight. Gene approaches one microphone; I approach the other. The stadium falls silent. Live television.

“Gene says, ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ and pauses, turning to me with an expectant look, for translation. An uncomfortable pause follows as I’m raking my brain how to translate it. In the recently collapsed Soviet Union, the formal damy i gospoda (ladies and gentlemen) hasn’t been revived yet, but tovarishi (comrades) has already ceased to exist. I find a compromise, and breathe out, ‘dorogie druzya’ (dear friends). The stadium erupts in laughter that doesn’t stop for at least half a minute: 18,000 spectators and millions who are watching the live broadcast on TV are laughing at my translation. Gene raises his eyebrows to inquire what’s going on, what on earth I could have said to cause this commotion. I sweat under the lights and try to smile. There is nothing to be done, but wait for the uproar to quiet down before continuing the ceremony. I don’t remember the remainder of the official part, my translation of Gene’s speech or the party after. I will forever remember though how I made thousands laugh because the vernacular hadn’t caught up to the political change in Russia of the ‘90s, and my brain wasn’t quick enough to fish out the old phrasing under pressure. Needless to say, Gene told me I’d never again do a simultaneous translation and I told him the same.”—Vica Miller, friend, Tennis Week staffer, Kremlin Cup director of advertising

Gene Scott
Copyright © Bob Straus: Gene Scott with his Kremlin Cup staff, including Vica Miller (in red) in Moscow

“As much as I admired Gene for his business sense, I take from his life a lesson from one of the stories he would tell about Arthur Ashe. He spoke of how Ashe grew into the mantra that one should always keep growing in interests in the world and action for others throughout life. That is how I think of Gene went about living his life, and what I hope to emulate in the lesser way that I am able.”—Kent Oswald, Tennis Week editor

“He was my mentor. He agreed to let me nominate him for the International Tennis Hall of Fame. We had many good times and arguments. He was passionate about tennis and respected those of us who shared that passion. He was a true gentleman and a true friend who always showed up, regardless of convenience. He was kind to Renee Richards when she was in the spotlight playing Gene’s Jersey tournament. I could go on and on, as could you.”— Nancy Gill McShea, Tennis Week writer and friend

"I last spoke to Gene on Friday, March 17, 2006. That was our regular daily intercontinental telephone chat to follow on the business during the day. Nothing seemed to me suspicious at that time. He was very focused, to the point and did not even mention he was already going to the hospital…I once spent almost a month in New York City getting papers ready for our own attorney to open in Moscow. To make this possible, Gene issued a power of attorney in my name to act on behalf of Sports Investors Inc. One of a dozen notaries I visited at that time suddenly said: 'Be careful, young man. This power of attorney is very strong. You can get yourself burned if you do not know how to deal with it.' I repeated this conversation to Gene the same evening and asked why he did not say anything about this fact to sort of warn me to be careful. Gene replied: 'Oleg, I was 100 percent sure in advance you knew how to deal with it!' This was the best judgment of trust I could ever expect to hear from my former boss and now my partner."—Oleg Pryakhin, friend, Kremlin Cup staffer, Sports Investors, Inc. business partner

Oleg, Gene Scott
Copyright © Oleg Pryakhin Facebook: Oleg Pryakhin with mentor and Sports Investor partner Gene Scott

“The thing I take away was that we were not only loyal to him, but he was loyal to us. It was like a small family at Tennis Week. One time during a meeting with a book publisher in the conference room there was a mix-up on paper quality. And I know I told them the right paper to use, but what ended up being used for the final book was totally different and way off. However, the two men representing the publisher expected us to pay for the books even though the books were wrong. In the meeting, Gene asked me about it and I told him what we ordered and that what we got was not it. Gene then said something to them I will never forget: ‘Well, in all the time I have known Don he has never given me any reason to not believe him and I'm not going to start now.’ He then told them that they will correct the books and that he is not paying for the other books. That really touched me and will always mean a lot to me.”—Don Henthorne, Tennis Week assistant art director, teaching pro

“Gene lived by barter and I didn’t fully understand that when I first met him. And I finally gave up the ghost and then it became a different relationship. In the beginning, I always thought of him as somewhat aloof to me because I wasn’t an insider. He had his old boy circle of friends. I went to an Ivy League school too and I felt like Gene made me feel like he was way above me. I couldn’t get him to warm up to me in those days. And when we finally signed on, we got to go Moscow to cover the Kremlin Cup and from then I was an insider… Our relationship certainly improved and got much warmer. At the tennis awards luncheon he used to give out awards and he gave me photographer of the year award pretty early on. That really surprised me.”—Ed Goldman, Tennis Week photographer

“I said I want to write on Don Budge on the 60th anniversary of his Grand Slam in 1998. Then they called me back and said Gene doesn’t want you to do it. So I called him and he said: ‘Oh, come on you can do that story in your sleep.’ I said: ‘Gene, that may be true, but what about the reader? Doesn’t the reader matter?’ Because how much longer was Don Budge going to be alive? How could we ignore that story? And then he buckled. That was one of the few times he did…

"I wanted to do an interview near the end of Frank Hammond’s life and Gene was saying the same thing ‘You can do it in your sleep.’ Ironically, here he was paying Frank’s medical bills and doing really noble things on Frank’s behalf, to help him out privately, but he didn’t want me to do it because he thought it was too easy. And I used the same argument and it was the same kind of thing where he was like ‘Okay, I know you need a little bit of a break this week so fine go ahead and do that one.’ Gene was very funny about that stuff. And it wasn’t about them—he loved both of them—it was about what he could get out of me. He wanted to challenge me as a writer. It tells you a lot about his character that in both cases he did back down and it wasn’t easy to get him to back down. Obviously, I admired him so much, especially his intelligence and his perspective on the game and also the opportunity that he was giving us to have this platform in his publication. Because all the insiders in the sport read it.”—Steve Flink, Hall of Famer, Tennis Week writer

“He was thoughtful. He taught me a lot about how to treat people and to remember and notice seemingly little things. I was in his office one afternoon—probably giving him an update on the layout progress of one of the many books he always seemed to be working on—and I remarked that the framed old black-and-white photo on his wall of Bill Tilden leaping in the air and striking a forehand was cool. A few months later at Christmas was a wrapped package on my desk of that very picture. He took it off his wall and gave it to me.”—Don Henthorne, Tennis Week assistant art director, teaching pro

Gene Scott
Copyright © International Tennis Hall of Fame: Gene Scott vs. good friend Arthur Ashe

“I don’t remember that we ever argued. Gene always tried to achieve success in all he did. That comes from his athletic achievements— the most varsity letters of anyone in Yale’s history. Gene’s contribution was to publish, possibly, the first American sport magazine that sought to tell the truth. Warts and all.”—Bob Straus, Tennis Week photographer, friend

“I caught him after he had both hips replaced. I was able to have raging battles with him that were close and fun. Gene had a partner named Steve Baird, from Manursing, who hit the ball two miles an hour, but he was a genius because he could hold his shot and put the ball anywhere he wanted. If you cut left, he hit right, if you closed net, he’d lob and he never missed. He was uncanny in reading the opponent and ball control. So I said to my partner, ‘I know you think here’s Gene Scott, a legendary, world-class player, so we should play Baird. But Baird has had my number for years and he’s the trickiest doubles player I’ve ever faced. Gene can’t run anymore. Let’s go after Gene.’ We had very, very close sets against them for three years, but inevitably on the key points in attacking Gene he’d come up with a winner. We never beat them. He was a shot-maker. In the absolute key, crucial moments of the match, Gene would pull a winner out of his bag of tricks. He’d be slicing his backhand the whole match and suddenly he’d roll a crosscourt topspin backhand winner on the key point. He was incredibly smart and tactical. Don’t forget, Gene Scott won the [2002] U.S. National 65s clay title in Houston on two artificial hips. The guy that he beat in the final, King Van Nostrand, was on two artificial knees. Here’s these two legendary Long Islanders meeting in Houston, Texas in finals of national clay courts with four artificial limbs between them and Gene beat him, which I would not have predicted. Gene lost some mobility as he aged, but never lost that go-for-broke, right-shot-at-the-right time guts and intellect.”—Lloyd Emanuel, player, teaching pro, tournament director

“I never really learned topspin—that is, I was never taught it. I accumulated the knowledge visually while making a film for television on Ilie Nastase the year he won the [1972] US Open. I did it watching 10 hours of film rushes of Nastase hitting his topspin backhand. I still have that image emblazoned on my mind—his foot positions, where his elbow is. I mean I just watched that goddamn film so many times the backhand I hit is still Nastase’s backhand. Obviously, I can’t hit it with his talent and flair, but I can imitate it. That’s how I learned to hit my best shot. Obviously, this knowledge came a little late in the game.”—Gene Scott to author John Sharnik in Remembrance of Games Past

Vantage Point: What Would Gene Scott Write About Today?

“Gene would likely be upset with the USTA, the manufacturers, and various other American tennis interests about there being fewer meaningful tennis tournaments in this country since those do the most to promote the game; he would be demanding that more at-risk youth be offered the opportunity to prosper through tennis; and he would finally be getting the chance to run the Havana tournament he dreamed of for many years.”—Kent Oswald, Tennis Week editor

“If Gene were writing about tennis today, he would be appalled. He would regret—and no doubt be furious—that pro tournaments no longer exist at Madison Square Garden, that virtually all tennis news is on line and no longer in print. He would have complete disdain for the lack of publicity among sections about up-and-coming players which appeals to potential tennis fans. He would be furious that the USTA resembles a tight, insider club that publicizes programs rather than people. No intruders are allowed, and volunteers are no longer a special asset because money is not an issue due to US Open revenue.”—Nancy Gill McShea, Tennis Week writer, friend

“Just as he started the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, he would’ve had an event going in Cuba by now. On top of that, he probably would’ve found an event to offer wild cards to Cuban players. Honestly, I’m not capable of the visionary thinking that put Gene so far ahead of everyone else…I would love, love, love to hear Gene go on about Donald Trump and ‘fake news.’ I’m not even suggesting that Gene would or wouldn’t be a Trump supporter. But Gene’s opinions, I’m sure, would be fascinating—for either side. The interesting thing would be to see where Tennis Week might be. As we know, he kept that magazine going using smoke and mirrors. Only Gene was capable of doing that. With the changes in the media landscape across the past decade, it’s hard to imagine how Tennis Week would’ve survived. Yet I think Gene would’ve found a way. My guess is that Larry Ellison and Oracle would’ve been involved.”—Andre Christopher, Tennis Week managing editor

“I’d be in his office when he’d be on the phone with celebrity tennis players and I’d be Ga Ga listening to him cut a deal or solve a problem. Tennis will never have a commissioner, but Gene would have been the first and greatest commissioner tennis ever had because he was so thoughtful, so committed, he really saw the big picture and he had such great intellect. He was not afraid. He didn’t care if he pissed you off. He was always current. He’d be writing about how gambling has corrupted tennis, the European model of training, how hard it is for American kids to get college scholarships. He would be writing about all things tennis. He would be on the cutting edge—as he always was—and not afraid to tackle the thornier issues.”—Lloyd Emanuel, player, teaching pro, tournament director

Don Budge, Gene Scott
(left to right) Tennis Week photographers Art Seitz,Luigi Serra, Ed Goldman, Michael Cole, Bob Straus, Angelo Tonelli and Gene Scott

“Gene was really a critical voice for tennis. I think he would be writing about tennis remaining tennis—the importance of the values of the sport and the tennis itself rather than this entertainment shit. But maybe I’m an old fart. Not as old as Gene would have been, but close and certainly I think he would have continued to say that tennis was becoming much too much of show business and not enough competition. I really, really feel that and I think Gene certainly would have felt that. In these almost 12 years he’s been gone, we would have heard a lot about the USTA and focusing on tennis rather than this incredible circus that it’s become. Gene was very aware of the real world and how money plays an increasing role, but it’s gotten out of hand and I think he would have addressed it in his writing.”—Ed Goldman, Tennis Week photographer

“I think he would still be writing about the drugs and gambling issues. But I think he would have been very interesting writing on the rule experimentation. I think he would have been for a lot of it, to tell you the truth. I think Gene would have liked no-ad scoring because he was a very progressive thinker. He would have liked the shot clock and realized the value in it to the players. I think he would have been pushing it hard on the tour and saying: ‘We have to change sometimes, the only major change we’ve had is the tie break.’ Gene would have been an advocate in an intelligent way, not just a blanket way accepting all experimentation. I don’t think he would have liked the four-game sets, but I think just about all of the changes you saw at the ATP’s NextGen Finals would have met his approval. He’d be writing editorials that we have to learn to change our ways sometimes, that the game doesn’t have to just stay static.”—Steve Flink, Hall of Famer, Tennis Week writer

“As much as Gene was an old-school traditionalist, I think he would have embraced all of this social media. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram—he would have loved it and been all over it. He loved to interact with people, he loved to hear their thoughts, he loved to be challenged himself in his thinking in ways that would push him to think about other avenues.

“This is why he had 1,200 people at his funeral and an enormous networking of friends and colleagues—because he really enjoyed them and invited them into the conversation. When he went to Grand Slams it was not so much watching the matches, he was meeting all the people—not just the players and the head honchos—everyone from the ball kids up to the grounds staff to the industry types to people outside the game. He loved that interaction. He, of course, thought he was a great photographer, which he was not, but he would have loved the selfie stick. He would have had one. He probably would have saved Tennis Week [with social media] because it was so cost effective. One thing people may not know about Gene: he really sacrificed a lot in publishing Tennis Week. He and his mother, Lucy, really perpetuated that magazine financially all those years. A lot of people talk about ‘giving back.’ Gene was about making things better—that’s how he gave back. Gene was about embracing as much and as many as he could.”—Andrea Leand, world No. 12, Tennis Week writer, friend

“He'd embrace it all and be annoyed by a lot of it. The thought of Gene Scott on Twitter is fascinating (laughs). Gene would have adapted. He would have been on Facebook. He would have created a whole different way for producing Tennis Week digitally. He would have had all sorts of ideas that most of us haven’t thought of because he was so innovative. I think he would have been fascinated by the ATP’s NextGen tournament. He would have had huge opinions on all the different rule changes they tried in Milan. He would have hated some of them and embraced others and come up with suggestions of his own. If Gene was around, we’d all be thinking differently. We’d have a whole slew of different ideas to contemplate. We miss him so much.”—Richard Evans, Tennis Week writer, friend


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