On Frank Deford and Tennis – How was He as a Player?
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Did anyone else listen to Frank Deford’s farewell this week on NPR? I found myself a bit choked up at the thought of him exiting that broadcast medium. His voice has been a sometime companion over the years and I will miss it, not just for the content but for the tone and for his beautiful use of language.
I can only assume that Mr. Deford played and loved tennis. This is because for someone I would not call a tennis writer he has directed a substantial amount of his writing toward the sport. In his 50 or so years of sports journalism he authored/co-authored at least seven books on tennis and tennis players, including Bill Tilden, Jack Cramer, Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Billie Jean King, and Pam Shriver. He participated in Tennis Magazine’s 1994 retirement tribute to Martina Navratilova and he authored the 2000 Sports Illustrated cover story on Anna Kournikova (anyone remember that photo?)
In his radio commentary and his writing Deford on many occasions took tennis to task, including for being boring, for turning a blind eye to gambling, and for whining about the loud grunting (he called it shrieking) from certain female tennis players. In his book, “The Best of Frank Deford. I’m Just Getting Started…” there is a hilarious, albeit not-so-flattering (for tennis players), comparison of golfers and tennis players and in this comparison, I sense a person who knew the tennis player and not just the sport. Intuition aside, I only find a brief reference that might suggest he played much tennis and that was a book he dedicated to the gang at Bethany Club Tennis. Can anyone out there confirm whether he liked to play and if so, what kind of a player he was?