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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, December 27, 2023


Richard Evans (left) interviews fellow Hall of Famer Billie Jean King.

Photo credit: International Tennis Hall of Fame

Facing the legendary Althea Gibson at Wimbledon is a daunting assignment.

Dancing with Gibson at the Wimbledon ball was a life-changing experience for Richard Evans.

More: Djokovic Plans to Play Until Age 40

“The person I have to thank for my tennis career is Althea Gibson,” Evans told Tennis Now in a Zoom call conducted the day after Christmas—63 years after he and Althea glided across the floor at the Grosvenor House.

A renowned tennis journalist and historian, Evans has danced, drank, dined with iconic champions and devoted his career contributing to the sport’s growth and global reach.

Next summer Evans will be honored for his lifetime of work as he joins former doubles world No. 1 Leander Paes and their good friend Vijay Amritraj as the three inductees for the International Tennis Hall of Fame's Class of 2024.

During his career, he has reported on over 200 Grand Slams and authored 23 books. Richard Evans served as lead writer for two of the most respected American publications, World Tennis and Tennis Week. Evans later served as editor-at-large for Tennis Week Magazine.

Evans joins Tennis Week founder Gene Scott, Bud Collins, Steve Flink, Vic Braden and photographer Russ Adams as the sixth former Tennis Week staffer to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

A random series of fortuitous bounces launched Evans' tennis career at Wimbledon.

It all started when his editor Charles Wintour, father of Vogue’s Anna Wintour, assigned the young Evans to collaborate with two-time Wimbledon champion Gibson on her column for the Evening Standard newspaper.

The first tennis article Evans ever wrote was a shared byline with Gibson published on June 16th, 1960.

These days, when Evans walks Grand Slam grounds he runs into some of his best tennis friends—Gibson, Arthur Ashe, Billie Jean King and Fred Perry—memorialized as monuments.

Most days, Evans finds himself wishing a good morning to those friends, now departed, but immortalized forever as statues and has spent a lifetime detailing the humanity and legacy of some of the game's greatest champions.

If the monuments could talk, he believes they’d express gratitude being around people who love the sport as much as they did.

Evans' distinctive British voice is recognized by tennis fans all over the world through his work as a BBC announcer as well as a prominent voice at Grand Slams, including Wimbledon and US Open radio.

There was a time when simply speaking a single sentence was a major challenge for Evans, who suffered from a speech impediment as a child.

Perhaps one reason why Evans connected with outsiders like Althea Gibson, Ilie Nastase and John McEnroe is because his journey to the Hall of Fame is in some ways nearly as unlikely and unpredictable as theirs.

As a child, growing up in post World War II England, Evans was stricken with a severe speech impediment; it made the mere thought of public speaking as scary as a schoolboy thrust onto Centre Court Wimbledon.

Working with a speech therapist who taught him a relaxation technique and spent six months helping him apply it, Evans eventually overcame his chronic stutter, developed a clear and precise speaking voice.

Since then, Evans has used his voice to report on some of the most pivotal tennis and American political stories of the past half-century.

If you were going to start a tennis library, you’d probably want to start with Bud Collins’ Tennis Encyclopedia, Evans’ Open Tennis or his McEnroe: A Rage for Perfection bio, Gordon Forbes’ classic A Handful of Summers, Steve Flink’s The Greatest Tennis Matches of all Time, John McPhee’s Levels of the Game, The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey, Gene Scott’s series of US Open books and of course the many, many great bios and memoirs.

We caught up with Richard Evans the day after Christmas for this Zoom call interview.

In this Q&A, Evans names the GOAT, cites two players he believes are better than the GOAT at their best, identifies the most riveting rivalries he's seen, recalls writing about some of the most unique characters in tennis history and recounts covering leaders including Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who mixed Evans a vodka and tonic from her bar in 10 Downing Street during his days dating Carol Thatcher, the Prime Minister's daughter.

Tennis Now: Richard, congratulations on your International Tennis Hall of Fame induction. Well done and well deserved.

What does it mean to you? Who will give the introductory speech at your induction?

Richard Evans: First of all, I’m humbled to be voted for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Less than 300 people have ever made it. Obviously, I didn’t get in as a player—you should see my backhand—but I did make it as a contributor. I thank my colleagues.

I’ve been on the Hall of Fame nominating committee for about 20 years so I know the process. It’s not particularly easy and you go through a series of things and eventually you must be put in by a 75 percent vote of your journalistic colleagues—and Hall of Famers—so that’s quite a high bar.

So I’m thrilled. I’m honored.

To answer your second question, I will be introduced by my 26-year-old son, he will be 26 then, Ashley. He’s a very good public speaker and he’ll probably say some nice things (laughs).

TN: The first tennis article you ever wrote was a shared byline article with the legendary Althea Gibson on June 16th, 1960.

To celebrate your upcoming induction, the Hall of Fame published a beautiful black-and-white photo of you and Althea dancing together at the Wimbledon ball. In the photo, you’re both beaming like young movie stars.

Photo credit: International Tennis Hall of Fame

What do you remember about that moment? What do you see now looking at that photo?

If we could transport prime Althea Gibson to 2024, would she be a tennis star? A WNBA star? A golf star? An MMA champion? A singer? She had so many exceptional talents, what would Althea be in today’s world?

Richard Evans: Althea would be a tennis star today. But she could turn herself into anything she wanted because she was such a great athlete.

To go back to your original point, the person I have to thank for my tennis career—because I did not start with tennis, I was with Sports Agency and we covered mainly football and cricket and rugby—is Althea Gibson.

I walked into the Evening Standard office after serving in the British army for two years to replace the rugby and rowing correspondent who was 70 years old when he retired. I came to the office and Charles Wintour, who is Anna Wintour’s father, was talking with the sports editor, who was saying “Who are we going to get to write Althea’s copy?” Because the previous year she was helped by the literary editor who said I’m too busy.

I can see it today, the moment when Charles turned toward me and said to the sports editor, “Well, you’ve got this young man joining the staff, give him to Althea.”

It changed my life.

That sentence right there changed my life.

In those days, there was no gap between Queen’s Club and Wimbledon. Queen’s started on the Monday so they said “Well go down to Queen’s Club and introduce yourself to Althea Gibson.”

Which I did the first time—of many times—I ever walked into Queen’s Club. We struck up a partnership.

On the [opening] Monday, I’m sitting in the press box at Wimbledon, where I’d never been, writing down everything that Althea was saying in my ear.

Althea was the most charming person. She was very easy to get on with, great to work with.

Back then, the Wimbledon ball was held on the final Saturday. Or wait, what am I talking about? I think it was actually the middle Saturday then.

As you know Althea’s history, at the start, she couldn’t get anyone to play doubles with her because she was a black person.

I asked her on the Friday, I said, “Althea, are you going to the ball?”

She said, “Well, no one has asked me.”

And Althea had been to the ball twice before as Wimbledon champion, but no one had asked her.

So I said: “Well, would you like to come with me?”

She said: “I’d be delighted.”

So that’s how this friendship and partnership started. I don’t know that I was so aware of how unique and different and eye opening the sight of this young reporter on the tennis scene, who no one knew, walking down those grand stairs into the ballroom of the Grosvenor House.

The comments that must have been flying between people at those tables. We didn’t really think about that.

We sat down at Ted Tinling’s table, which they made sure the conversation never stopped. And I danced with Althea, which was wonderful.

TN: I was thinking about you last week when your good friend, Torben Ulrich, passed.

Throughout your writing, you have a fascination and affinity for the true characters of the game. You wrote books about Ilie Nastase and John McEnroe, and you’ve written extensively about Ted Tinling, Torben, Tiriac, Goran, Safin, Rios, Kyrgios, etc.

Do you think you’re drawn to those rogue characters because you want to humanize them, bring three-dimensional humanity to characters who were sometimes portrayed as caricatures?

Or is there another connection compelling you to dig into the characters?

Richard Evans: It’s true.

As an author, you look for something different. You look for material.

And your regular nice guy player who’s successful has a certain amount of material.

And the bad guys usually have more.

Ilie Nastase and John McEnroe certainly had dimensions to their character that no one else had.

Ted Tinling, for your readers who haven’t heard that name, is one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever met in my life. He was six-foot-seven, wore an earring and he was gay though no one talked about it in those days.

Ted Tinling umpired Suzanne Lenglen’s matches because he lived in the south of France. Ted had this amazing perception about what was going on in the tennis court. He became an expert on women’s tennis in particular.

Men’s tennis, he played well enough to establish a record that was never broken. Ted played against Bill Tilden then Lew Hoad, who were Wimbledon champions decades apart.

Ted had an amazing perception about what went on. If, after watching a match, and I had time between deadlines to get a new angle, I used to rush over to Ted and say: What was the problem with Billie Jean’s backhand today?

He’d say, “Well dear boy, it was that particular lineswoman who was missing calls. In that last match she dared not hit down the line because of it.”

There you are. That was it. That was Ted. He was totally unique.

And of course, he designed the most lovely tennis dresses that have never been replicated.

Ted dressed everyone from Billie Jean to Margaret Court to Evonne Goolagong, Virginia Wade, Ann Jones. He was incredible.

TN: You open one chapter of your book by writing this bold sentence: “Until I saw Roger Federer, Lew Hoad was the best player I ever saw.”

Do you still feel that way?

Do you draw a distinction between GOAT and who is the best on his very best day?

Where do Novak Djokovic and the Big 3 fit into your personal list of all time players?

Also, when I asked your Tennis Week colleagues the same question many years ago, for years Bud Collins would say Tilden was the best until Bud saw prime Federer.

Steve Flink says Novak is GOAT, but Steve also rates Sampras ahead of Federer.

And Gene Scott had his own unique and nuanced view on it all.

Where do you stand now after 64 years covering tennis and virtually all the legendary champions? I’ve asked Rod Laver and he’s always praised Hoad.

Richard Evans: Well because Lew Hoad always beat him (laughs).

You’re going to gain that respect when someone is beating you.

Pancho Gonzalez's family with Richard Evans (third from left) in Indian Wells. Photo credit:

TN: I don’t know if you recall the time we were all in Indian Wells talking to Pancho Gonzalez’s family, including his son, Richard Gonzalez, and his nephew, Greg Gonzalez.

The Gonzalez family all told us that day if Pancho was sitting here right now he would absolutely, 100 percent say: “Lew Hoad was the best I ever faced.”

Richard Evans: Pancho Gonzalez was a really tough character.

But he mellowed in the last few years of his life. I used to have conversations with him and he would say what you saw and heard that day in Indian Wells.

You couldn’t start a tennis conversation with Pancho Gonzalez without Pancho mentioning Lew Hoad within the first three minutes. Lew Hoad was the only player Pancho really respected.

Pancho thought the other players were okay, but he thought Lew Hoad was someone he really had to worry about.

Lew Hoad had it all. He was incredibly strong. He had every single shot in the book. He built this incredible tennis club in Spain with a great bar, needless to say. Because Lew enjoyed his beer.

I used to say, “Lew, when you were playing did you ever get confused about which shot to play?”

He’d say, “Well mate, yeah, I did have the ability to go over or under.” I mean he had so many choices.

TN: From what I was told, he was a pure athlete and physically dynamic.

Richard Evans: Absolutely.

If you want to talk about the Greatest Of All Time, let’s admit: It’s Novak Djokovic.

Even if he decided to play for just one more year, Novak is going to win more titles in more places than anyone else.

That’s not my ultimate criteria for best player of all time.

I take into account the way you play the game. There is nothing wrong with the way Novak plays the game.

But for me, Roger Federer played a different class of tennis. In his movement, in his strokes, just everything about him.

And I will still stick to that. I think with Lew Hoad, you can’t compare them. You know wooden racquets vs. today’s racquets, differences in strings, all the rest of it. I still think Lew Hoad would have taken care of most people, including today’s superstars.

We used to sit around and say: Who would you want to play for your life? And we always came down to: If he’s sober and fit, it’s Lew Hoad.

TN: You worked with the “Godfather” of Open Tennis, Jack Kramer, at the dawn of the ATP Tour. You’ve known Billie Jean King since she was 17. You traveled with your good friend Arthur Ashe for his first trips to Africa. You worked for Gladys Heldman and Gene Scott, two game-changing American publishers.

Why were those people, your fellow Hall of Famers, great leaders?

What have you learned about leadership being around those influential people?

The WTA is actively seeking a new leader.

Why does tennis sometimes struggle to find great leaders? When you look at leadership in tennis today, what do you see?

Richard Evans: I think you have to have achieved something to gain respect required of a leader.

Philippe Chatrier was a great leader. He was one of the best officials. For me, my personal hero was Jack Kramer. Because Jack was Wimbledon champion, he kept pro tennis alive with his pro tours.

And when he took over the Tour, the new ATP Tour, agreeing to take the job only on the condition that he was not paid. Because he didn’t want to get accused of going for the money. So a man of integrity.

I was head of the European office of the ATP at that time. For a month in the summer of that year, it was 1975 I suppose, I spent a month working with him in The May Company store. Because the owner of the store knew Jack and donated three rooms as the ATP office. So the headquarters of the ATP was in The May Company store in LA.

Jack was running the place with one secretary, Cindy Parks, the daughter of his great pal from Wilson, whose racquets he used. And earned 10 cents a racquet by the way so he was doing nicely,

When Cindy went out to lunch, who answered the phone? Jack Kramer. I was in the office when the phone would ring and a young 19-year-old qualifier got lost in Indianapolis trying to get to Miami and Jack talked him through the problem. Jack was happy to do it. He just loved being around tennis players, teaching tennis players and as you can imagine the players adored him.

Jack was a god to them. He was a leader.

It’s tough to find those kinds of people. I think we do have some today in the game who are doing their best.

It’s so different. It’s so different.

There’s so much more money. Politics gets involved. China. Russia. Decisions have to be made. I think some good decisions have been made. I think some not so good decisions have been made.

It’s very different. Leadership is so, so important.

It has to come from the locker room as well. I think we’ve been blessed because I think the Big 4 have dominated the game—and I’m including Andy Murray for a variety of reasons—primarily because he’s an exceptional human being.

Roger Federer is a leader in the locker room and Rafa and Roger, though they act in different ways, they set standards for those who followed.

If you were a young player joining the tour and you didn’t sit there and watch what went on and how these superstars behaved, then you were very stupid because they really set a standard. And they offered a very high bar of how to behave, how to lead, how to play and how to interact with people.

TN: A chapter in your book, The Roving Eye, is titled America. In it, you share some deeply personal anecdotes about your long relationship with America.

You have half-siblings who had an American mother. The first Americans you ever met were American soldiers who helped liberate France from the Nazis as your family was the first British family to move back to Paris after World War II. As a child you watched American westerns and dreamed about visiting America. You moved here in the 1960s first to New York, later to LA.

You’ve seen America at its very best and at its very worst. You covered Martin Luther King’s assassination. His blood was still on the balcony as you stood there interviewing Jesse Jackson. You covered Vietnam, Robert Kennedy’s assassination, 9-11, Watergate, the lethal Newark riots. Living in America, you’ve seen some very violent and bloody scenes and reported on very heroic and heart-warming history as well.

You chose to raise and educate your son Ashley here in America where you could have chosen anywhere else.

How has your relationship with America influenced your writing as a Parisian-born Englishman living in the States? How has your perception of America and what it represents evolved over your 64-year career?

As we talk today: What gives you great hope and inspiration about America?

What concerns you and confounds you about America?

Richard Evans: I was lucky to get the job as American correspondent for the Evening News and also working for BBC radio.

Yes, in the 1960s and early 70s, I saw America. I saw greatness in America. I saw the underbelly of America. I went to 38 states. I ended up in places like the state penitentiary of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

I’ve seen some fascinating places and those are the types of stories I covered. So I feel I got to know America well. I found America, when I came over, was welcoming. The people in America were so free and easy and they tried to help newcomers.

America was a great place to be. I must confess that family led to [moving here]. I was living in the south of France and I was married to my wife, Lynn, when we made the decision, partially because of her parents living here, to leave the south of France, which wasn’t terribly easy, and come to America and bring Ashley up. He went to a very good school outside of Chesterfield County in Virginia.

I would never have made that decision today. I would never bring anyone to America today because something seriously bad has happened to this country.

Thirty percent of the country think Donald Trump is a fit man to be President. I don’t want to go into it, because everybody knows what I’m talking about, but that’s horrific. Because the one question that drives me insane as a journalist is the media don’t ask the tough questions.

CNN and MSNBC should be doing a better job. Journalists should be going up to people voting for Trump and saying: “Did your parents, who you respect, teach you to lie, cheat, steal and assault women?

“And if they didn’t teach you that, then what are you doing supporting Donald Trump?”

Because that’s what he’s done.

So that’s my disappointment with America.

I think in America we’ve got a hard road ahead of us. Just pray that the right people win in 2024.

TN: I grew up reading you and Gene Scott, Bud Collins, Steve Flink, Vic Braden—all Hall of Famers now—in Tennis Week Magazine along with Andrea Leand and Linda Pentz and George Plimpton.

In all the years I’ve read you and later worked with you, one thing I never knew about you was you suffered from a serious speech impediment as a child.

To the point you were terrified of the teacher calling on you in school because your stutter was so severe you did not know if you could manage to speak a sentence.

Remarkably, you go from a child traumatized by living through World War II–your house nearly blown up in a 14-consecutive night bombing raid by Nazis during the blitz—and you grow from that terrified child basically scared speechless into this renowned voice of tennis and respected BBC voice. In fact your voice was the voice British people heard over the BBC reporting the death of General Charles de Gaulle.

You credit a speech therapist named Miss Scott who worked with you for months to help you overcome the speech impediment.

When I’ve read about James Earl Jones, Bill Withers and others who have overcome speech impediments, all used different methods than you.

My question: Did your stammer ever return at any point?

Did you ever suffer from writer’s block at any point in your career?

Richard Evans: Thank God I never suffered writer’s block.

When I started writing for newspapers, you didn’t have time for writer’s block because the next edition was coming up in five minutes (laughs).

The speech impediment was very interesting. My mother found a lady who was a speech therapist in Sussex, who came around once a week to the school. She made me lie flat on my back on the floor and relax. She said relax your ankles, then your calf muscles, then your legs, then your back and then read to me.

She came for six months and worked with me and my stammer went away.

But, to answer your question, which is very perceptive, yes it did come back.

I took an office job at age 17-and-a-half working for Reg Hayter. I was covering football, rugby, getting great experience, but it was highly pressurized.

One of my jobs, early in the morning, was to read the rugby scores over the phone to someone at the newspaper. After about six weeks on the job, I pick up the phone and started going “ruh, ruh, ruh”

And the stammer came back. And I thought, Oh my God, what am I gonna do?

And it lasted for about a week and it went away. It was obviously stress. It came back. It was like a tricky past returning. But for reasons I don’t really understand—I have no idea—it went away.

And of course, I owe Miss Scott my entire radio career.

I would have never been on BBC Radio, I never would have done Wimbledon radio without her.

TN: People who know you exclusively from tennis may not know you spent many years reporting on politics covering world leaders.

We discussed you covering MLK and RFK. You also covered Mandela, Nixon, you conducted the last interview actor Richard Burton ever did. Winston Churchill was your hero and you later worked with Winston Churchill’s grandson.

You dated Margaret Thatcher’s daughter, Carol. When you visited Prime Minister Thatcher at 10 Downing Street she poured you a vodka and tonic and you note she didn’t go light on the vodka either.

Recalling the many world leaders and celebrities you’ve met, who struck you as having a real presence, a gravitas, and were you ever intimidated or nervous interviewing anyone?

Richard Evans: I don’t think I was ever intimidated.

Margaret Thatcher was certainly a presence. It was an informal gathering. It would have been very different in a conference or something.

I remember getting in a cab saying “take me to 10 Downing Street” because Carol was there.

Margaret Thatcher couldn’t have been more charming. She wasn’t intimidating but she certainly was a presence. You were aware that this was a very special woman. So I walked in and she said “Can I get you a drink? A vodka and tonic?”

And she mixed it herself. It was a very strange feeling. What was strange was, as a journalist Richard, as you well know, all we want is access. We all want access to everything.

And suddenly, because I was dating Carol I had this incredible access. I could hail a taxi in Piccadilly and say “No. 10 Downing Street.” There was no barrier there. And then get deposited in front of the front door, ring the bell and have the gentleman inside say “Oh, Mr. Evans the Prime Minister is waiting for you, go straight upstairs.”

And I used to get in the lift and go straight up. And talk about access. The Prime Minister was often working with her secretary and it was incredible.

I loved Carol. She was an amazing and amusing person and wonderful company. But that relationship didn’t last long enough for me to get to the point of discussing serious things. But nevertheless staying Christmas night at Chequers was quite an experience and having breakfast on Christmas morning with her family was memorable.

TN: I once asked your colleague, Peter Bodo, to name the three best tennis player interview subjects.

Pete replied, without hesitation, No. 1 John McEnroe, No. 2 John McEnroe and No. 3 Goran Ivanisevic.

I want to ask you the same question: Who are the three best or most fascinating tennis interview subjects?

If the International Tennis Hall of Fame had a time machine and could bring back any three or four Hall of Famers—living or dead—to celebrate your induction with you, who would you choose?

Richard Evans: It’s such a difficult question because there are so many who are just remarkable human beings.

I think Billie Jean King is absolutely amazing. You could sit and talk to her for hours because she has such depth and such a breadth of vision and is so intelligent and so committed to what she does.

John McEnroe is absolutely fascinating as well because his brain is so sharp.

One of the things I’m most proud of the things I’ve written is the first book I wrote on McEnroe, which I’ve since updated. The first one, Rage for Perfection, came out in 1983, I think, when he was seriously unpopular with some. People had only seen the bad side of McEnroe and as he will admit today, it was fairly unpleasant.

What I was able to do was to say never underestimate this young man who’s got a brain and he grew into one of the most interesting people.

I went and spoke to John’s headmaster at Trinity in Manhattan. And I said what was John like when he was playing for the school? Was he arguing all the time? The headmaster said: “No, we didn’t have linesmen, we call our own lines so it was an honor thing. And if there was a close call, John gave the point to his opponent.”

That is the secret to why McEnroe couldn’t handle bad line calls. Because in his mind, mostly correctly, by a big margin correctly, he felt someone was taking something from him unjustly. And McEnroe would never do that to an opponent.

Therefore, he couldn’t handle it.

He should have been able to handle it. But he has that fiery Irish temperament. 

McEnroe made a fool of himself at times, which was a great shame, but he managed to succeed because he had that ability, which some players have today, to be raging about something and immediately snap back to focus on the point.

Very few players can do that.

Going to the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, I would choose Chrissie Evert.

Because people who know her well know that Chrissie has a very raunchy sense of humor. She knows a good joke and knows how to tell one too.

I said to her: Why did you never let that side of yourself show on court?

She said “I can’t because I would lose my concentration. And if I lost my concentration, I lost the match.”

People are so different and that’s one of the fascinating things about it, Richard, as you’ve discovered with all the people you’ve talked to in tennis.

So Chrissie, McEnroe, Billie Jean and Ilie Nastase, who I spent time with his family in Bucharest working on the book about him.

Nastase was a fascinating, mixed character. There was so much good in Ilie and there was so much that was really not very pleasant.

Tennis has amazing characters and I feel privileged to have met them all.

TN: You started writing your Roving Eye column for Gladys Heldman and World Tennis in the 1960s. So you were already well-established in America when you joined Gene Scott’s Tennis Week Magazine in the 1970s.

You and Gene were good friends and had a long working relationship. In fact he trusted you so much when Gene was running late for a speech he was set to deliver before Russian officials at the actual Kremlin, he phoned you and asked you to speak on his behalf—giving you just 30 minutes to prepare remarks and deliver the speech at the Kremlin.

Do you recall your last conversation with Gene? Why did your relationship work so well for so long?

Richard Evans: At the end, he kept falling down in the street, which is obviously not a good thing to do. And physically he aged very quickly in the last two or three years. So it was obvious he wasn’t as well as he should be.

Unhappily, I don’t recall our last conversation.

It was just a wonderful friendship. He obviously enjoyed what I had to offer and I certainly enjoyed what he brought into my life.

I think the amazing thing was that scene at his service. That was a big church and people were standing outside in total overflow.

I think you saw and got a very clear impression just from that response at his service of how many lives he touched. Gene helped an awful lot of people. There are still people I meet who say, ‘Ah, I miss Gene.’

Gene’s impact on tennis in America was just extraordinary and of course he fooled us all. This man, who really didn’t like going west of the Mississippi and certainly not east of Paris, suddenly accepted the challenge of running the Kremlin Cup.

Talk about going outside Gene’s comfort zone, that was extraordinary. And he took his staff with him and the Russians adored him. They thought he was amazing. As did so many of us.

TN: Two final questions. You’ve had success in all forms of media: newspapers, books, magazines, on radio, television, now digital. And your career has spanned every technology.

When you started you wrote with a pencil and pad, then typewriter, at one point you had a telex machine installed in your Manhattan apartment and now of course everything is digital.

Did your actual writing style and process change as the technology changed? Or when you sit down to construct an article now is it basically the same process you used when you wrote your first one with Althea back in 1960?

Final question: Please name your favorite tennis rivalries of all time.

Richard Evans: Rivalries, obviously Martina Navratilova vs. Chrissie Evert, who were at it for 14 years and love each other madly.

They played these incredible and important matches. They were No. 1 and No. 2 in the world by a wide distance. They had to deal with the arrival of Steffi Graf and Monica Seles and other people.

Martina vs. Chrissie was one of the greatest rivalries in sport. Not just tennis. In sport.

As for my favorite match-up, I think contrasting styles is so important.

I was fortunate to commentate on two of the Patrick Rafter vs. Andre Agassi matches at Wimbledon. I think they were both semifinals.

Patrick was one of the few remaining natural serve-and-volleyers. He was very unlucky not to win Wimbledon as Goran got him in a classic match.

So to see the serve-and-volley style of Patrick Rafter against the great returner Andre Agassi that contrast made it tremendous on the grass court, Centre Court Wimbledon, a spectacle you just drool over the points.

I had Mark Woodforde working with me as my summarizer. And I stopped at one point and told Woody “I’m enjoying this so much, I can watch these two play every single day.”

Woody said: “Me too!”

So that rivalry was tremendous to watch.

I’m sorry, you asked one final question?

TN: Yes. Has the evolution in technology changed your writing process or writing style over the last six decades?

Lastly, did you always keep a journal or diary and if so what does it look like?

Richard Evans: I wish I had kept a diary earlier.

I kept a very flimsy diary, I’m not a diarist, but I have kept, for the last 30 years, something that will tell you where I was on what date with a quick note about something I did.

As far as changing my writing, I don’t think so.

I think it evolves. I use different language, different phrases now, than I would have written in 1960, but as far as speed goes, that’s the biggest change.

We’re in the internet age. So what’s the deadline?

It’s now.

I’m still wrapping my head around that I can write and instead of going to the post office and mail my article to a Japanese tennis magazine, which they’d get in a week, that I can now write a sentence and it will be in Tokyo within one second of me pressing a button.

For our generation, that’s absolutely ridiculous. But now, people just accept it as normal.

To answer your question, I don’t think it’s changed my writing but that’s really for other people to decide.

TN: If I may squeeze in one final question.

Are you concerned about the state of media in general, tennis media in particular, here in the U.S.?

We’ve seen the rise of “fake news”, “alternative facts”, you saw Sports Illustrated recently fired its CEO for the scandal of using AI to create articles and fake bios for writers who don’t exist.

Not to sound like a buzz kill, but while we all celebrate Richard Evans’ induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame is this also the end of an era?

The rise of corporate media leveraging special interests, magazines and newspapers disappearing, access to tournaments diminishing, cost of traveling the tour rising, continue changing tennis media landscape.

Last question: Are the Richard Evans, Bud Collins, Gianni Clericis, Steve Flinks, Peter Bodos, Christopher Clareys, Jon Wertheims of the world the end of the line for this generation and is the future for tennis media AI?

You’ve spent a lifetime in the sport. How do you assess the media now and moving forward in the U.S.? Will it be possible for a Richard Evans-level independent voice and longevity to exist in an AI tennis media future where some say it’s about cranking out clicks, amping ad revenue, engaging the gamblers, etc.

Richard Evans: There’s no substitute for being there—that’s the theme of my autobiography—and I don’t think that will change.

Everyone talks about how wonderful Artificial Intelligence is.

Well indeed it is wonderful, it is a miracle.

But who’s controlling it?

I tweet about this. No one gives me an answer.

Who is going to end up controlling AI?

TN: Probably other AI.

Like when Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator had to come back and battle the new and more powerful Terminator…

Richard Evans: Probably an international body.

It can’t be anything else.

How do you control it?

How do you know that it is Joe Biden talking to you?

How do I know that Richard Pagliaro is sitting here talking to me right now?

How do I know that something you send me as Richard Pagliaro is really written by you?

The point is you don’t know.

So what is society going to do when you can’t trust what you’re reading or who is writing it?

The thing that concerns me is AI can create something out of nowhere; it can create something that is completely false.

How do you trust it?

For people to stand there and utter a phrase like “alternative facts.” There can’t be an “alternative fact” because it’s no longer a fact.

The damage she’s done is extraordinary because people can sit there and think “well, it’s an alternative fact.”

No, it’s a lie.

Call it what it is. It’s the truth or it’s a lie.

It’s very worrying, AI, and I hope it can be controlled.

We talked about leadership earlier. I’d like to see world leaders called together and collectively decide how AI is going to be governed.

Because if no one is in control of it, society just breaks up.

TN: Richard, great speaking with you.

Thanks very much for your time and answering so many questions. Again, congratulations on your well deserved induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Will be a lot of fun to see it all happen next summer.

Richard Evans: Thank you Richard.


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