Hall of Fame
and Commentator Bud
"Covering the Court" might be a good subtitle
for "Tennis Confidential" -- except that it's been taken.
Al Laney, once a luminary of the since-vanished New York Herald Tribune,
perhaps the best of us all who've tried to put the game into words, used
it for his tennis memoir years ago. But just as readers were fortunate
that Laney manned a typewriter in his day, so they are in this day that
Paul Fein is on the job at his computer.
Covering the court completely is what Paul is
about. Digging into every aspect -- the personalities, the politics,
the finances, the how-it's-done and the times it's-been-done-superlatively
-- he has assembled a compelling mosaic of the sport. From Agassi to
Zina, Australia to Zimbabwe, he chronicles the goings-on that set professional
tennis apart from other games, its international and universal character.
And its flavor, which he does with insight, as well as with a quality
too rare: good humor. Also opinions, never half-hearted, as displayed
in "Overkill" where he's justifiably concerned about the
In the United States, I'm sorry to say, tennis
is the most under-covered of the leading pro sports. There aren't enough
writers who follow it regularly and constantly -- and with his obvious
love of the game, even though detecting the flaws. I'm pleased that
Paul has succeeded in filling a portion of a huge gap. His attachment
goes back quite a while.
( Photo credit: Art Seitz ©2009 )
Not that he was sitting next to Laney at Cannes in 1926 when Suzanne
Lenglen turned back Helen Wills in a clash of goddesses that some still
consider the "match of the century" (Certainly it was front page stuff
then across the planet.) But he writes about Suzanne and Helen's lone
meeting (also Cochet's inexplicable comeback over Tilden at Wimbledon
the following year) with authority and respect.
Paul's a today guy, all right, yet one with knowledge of and regard
for the game's entire panorama. He is more than an aficionado. Paul's
understanding of the game is that of someone who has been embroiled
in it at a high level: as a player (Cornell varsity and top-class New
England tournament competitor among his credits); professional coach;
officiating as an umpire and line judge; tournament organizer; broadcaster.
Like so many enamoured of the game, he had an early up-close relationship
as a tournament ballboy. He retains a boy's excitement at discovering
the fascination of tennis, though looking at it now as a connoisseur
Although Paul didn't attain the eminence on court of two
of his Springfield, Mass., townsmen, Alfred Chapin and Tim Mayotte (top
ten Americans of the 1920s and 80s respectively), he's well aware of
the difficulties and means of such exceptional achievement.
Paul Fein lets you in on the whole tennis picture,
and you see it better through his eyes and words. I'm sure you'll enjoy
it as I have, and I suspect Al Laney would have, too.
Bud Collins, Boston Globe/NBC
26 April 2001
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