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International Tennis
Hall of Fame
Columnist and Commentator Bud Collins

TC 2

"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 power crisis.

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.

Bud Collins

( 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 and critic.

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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