Vanity Fair – Letters From Hollywood Gives New Life to Vintage Scandal and Gossip

Letters From Hollywood Gives New Life to Vintage Scandal and Gossip

Collaborators Rocky Lang and Barbara Hall—and contributor Eva Marie Saint—preview their new book, featuring missives about everything from James Bond (“New York did not care for [Sean] Connery”) to Marlene Dietrich and Ernest Hemingway’s unconsummated love.

SEPTEMBER 10, 2019

Ernest Hemingway and Marlene Dietrich in 1938. ABOVE, FROM BETTMANN/GETTY IMAGES.

Before Gyl Roland, daughter of actor Gilbert Roland, gave Rocky Lang permission to print a passionate letter her father wrote to silent-screen siren Clara Bow, she wanted something in return. Lang—who went to great lengths to secure the rights to dozens of vintage missives for his coffee-table book, Letters from Hollywood—is himself a Hollywood scion: His father was Jennings Lang, an agent celebrated for his A-list clients, but infamous for a scandalous affair that found him on the wrong end of a jealous husband’s gun.

In short: In 1951, Jennings was having an affair with actor Joan Bennett—the wife of producer Walter Wanger, and Gyl Roland’s aunt. When Wanger learned this, he retaliated in spectacular fashion—by allegedly shooting Jennings in the balls.

“We chitchat about the book,” Lang recalled in an interview. “And Gyl says, ‘You know who I am, don’t you?’ I said, ‘Yes, I do.’ She says, ‘You do know I know who you are.’ I said, ‘I know.’ Huge dramatic pause—and she says, ‘Well, was Walter accurate [in his aim]?’ And I said, ‘No, or I wouldn’t be here talking to you.”

According to Lang, Jennings was actually shot in the upper thigh. Satisfied with his answer, Roland gave him the okay to print the letter.

Letters from Hollywood, compiled by Lang and film historian and researcher Barbara Hall, is a priceless treasure trove of more than 130 letters, telegrams, memos, and other missives dating from 1921 (Harry Houdini to producer Adolph Zukor) to 1976 (Jane Fonda to her Julia director, Fred Zinnemann). Each is presented chronologically, and reproduced in its original form; the elegantly designed hotel stationery letterheads alone are almost worth the price of admission.

It is a personal epistolary history of Hollywood, as told by the people who lived and worked there. As Peter Bogdanovich writes in the book’s foreword, “This is a delightfully intimate and illuminating way to learn about Hollywood history.”

Several letters call to mind Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman’s classic Hollywood maxim, “Nobody knows anything.” Consider the 1961 telex to producer Harry Saltzman from his partner “Cubby” Broccoli, who was seeking a leading man to portray James Bond in Dr. No. “New York did not care for [Sean] Connery,” Broccoli reports. “Feels we can do better.”

Or try a 1945 letter from playwright and screenwriter Robert Sherwood, which Lang calls one of his favorites in the book. In it, Sherwood tries to convince producer Samuel Goldwyn to abandon the proposed postwar drama that would become The Best Years of Our Lives, arguing that it “will be doomed to miss the bus.” Years would go on to win seven Oscars in the main competition categories—including best picture and, for Sherwood, best screenplay—plus an honorary award.

“It resonated with me,” Lang said. “One, as a movie I love; two, it’s a great piece of film history; and three, as a filmmaker, I’m constantly dealing with creative and executive people trying to guess the market.”

For Lang, who has been in the film business for 35 years as a producer, writer, and director (White Squall, Girl Fight), one letter in particular—shared with him by Howard Prouty, then the acquisitions archivist at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—hit home, inspiring him to compile Letters from Hollywood.

Dated April 14, 1939, it was written by his father to celebrated literary agent H.N. Swanson, asking for a job. “Ten minutes with a young personable attorney, with years of drama and screen criticism experience, and with a living desire to imitate you and your position might not prove boring,” the young go-getter wrote. “Please see me?”

“My dad was 24 years old,” Lang said. “He had just come off the train from New York with $100 in his pocket…. He went on to represent Joan Crawford and Humphrey Bogart, and later produced the sequels to Airport, as well as Earthquake. He gave Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg their first [theatrical] directing gigs. His whole life was ahead of him, and the letter moved me so much.”

Prouty recommended that Lang collaborate with Hall, who was a special-collections researcher at the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library before becoming an archivist for the Art Directors Guild. She was familiar with the archives that preserve the collections of film-business professionals. What sorts of letters were she and Lang looking for? “Rocky and I talked about this a lot,” she told Vanity Fair. “We were looking for letters that revealed something about what it was like to live and work in Hollywood. We wanted to get some big names, but we also wanted to include letters by someone who wasn’t as well-known or remembered, if [the letter writer] had an amazing voice or revealed something about Hollywood that maybe we hadn’t seen before. I particularly like, for instance, the 1933 letter from cameraman Bert Glennon to Katharine Hepburn. You could tell they were great friends.”


Better-known friends were Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, who costarred in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. Letters from Hollywood includes a charming 1961 letter from Grant to Saint and her husband, director Jeffrey Hayden, belatedly thanking them for a teleidoscope the couple sent him for Christmas. In a phone interview with Vanity Fair, Saint, 95, did not recall the letter, but it sparked vivid memories of meeting Grant on the set. “He said to me, ‘Now, Eva Marie, you don’t have to cry in this movie; we’re going to have a great time.’ Isn’t that the dearest?”

Letter writing, Saint said, is something of a lost art. “I have my computer…but I still get letters,” she said. “Very often it will be someone who says they have my email, but that they just wanted to write to me. That’s so sweet. I have envelopes and my stationery ready to write them back and thank them.”

Much more than friends were Marlene Dietrich and Ernest Hemingway, whose unconsummated love burns red hot in a 1955 billet-doux written by Dietrich. It begins with “Well, you, my eternal love,” and ends, “Please write to me about everything, how you are and Mary [Hemingway’s fourth wife] and what you are thinking and if you still love me.” She signs it, “Your Kraut.”

Many of the entries in Letters from Hollywood offer an invaluable inside look at the business of show: Bette Davis threatening to walk out unless studio head Jack Warner gives her a more artist-friendly contract; director Joseph Mankiewicz lamenting to producer Darryl F. Zanuck that he cannot complete All About Eve within the studio’s allotted tight schedule; Zanuck negotiating with Production Code Administration chief Joseph Breen about the John Ford Western My Darling Clementine’s depiction of “whiskey drinkers, gun toters, and prostitutes.”

In the ever ongoing battle between filmmakers and the executives, Lang and Hall each noted, some things never change.

Hall hopes that this book conveys the importance of film archives as a resource to “learn about Hollywood history in the words of the people who were there.”

She also hopes it expresses an appreciation for the art of letter writing. “No matter how convenient it is to have all these other forms of communication,” she said, “there is something about letter writing they can’t replicate…. It’s like the person’s personal imprint goes into the letter.”

The book’s most charming example of this is a 1974 letter written by 17-year-old Thomas Hanks to George Roy Hill, the freshly minted Academy Award–winning director of The Sting. In the most Hanksian way possible, the future two-time best actor angles to be discovered. “My looks are not stunning,” he writes. “I am not built like a Greek God, and I can’t even grow a mustache, but I figure if people will pay to see certain films (The Exorcist, for one) they will pay to see me.”

“There is nothing more personal than handwriting,” Saint said.

That’s why the Eva Marie Saint papers, housed in the special-collections department at the Margaret Herrick Library, actually don’t contain her cherished cache of letters written to her by her beloved husband of 65 years, who died three years ago. “Jeff and I wrote so many letters to each other; he was on location, and I was on location,” she said. “They are close to my heart. I have a stack that no one will ever see.”



Is the Underhand Serve Underhanded?

This article originally was published at

On an early fall day in the quiet residential community in Tarzana, California, I was warming up on court 7, while a foursome was playing doubles on an adjacent court.

They were solid clubbers playing social tennis–weekend warriors who come to play with knee braces, arm braces and then cool down with ice packs on various parts of their bodies.

What reactions do players get from an underhand serve?

Then something happened. One of the four, Little Mikey, as we call him, served an underhand serve to his opponent Butch for an ace. And Butch’s head exploded off his shoulders.

He let out a guttural scream, marched around the net and pointed a threatening finger at Little Mikey. Everyone became silent, waiting to hear what would come next. “If you do that one more time, I am walking off this court and I will never, ever play with you again. It reminded me of the Taylor Swift song. “We are never ever getting back together.”

I’m a pretty good player, rated a 4.5, and I personally don’t think the underhand serve is underhanded. But Butch obviously did.

Chang Did It

Michael Chang used an underhand serve famously at The French Open in 1989 when he played Ivan Lendl and went on to win the title. Martina Hingis did the same to Steffi Graf at Roland Garros in the 1999 final.

Michael Chang’s famous underhand serve against Ivan Lendl.

Tomas Berdych hit one in Montreal in 2013. Last year, Bernard Tomic used it at the Vienna Open. Bobby Riggs even used the underhand serve against me in a money match in Palm Springs in 1980. (He won.)

Dave Sivertson, a master pro and a winner of the 2017 World Team Championships in the 65 and over division says, “The underhand serve is an incredibly useful tool in the right situations. It is a disrupter, and can also be a game changer.”

Said Jimmy Parker, holder of 132 Gold Balls, “I have wondered if the reaction to the underhand serve is a cultural thing.”

While in Argentina playing a doubles tournament, Parker underhanded the serve to his Argentine opponent who apparently felt his manhood had been disrespected. “The guy fell apart as he spent the rest of the match trying to take my head off. It was an easy win for us.” Parker went on to say.

“The underhand serve is just another shot to use, nothing more and nothing less. I don’t try to be deceptive when using it, and in fact, people now expect it from me,” he added.

Underhand Was the Original

In the 19th century when the net was 4 feet high the underarm serve was the norm.

What most people don’t know is that when tennis was being born, the underhand serve was the norm. The net was quite a bit higher, approximately four feet high and the server had to underhand the serve just to get the ball over the net. The serve at that point was just a way to start the point.

However, in 1882, the net was lowered to 36 inches at the center strap and 42 inches at the posts. With this change, it became more effective to serve the ball from an overhand position.

In the 20th century the overhand serve became a huge weapon with players like Bill Tilden and Ellsworth Vines blasting balls for easy points. But the underhand serve was never declared illegal or unethical. Technically it was just another possible shot.

Butch, the ballistic club player, might as well have said that the drop shot is illegal, or that the curveball in baseball or the reverse in football are also unethical and unfair.So, why the outrage? Lobbers, dinkers, pushers, and drop shotters all drive people crazy, but nothing drives people crazier than the underhand serve.

Joel Drucker, a writer for Tennisplayer, Tennis magazine and theTennis Channel told me this: “When competing, we often live on a thin knife’s edge between tranquility and tension. The rarity of seeing an underhand serve –and the challenge of having to deal with a ball that’s potentially quite short and spinning in previously unseen and difficult directions — can send someone right over the cliff.”

Just last week at the Monte Carlo Masters, Tennisplayer contributor Craig O’Shannessy suggested somebody should try an underarm serve against Rafael Nadal.

“Rafa is standing to receive the serve so far back that if you are behind the court you can’t see him if you are sitting in the stands,” Craig said.

“It would be a perfectly legitimate tactic and would disrupt the way he is playing at the moment.”

In the 20th century with Bill Tilden and others the overhand serve became a weapon.


Of course we see club players blasting balls everywhere, over hitting and doing multiple other things that are outside of their talent box. They do it for a reason. They like the concept of the winner, they like the ace, they like the big shot. Even if they lose badly they will tell you about the point at 15-40 when they crushed a ball down the line for a winner.

They won’t remember the next three shots they missed by three feet. And so, when a player lines up to serve and then wickedly spins an underhand serve that hits the court surface and wildly spins away from the receiver, that guy’s worldview has been destroyed.

Now one of two things will happen. The guy goes nuts and calls you names and threatens to attack. Or more rarely, a light bulb goes on and he considers doing it himself at the next opportunity.

Personally, I have had significant arm issues and I have developed an underhand serve that I use occasionally to give my arm a break. However, I also use it when I see my opponent standing so far back behind the baseline that he’s pretty much in another county.

To have an effective underhand serve takes practice, just like any other shot. There is a skill to it, a technique. How hard do you slice the ball, do you put a fast slice on it or a slow slice?

How will you anticipate where the return goes and what is the connecting shot after that? It’s not, or shouldn’t be, just a spur of the moment impulse. It takes the same consideration as any other shot you learn to master.

I use the underhand serve to give my arm a break—and as a tactic.

Stacy Margolin Potter, former NCAA singles champion and a top twenty player on the WTA Tour said that she learned the underhand serve from famed coach Jerry Teegarden. Stacy, “If it’s good enough for Peaches Barkowicz it’s good enough for you.” For those of you unfamiliar with the legendary Peaches Bartkowicz, she was one of the original nine women who formed the WTA with Billie Jean King. She was unafraid to use the underhand serve.

So, there is more to the underhand serve than most people think. There is technique, strategy, and execution. And you also have to prepare for the guy who goes Rambo on you. In my opinion if that guy comes charging at you, it’s okay to protect yourself with an overhand serve or any other perfectly legal tennis shot.

The History of Tennis Balls

This article originally was published at

The History of Tennis Balls

Real Tennis, the sport of kings–circa 700 years ago.

Can you imagine tennis without the balls? Tennis balls have undergone an incredible journey. That journey goes back over 700 years or more.

Before there was tennis as we know it, there was a game called Real Tennis, the original racket sport from which the modern game of tennis is derived. Real Tennis, coined the Sport of Kings, started in England in the 1400’s.

The game was played inside on an oval court with balls that didn’t bounce, weird rackets and a scoring system and rules that would confound any serious student of the game. But they did use some sort of ball.

The balls in those times were often made of cork, with fabric tightly wound around the cork, and covered with a hand-sewn layer of heavy woven woolen cloth. But since there were no uniform balls in Europe, they could be made of pretty much anything that could fit inside the covering including animal intestines.

Real Tennis actually evolved from a 12th century game in France that is thought to have been called tenez, which means “take hold.” I think this was a metaphor for their get out of my face attitude, given the wars between France and England at the time and might explain Shakespeare’s scene in the Henry V:

When we have marched our rackets to these balls,
We will in France, by God’s grace, play a set
Shall strike his father’s crown into the hazard.
Tell him he hath made a match with such a
wrangler hat all the courts of France will be disturbed
with chases.
Henry V


The original balls: stuffed with wool or cork, wound with fabric or animal intestines, covered in woolen cloth or leather.

In England in 1463, Parliament passed an act banning the importation of tennis balls, as well as playing cards, and dice, which hurt the game significantly. Across the channel in 1480, Louis XI of France, a tennis buff himself, forbade the filling of tennis balls with chalk, sand, sawdust or earth and sand.

He said the balls needed to be made of good leather and well stuffed with wool. He didn’t want them stuffing them with animal intestines either.

Centuries later, some balls recovered on the roof of Westminster Hall in London, during a period of restoration in the 1920’s , found old balls made of putty and human hair, possibly cultivated from the French they guillotined in the town square.

The first proto-modern balls: vulcanized, air-filled, with and without cloth coverings.

Origins of The Modern Ball

The first significant change in the tennis ball came in the 1870s in England when lawn tennis began to replace real tennis as the game. Walter Clopton Wingfield, a Welsh inventor, who was one of the pioneers of lawn tennis along with Augurio Perera and Harry Gem, began to import rubber balls from Germany where the Germans had been successful in creating vulcanized air-filled balls.

These were light and grey or red in color and had no covering. Then John Moyer Heathcote, an English barrister and real tennis player, suggested covering the rubber ball with flannel. By 1882 Wingfield began advertising his balls as clad in stout cloth. This was the beginning of the balls we know today.

After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the entire tennis market was affected. Because 90% of the rubber being cultivated was going to war priorities, this put an end to the manufacturing of tennis balls. Tennis players would go into tennis stores and buy them out in fear there would be no balls on the market.

The Wilson Victory ball made of reclaimed rubber, used during WW II.

There was a good back-stock of balls, but all the ball brands went into R&D looking for ways of creating balls that didn’t need crude rubber. Out of this came the “Victory” ball made of reclaimed rubber with black seams, although its bounce height was about 6 inches lower than traditional balls.

The Pennsylvania ball company also made balls from recycled rubber and, in a big step in the history of the game, was the first company to sell balls in pressured cans.

The modern ball has gone through its own evolution especially when it comes to the packaging and the cans, and of course, changing the traditional white balls to optic yellow in 1972 so the TV audience could better see the ball.

Penn balls: the first sold in pressurized cans.

Interestingly, because of International Tennis Federation regulations, the making of the tennis ball hasn’t changed much in years and most of the factories are the Far East. Outside of Bangkok, Wilson’s 118,403 square foot factory turns out a 100 million of the yellow-green furry things every year, using a process that involves 24 intricate steps.

Chris Clark, the Global Product Manager for Wilson Racquet Sports said that the difference with the balls both for Wilson and the other companies is the manipulation of the felt on the ball.

“It’s what gives the ball its own personality,” he said. “A ball that is woven tighter will play faster and will turn bald faster, while other balls that tend to fluff up are termed in the industry as ‘hairy halos’, and these balls will play slower.”


The Wilson factory in Bangkok turns out 100 million balls a year.

Strangely, modern tennis balls have made an appearance on the political scene. In one of the oddest edicts came from the city of Cleveland during the 2016 Republican convention when they banned at least 72 kinds of weapons and gadgets from the 1.7 square mile “event zone”.

Guns were allowed, as it’s an open carry state but not tennis balls. Tennis balls were deemed more dangerous than carrying a gun.

On a more serious note, Wimbledon was called out this year as it was revealed that the beloved Slazenger tennis ball used at The Championships were made in a sweltering factory in the Philippines. The workers were making pennies on the hour, far less than the allowance the ball boys and girls get for handling them on the Wimbledon grass.

Further down the supply line, the rubber workers supplying the rubber for the shells of the balls earn less and are forced to cultivate the rubber from Basilan, a dangerous Island that is terrorized by the Islamic State.

The Wimbledon ball: from sweltering factory to cool grass lawns.

Tennis balls continue to be the great equalizer as they are used at every level of the game and with the advent of youth tennis; they now come in different sizes.

The bigger foam balls and the various depressurized balls used by young aspiring players are intended to grow the game of by helping players become more skilled at earlier levels.

At the club and USTA level, the balls often become a point of conflict. Who brings the balls, who opens the balls and when, and what kind of balls does a particular player want to play with? Dunlops are harder, Penn’s fluff up more and what about the many kinds of balls offered by any one company? And then there is that Federer ball that is more expensive than any of the others.

The Future

Rich Francey, Director of Sales for Tennis Warehouse says “I don’t see any significant changes in ball technology in the future and I don’t see manufacturers doing anything to increase the life of the ball.” Francey went on to say that tennis ball prices have not increased in the last twenty years in the U.S. but in Europe they sell for as much as $12.00 a can.

A big change in junior tennis – depressurized, lower bouncing balls.

The relationship with the player and the tennis ball can be a complicated one. Players like Novak Djokovic are so mesmerized by the ball that they will bounce it dozens of times before actually striking it. His bounce record is 39 times in a 2007 Davis Cup match against Australia.

Former U.S. #1 and 1959 Wimbledon semi-finalist Sally Moore, who always had a positive outlook on the game, stated that she loved tennis balls and believed because of that love the balls would be good to her in her matches.

Djokovic once bounced a ball 39 times before a serve.

Dominika Cibulkova appears to kiss newly opened tennis balls. She denies that and said instead, “I smell them, I love their smell, the smell of new balls.” The Slovakian claimed that she could smell a ball and know which tournament it came from. At the 2017 Wimbledon Championships, Dominik was blindfolded and then correctly matched each ball by smelling it to the tournament it was originally used in.

Other tennis players seem to hate tennis balls so much that they will hit them out of the stadium. Players often curse at the ball and call it names. Canadian player Denis Shapovalov hit a ball that nearly took off the head off chair umpire Arnaud Gabas and fractured his eye socket.

American Jack Sock has developed his own ritual and wants each ball handler to only have three balls at any time. He recounted a story: “At one point one ball boy had four balls and the other had two, and I got broke in that game. I had to have a little talk with the ball handlers and told them they needed to keep it three and three.”

Ever Present

Tennis balls have become ever-present in our world today. They are used on the bottoms of walkers, as throw toys for dogs, doorstoppers and even reconstituted carpets made from repurposed rubber.

Denis Shapovalov fractured the eye socket of chair umpire Arnaud Gabas.

In the United States alone 125 million tennis balls are sold each year and 325 million worldwide. Sadly over 100 million balls are dumped into landfills each year and will take over 450 years to decompose. So the next time you decide to hit a ball over the fence remember, it will likely be there long after you’re gone.

Finally, the great Billie Jean King finds spiritual meaning in the tennis ball. She said, “I love the smell of the ball and the sound of the ball hitting the strings. The seam on the ball reminds me of the separation between the land and the ocean on earth.” That is deep thinking.

Why Senior Tennis Matters to the Rest of Us

“You Schmuck” my father’s voice bellowed as I hit a backhand that hit the back fence. My dad was referring to me using my head, but I thought image was everything. Hey, that’s what Agassi said, right? And besides, I liked hitting winners, when they went in. It was fun. I had played tennis since I was ten-years old and found very limited success as a junior but was the captain of the Beverly Hills High School tennis team, so at least I had that going for me. However, I was not destined for greatness, at least not on the court.

After leaving the game for thirty years to become a writer, producer and director in Hollywood, I once again fell in love with tennis in my early 50’s. This was mostly because I was looking for an escape from a bad marriage and what I call, my lost decade. Tennis became my escape. As much as I thought I was still a kid, my body said I wasn’t. Unlike the Six Million Dollar Man, I was neither faster nor stronger and no one could rebuild me either. It was at that time that I met Dave Sivertson, a former college player, who played back in the 70’s, but made his name as a director of tennis at several high-end clubs including Braemar Country Club in Tarzana California and Mission Hills Country Club in Palm Desert California. He has been designated a Master Pro by The United States Professional Tennis Association. This means, he’s really super good. Dave remade my game and taught me how to win at the USTA league and club level. After struggling to play tennis well and after the three-decade layoff, Dave helped me get to a point where I reached my goal and became a 4.5 player and began to win almost all of my matches. And, just for fun, I got my USPTA professional certification. For me, that was really cool. I wished my dad were alive to see that. Finally, I was using my head and as for image, let’s just say we left that at the door.

Six months ago Dave called and told me that he would be playing for the U.S. Super Seniors men’s 65 and over team in the ITF (International Tennis Federation) World Championships. This was a significant honor as the United States Tennis Association selects the top 4 players in the country based on performance of wins at the national level. Last year the event was held in Croatia and this year it was held at The U.S. National Tennis Campus, in Lake Nona, Florida… “The Home of U.S. Tennis.” This was something I had to see, so I booked my flight and headed off to Orlando, home of Mickey Mouse, humidity and unmarked toll roads.

The National Tennis Campus is a phenomenal facility. Beautifully landscaped, and set on 64 acres, it is the home of U.S. player development and boasts a hundred courts, some pretty good food and beautiful views. It is also on the landing approach path to Orlando International Airport, which I think was planned to prepare future U.S. stars to play at the U.S. Open. That venue is also on the landing path for JFK. The planes are so low, I am quite sure John Isner could hit a ball inside the wheel well of one of those big birds descending out of the south.

One hundred and twenty-three teams from thirty-one countries competed this year in nine divisions of the Super Seniors World Championships, and it was remarkable tennis. Tennis fans today are fixated on the pro-tour, however, for anyone at the club and recreational level who is serious about playing tennis to win, it’s important to seek out high level senior tournaments because that is the game you need to see in order to make your game better. Federer, Williams and Nadal are great entertainment, but senior tennis is the type of game the club and recreational player needs to watch. The game is slowed down, but the quality isn’t.

We have all seen the club player try to whip a forehand up the line clearing the net by a nano-inch only to stumble across the doubles line and off the court. If they are incredibly lucky, the ball goes in the court but they are as out of position as Nick Kyrgios would be in a synchronized swimming competition. This is the twenty-year old self-talking to us. It’s the part of us that tells us no matter how old we are and how creaky our bodies are, we can still do it. Sorry Charlie, but we can’t. Why not just toss up a lob and reset the point? Why, because it’s boring. However, if you want to win, patience and tactics trump winners.

Several years back, Dave Sivertson adopted a philosophy on winning that involves a few very basic ideas. These are common sense concepts but yet most club players never do them. Winners are overrated, risk must be assessed on every point and patience and percentage tennis are paramount to winning. This philosophy translates down to from the 5.0 levels to the 2.0 levels. Even if you look at the data from the top tour players, you will find that over time the players with the least unforced errors win more matches than those with the most winners. This data explodes exponentially at the club level, which means, winners may be fun, but they are not the way to win.

While other players at the top levels of senior tennis may not articulate this philosophy, they seem to intuitively do it. Jimmy Parker, who played in the Men’s 70 and over division has a record 131 gold balls. Tina Karwasky, the number one woman player in the world in the 65’s and former top 100 tour player has 121 gold balls and also uses this philosophy to win. In many ways she is a mirror to Sivertson. Both players and their teams won gold medals this year. The women’s team beat Australia and the men’s team defeated Austria. In fact seven American teams were in the finals with six taking gold medals.

This is not a game of power, it’s a game of tactics and strategy…a game of who makes the fewest errors, and who has the most patience. You won’t see a lot of winners, but you will see remarkable tennis. The elegance of performance is evident in almost every match.

And so my journey to Lake Nona came to an end as I celebrated with Dave and his team of Larry Turville, Len Wofford, and Paul Wolf, all stupendous players, I came away with one thought. This was a lot of fun and despite their age, these guys define what a champion is both in the way they play and the way they comport themselves on the court. This trip was definitely a winner for me. And as they say, “Tennis is the sport of a lifetime.”