1. What is your funniest incident you remember from your career?
Back when I was 18, I get to play Arthur Ashe on the centre court at Forest Hills. He’s No. 1 in the world at this time, and I’m nervous as hell. I serve first and win the game. This should make me less nervous, but we go back to our seats I’m shaking like a leaf. One of the ball boys comes and asks would I like a drink and gives me some water. I’m still shaking and spill the water everywhere. But there’s 15,000 people in the crowd and I don’t want them to see this, so I pretend its full, and pretend to slip it slowly even though there’s nothing in there. Then I crumple up the cup, and jump up trying real hard to look confident. It must have worked a bit as I managed to win the first set. In hindsight, maybe I should have tried the same approach for the other two sets!
2. Of all your opponents:
Who had the best serve?
For me, it was Ashe. It may not have been the fastest, but he moved the ball around better than anyone I even played – and he mixed up the speed of his serve brilliantly. You never stood at the other end knowing what to expect with Arthur.
Who had the best backhand?
Connors. It was incredibly deceptive. He took the racket back the same every time, but you never quite knew what he up to. His lob, in particular, was brilliant. He kept his head right down as he hit the ball, so it was a real surprise as you watched it float over you at the net.
Who had the best forehand?
Bjorn Borg. When you played him, it might take him three or four games to get in the groove on his forehand, but, when it got it, it sure stayed got! He also had a fantastic ability to curve the ball around over the net post – you’d bet your house it was landing in the tram line, and it would end up six inches in.
Who had the strongest mentality?
Borg again. He had well documented temper problems when he was a kid, but when he got over that he really was the iceman. He might still get annoyed about a call, but he wouldn’t show it, and he would always have it out of his mind when the next point started. There were never any games that ever got away from Bjorn because he lost focus.
Who did you most dread playing?
Raul Ramirez. If ever a man knew all the tricks to get an advantage, it was Raul. Good call or bad he would have a way of just looking at a linesman that build up the pressure and ended up getting him decisions during the game. It used to drive me crazy!
3. Is there a great story you could share about a prominent player of the Golden Age?
I recall being in Paris one time and Nastase hid all of Arthur Ashe’s rackets in the locker room. Arthur is getting more and more annoyed, but Nastase is refusing to tell him where they are. Eventually, Arthur is so hacked off he picks up Nastase, chucks him in a locker, and locks the door. Great player that Nastase was, I’m pretty sure Arthur wasn’t the first to want to do that.
4. Apart from yourself, of course, who did you think was the most stylish dresser of the Golden Age?
Well, outside of tennis-wear, I would go with my friend, Arthur Ashe. He had a style. Pretty exotic, but definitely a real style. Apart from Arthur, I probably go for Roger Taylor: jackets and ties when the rest of us were all pretty casual.
5 Do you think tennis clothes today have the same panache and style as those in the past?
I think the clothes from back then have stood the test of time. Will you be able to say the same about the clothes today? I don’t think so. Will we look back in ten years and remember who wore what - and when? I don’t think so.
6 Why did you want to agree to become an ambassador for GAOT?
Well, apart from anything else, I love the name. I was lucky to be there at the of one great era – Laver, Rosewall, Newcombe, Smith – and the start of another, with the likes of Borg and McEnroe Two Golden Ages of Tennis if you like. And I love the way that GAOT and bringing back clothes, not just of that second age, but clothes that were worn by the likes of Newcombe and Billy-Jean. It’s great to be part of keeping those flames alive.