Tennis Prose




Feb/24

12

Biofile Rick Leach Interview

By Scoop Malinowski

Status: Winner of nine Grand Slam titles. Reached ATP no. 1 world ranking in 1990.

DOB: December 28, 1964 In: Arcadia, CA

First Memory Of Tennis: Good question… the one I remember most was playing my first tournament with my dad (Dick) when I was nine. National hard courts in La Jolla. We played a good team – Norm and Jim Slaught. We got to match point. My dad said, ‘Just ace him.’ I couldn’t believe my dad would play with me when I was that young. That’s the kind of person he was.

Tennis Inspirations: Growing up, my dad took me to Davis Cup. Got to see Stan Smith – my dad played him at US Open second round – I was three. I always liked the way Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe played, seeing them on TV Breakfast at Wimbledon. I liked Borg’s demeanor and the way McEnroe played, I’m a lefty.

Last Book Read: Good question… A Terrible Splendor, about Bill Tilden, Don Budge and mostly Baron Gottfried von Cramm. It’s an unbelievable tennis book. I highly recommend.

First Famous Player Your Met Or Encountered: That was at Davis Cup. Stan Smith, Bob Lutz, Erik van Dillen stayed at our house. I was so inspired to play Davis Cup later.

Greatest Sports Moment: I’ve got two. Winning Wimbledon in 1990 in doubles and mixed. In 1989 we (Jim Pugh) were up a set and a break in the final and didn’t win it (lost to John Fitzgerald and Anders Jarryd in four sets). My dad said if you get another shot, you’ve got to take it. We won 76 76 76 (vs Pieter Aldrich and Danie Visser). I hit a big return winner at 5-5. In the quarters we beat Woodbridge and Stoltenberg 76 76 76. Same year when Jim and I played Davis Cup vs. Australia at the old SunDome in St. Petersburg, FL. USA hadn’t won the Davis Cup since 1981. My father was there. We clinched the Davis Cup (vs. Pat Cash and John Fitzgerald). We won all four of our doubles matches that year. After we won the team picked us up and carried us around the court.

Most Painful Moment: Oh, a ton of those. In 2000 Ellis Ferreira and I lost a really tough match in the US Open final to Lleyton Hewitt and Max Mirnyi, 7-6 in the third set and 7-5 in the tiebreaker. Mirnyi hit a shank winner and Hewitt hit a great top spin lob winner. I was 35. That was my last final. Painful because we were so close.

Favorite Tournaments: I always enjoyed going to the Australian Open. Australians are such great people, they like Americans. I had my best results in Australia – three doubles and two mixed. Wimbledon has the most history. And then Wimbledon. I got more nervous at Wimbledon, you wanted to do so well there.

Funniest Players Encountered: That’s a good question… Radek Stepanek is a really funny guy, when I was coaching him and Leander Paes, he always said funny things. Jonathan Stark would say the funniest things no matter how tight the situation was out there. With Stark, we couldn’t win a title, we kep losing to Mahesh and Leander. Finally we won the ATP World Championships in Hartford. I was about to serve a big point and he would come back and say, ‘You’re really good looking…’ It would change my nervousness to laughing.

Career Accomplishments: ATP World Tour player from 1987-2011; Won five Grand Slam doubles titles (three at the Australian Open, one at Wimbledon, and one at the US Open), and four mixed doubles titles (two at the Australian Open, one at Wimbledon, and one at the US Open); World No. 1 in doubles in 1990; First four-time Division 1 All-American in singles and doubles at the University of Southern California (where he played for his father). 648-390 ATP doubles match record; Won 46 ATP doubles titles.

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