Tennis Prose



Vitas Heart Of Gold Story From John Rast

Forget that Vitas Gerulaitis won a Grand Slam title (1977 Australian Open), a Wimbledon doubles title (1975 with Sandy Mayer), and was ranked no. 3 in the world. Those are enough achievements alone to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.

This story alone, this profound example of incomparable sportsmanship and camaraderie in tennis, is enough, in my humble opinion, to induct Vitas to Newport as soon as possible…

Note: this is an excerpt from my forthcoming book “Close Encounters With Vitas Gerulaitis.”

John Rast, a former highly ranked junior and player at Stanford University: “I was fifteen. I had just come from National Clay Courts in Louisville where I lost a 5-4 tiebreaker in the semis. I was distraught. The next stop on the junior circuit was the Western in Springfield, Ohio. I had no transportation so I took a bus (after he had already taken a bus by himself from St. Petersburg, FL to Louisville). Everybody had left. I took a bus from Louisville to Springfield. I got to Springfield at 9 pm. I got to the dorm at the university with two bags of soaking wet clothes that I hadn’t washed from the previous week, and my suitcase and tennis bag. I got to the dorm and dropped a bunch of stuff on the floor. I heard a voice, …’Let me get that for you. Let me help you…’ We continued to walk to the elevator bay. ‘No, I’ll take you to your room.’ We got to my dorm room, we put my stuff down. He put his hand out, ‘My name is Vitas. I’m here to help you. I’ll do anything I can to make your week very nice. If you need something, tell anybody, “I need to see Vitas.’ I’ll come help you.’ That was something…”

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