Many insisted that the venerable Vic Braden, who died in 2014, should long ago have gone into the Hall of Fame. Now, at last, he will inducted on July 22nd. Oh well, better late than never. Braden was one of the great populizers of the game, and during the tennis boom his creative Coto de Caza tennis college was a must-go destination. Vic was a tennis engineer and a teaching pro who played a key role in the emergence of Tracy Austin. He was a kind of mad scientist who gave us data and details few others considered. He spoke of fast-twitch fibers and varying brain types and informed us that it takes four milliseconds for the ball to leave the strings of a racket.
A fun-loving wordsmith, he turned phrases with the ease of a Federer forehand. With a twinkle, he told his students, “Hit it deep and down the middle and you’ll be famous by Friday.” Braden wrote enough books to fill a shelf. He was a psychologist and a commentator. He had an elfin quality – his eyes sparkled. Tennis’ Johnny Appleseed insisted, “If you can walk to the drinking fountain without falling over, you have the physical ability to play tennis well.” A Michigan native who earned a PhD, Braden embraced the celebrity-friendly pizzazz of Southern California and enriched the lives of so many – such heart, such curiosity, lots of courage. He was a groundbreaking pioneer who loved sports and loved tennis, and, more than anything, loved people. He always had perspective and suggested that “rather than worrying about becoming a Wimbledon champion…you’re very valuable as you are. Your success doesn’t depend on your ranking.” And the love people had for Vic didn’t have to do with the accolades he got. But it’s nice he’s getting a great honor now.