Richard Evans – A Sage and a Gentleman To Enter Hall of Fame

1
948

Bill Simons

Richard Evans won’t be the first Englishman to enter the International Tennis Hall of Fame. But he will be the first Englishman who was born in Paris, survived Nazi bombs, dated the daughter of a British Prime minister, covered Martin Luther King’s assassination and Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign, was at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, worked for the ATP, moved from the south of France to America, wrote a book on the relationship between President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, is an avid cricket fan and has been pals with countless tennis stars from Arthur Ashe to Chrissie Evert.

These days sports news is loud. Hot takes are what it’s all about. Clicks matter. Evans, who’s worked for Tennis Week, World Tennis, the BBC, Tennis Channel, Inside Tennis, the Financial Times and the Evening Standard, is different. Thoughtful and erudite, he has one of the most delicious English accents you’ll ever hear on a tennis broadcast – such audio candy. A writer, broadcaster and historian whose written 23 books, including a tennis encyclopedia, volumes on McEnroe and Ilie Nastase and his extraordinary autobiography, “The Roving Eye.” 

Whether on the dance floor with Althea Gibson at the Wimbledon ball, traveling in Africa with Arthur Ashe, downing a Vodka at 10 Downing Street with Margaret Thatcher, or talking tennis with the boys in a Melbourne restaurant, the Floridian is wry, witty, engaging, and such good company. A former captain in the British army, he covered the war in Vietnam and the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa. He was the last journalist to interview Richard Burton and was pals with the actor Richard Harris. 

Evans’s wisdom is deep. So comfortable in his own skin, he’s said to be one of the last of the great gentlemen of tennis. He may be under deadline pressure in a tense press room, but the man who’s covered over 200 majors is (almost) always glad to interrupt in order to provide a needy reporter with an obscure tidbit that’s desperately needed for a story.

Plus, Richard’s an adept wordsmith. When Agna Radwanska went low for a shot, he observed, “I’m surprised she didn’t need kneepads.” When Stefan Edberg again demonstrated his usual good sportsmanship he complained, “If those Swedes go on like this, they will be in danger of giving pro tennis a good name.” 

As for Federer, Evans said, “Roger was like a swallow diving on that volley…He looks so relaxed on a tennis court. He strolls around like it’s his back garden.” One day Evans will write about the flowering of Paris’ grand chestnut trees and the next he’ll tell us, “All these sunflowers here in Melbourne would have made Vincent van Gogh very happy.”

But Evans is not happy with the turn America has taken. An outspoken critic, his take is that our nation has been diminished by a mean-spirited mindset that has turned truth on its head and sowed hostility in a country that once celebrated differences and was welcoming.

Evans, who drank champagne from the Wimbledon cup and has given us so many reading adventures, told Tennis Now that our sport “has amazing characters, and I feel privileged to have met them all.” And so many feel privileged to have known the debonair gentleman who, with pad and pencil, began his career by covering rowing and cricket and now will be going into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

SHARE

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here