Vic Seixas – So Many Years, So Many Memories

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Bill Simons

The boy (that was me) was sweaty, tired and elated. He’d just finished hours of playing a new game he was falling in love with (that would be tennis).

Then his dad came home, opened the sports page, and commented, “Look, that guy from Philly, Vic Seixas, just won that tournament over there in England – they call it Wimbledon.”

It was a big deal – and Vic Seixas was a big deal in my life and in tennis history. He was an inspiration. Friday, Vic, who had been the oldest living Grand Slam champ and the oldest player in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, passed, at age 100.

The 6′ 1″ Seixas not only won Wimbledon in 1953 and the US Open in 1954, he was No. 1 in the world and led the US to a key 1954 Davis Cup win in Sydney in front of 25,000 fans, at a time when Australia had an iron grip on the Davis Cup. Overall, Vic won 15 majors: two singles, five doubles and eight mixed doubles titles, and was our Davis Cup captain.

But what intrigues us is a straight-from-a-novel life journey. The son of a Depression era plumber with a tough name to pronounce (“say’-shus”) emerged from a Philadelphia park and began playing the circuit in 1940. But then war roared. He became a test pilot for the Army Air Corps and went off to Papua, New Guinea to make sure small mustangs and big bombers were ready for battle.

After the war, he had little interest in his father’s plumbing business. Instead, he played the amateur tennis circuit. Sure, his groundies weren’t that great. But he had speed and athleticism, and was a demon at the net. As he charged forward, his slashing volleys dictated.

When he won Wimbledon he got a trophy and a gift certificate. He bought a sweater. In today’s world, all things considered, he might have pocketed $35 million. Just ask Emma Raducanu.

But, oh well, life was good – the world was his oyster. He had a pretty wife, and then another. He traveled to Johannesburg and Buenos Aires, Melbourne and Hollywood, where he rubbed elbows with the stars. Promoters paid his way, and he told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “We lived like kings and queens.” 

Vic went on to become a stock broker for Goldman Sachs. He then came to Mill Valley and a haven in the Bay Area, the Club at Harbor Point, where he taught tennis and tended bar.

In recent years, the great mover wasn’t moving that well. Nonetheless, the man who inspired this writer long inspired the entire sport. His longevity was a marvel. Everyone knew he was a gentleman on and off the court.

Seventy-one years and one day after he won Wimbledon, Vic left us, right during the Championships. It was a sad day. Then again, on any day when anybody looks into the annals of American tennis, they will see a man of class, grace, elegance and ferocity – a pillar of this sport.

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