(EXCLUSIVE) Stan Smith: "Some People Still Think I'm A Shoe" - UBITENNIS
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(EXCLUSIVE) Stan Smith: “Some People Still Think I’m A Shoe”

Despite being “Mr.100 million pairs”, Smith has been at the top of the rankings (albeit without the computerized system to certify the achievement), has won two Slams on his way to over 100 titles, and has been part of a record-breaking seven winning Davis Cup teams. He’s the current president of the Hall of Fame.




Stan Smith, the 6-foot-4 American champion, was born in Pasadena on December 14, 1946, and is considered by some to have been the best player in the world between 1971 and 1972, before the ATP Rankings as we know them were introduced. But how many tournaments did he actually win?


According to the ATP website, Smith has 36 titles in singles and 54 in doubles under his belt… but that’s without adding the pre-ATP victories to the haul. To be honest, though, he doesn’t seem certain of the definitive amount himself. However, as Bud Collins said, “Stan is a bona fide Centennial.” A couple Slams are part of his resumé, and they could have been more, while he also won five in doubles (when doubles were still “a serious business,” in his own words), out of a grand total of 17 finals. To be precise, he reached 13 showdowns in the men’s doubles (10 with Bob Lutz, with 5 victories, and 3 more, all losses, with either Van Dillen or Gorman), one in the mixed doubles, which he won partnering Rosie Casals, and three in the singles (he lost at Wimbledon in ’71 against Newcombe, but won a couple months later at Forest Hills against Kodes before triumphing a year later at SW19 versus Nastase).

He also won the first year-end Masters event, surviving a round-robin tournament in Tokyo, in 1970, and, more importantly, he is the only seven-time winner of the Davis Cup, along with Bill Tilden. This chat will feature some unbelievable anecdotes, such as the two years he spent without talking to Ion Tiriac after what happened in the Davis Cup final in 1972, or the heart-breaking losses against Kodes and Rosewall in two Slam semis, matches he lost after squandering match points. Stan will also show us the trophies he won in Tokyo, New York, and London. Finally, he’ll show us some of his eponymous shoes (which have sold over 100 million pairs), and everything will be topped off with same trademark banter with me and Steve Flink.


Minute 00: How many tournaments has Stan Smith won, and why was he unlucky?

02:50: Playing mixed doubles with the diminutive Rosie Casals

03:32: All the best players used to play both singles and doubles, up to Connors and Borg…

04:21: The NCAA tennis tournament (the university championships in the US) and all the great champions who won it in the past, from Ashe to Smith himself to McEnroe, who did it after reaching the Wimbledon semifinals as a qualifier. Who are the collegiate players that have found pro success in the last few years? Stan, the last graduate to win his maiden Slam (although the last graduate to win is Arthur Ashe). When Ubaldo beat an NCAA champion – to Stan’s utter amazement!

11:56: “I realised I’d be among the world’s best when I beat Laver and Rosewall in Tokyo…” What Rosewall said about him… Here’s trophy #1!

13:56: Trophy #2, the US Open. Stan reminisces on that tournament and on his defeat at Newcombe’s hands in the 1971 Wimbledon final.

18:17: Some unexpected tactical advice from Pancho Segura, who also coached Connors and Chang, propelled him to beat Jan Kodes at Forest Hills… What kind of player was Segura?

21:05: Boycotting Wimbledon in 1973 for a guy who wasn’t particularly liked by his peers…

22:47: The WCT win against Ashe in 1973, in front of… Ben Hur! A hallmark event in Ubaldo’s career.

25:26: Lamar Hunt’s party in Dallas where Ubaldo met Stan’s future wife. A very shy teenager called John McEnroe and the likenesses between him and Nastase…

29:14: The 1972 Wimbledon final against the Romanian, one of the greatest matches of all time. His Davis Cup record against Nastase, who still thinks Smith was lucky against him. That with Billie Jean King before the final, a good omen?

33:41: The Davis Cup final in Bucharest and Tiriac’s concocting ploys to cheat the trophy out of the Americans’ hands… How to deal with security and guns after the terrorist attack against the Israeli team at the 1972 Olympics – two members of the American Davis Cup team were Jewish. Smith had won at SW19, Nastase at Forest Hills. Tiriac’s 100th tie: “Should I shake hands with him after what he’s done?”

40:58: That tie was remembered with a 30th anniversary party in Bucharest, culminating in a doubles exhibition match between the same four players. Remembering when Stan stopped talking to Tiriac, who now has a private jet…

44:05: Smith shows us the replica of the Renshaw Cup, Trophy #3!

44:51: Those two semifinal matches he lost after having match points in his favour, one against Kodes at Forest Hills (1973) and one against Rosewall at Wimbledon (1974): “Had I beaten Ken…”

49:27: The new Davis Cup versus the ATP Cup and the Laver Cup.

57:00: Smith is the current president of the International Hall of Fame. He tells us how hard it was to promote the whole endeavour, both as a concept and from a financial standpoint…

1:02:56: Stan’s Top 6 ever in the men’s game: “One of them is the current GOAT, another will overtake him. When Borg won his 6th French Open title…”

1:07:02: More GOAT debate. Head-to-head comparison versus years spent at N.1. The role of the crowd.

1:08:00: Was anybody ever cherished as much as Federer? The sport’s greatest personalities.

1:10:47: Does Stan agree with Patrick Mouratoglou, who thinks that there are no more huge personalities in tennis?

1:13:01: Ubaldo’s children’s Stan Smith shoes, and some very special shoe models…

1:15:26: Some people wore the crocodile without knowing who Lacoste was, then it happened with Fred Perry and his laurel: “That’s why the title of my book was ‘Stan Smith, some people think I am a shoe’!”

1:16:53: Stan’s four children and his Tennis Academy.

Article written by Tommaso Villa


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