Cliff Drysdale played pro tennis for 18 years and helped create the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). He has been a tennis analyst on CBS, ABC and ESPN for more than three decades. Drysdale talked about the Family Circle Cup, being the first player on the ATP Tour to use a two-handed backhand, and the state of tennis when he went One-on-One with The Post and Courier's Andrew Miller:
What was your initial thought when the Family Circle Cup moved from Hilton Head to Daniel Island?
"I was a little skeptical, but once you saw the stadium they built here, you knew it was going to be a great venue. The facility here is built for tennis. It's permanent and there's not a bad seat in the house. The crowds are always good, so I think it has been a good move."
In 1965 you got to your only Grand Slam singles final at the U.S. Open. What do you recall about that match?
"I played against Manuel Santana from Spain, who was my nemesis on the tour. I lost to him in four sets on grass. It had rained that day, so the court was very slippery. We had to stop play in the middle of the match because of the weather, and I went underneath the stadium and laid down and fell asleep. I was awoken by an aide to Robert Kennedy because he was handing out the trophies and the checks and that's really my most vivid memory of the tournament."
Do you ever think back to that match and wonder what you could have done differently to win?
"No. No regrets. I played from 1962-1980, and in a general sense I regret that I didn't commit myself to fitness. But a lot of us didn't back in those days. My idea of fitness was to get some rest between matches. Today, it's a year-round business and there are super athletes out on tour. But I never look back at individual matches and regret it or relive it."
You were the first player to use a two-handed backhand. Why did you use two hands, and what kind of reaction did you get on the tour?
"The players in my era were slicing everything to get to the net as quickly as possible. That was the style of play back then because three of the four grand slams were on grass. I'm ambidextrous. Anything with a bat or club, like cricket or golf, I'm naturally left-handed. Everything else, writing, serving, I do right-handed. My dad's wooden tennis racket was so heavy in my early days that it was hard to pick it up. No one on the tour gave me a hard time, but I gave myself a hard time because I thought I was a freak. If I had realized it was the future of tennis, I might have had more confidence in myself."
Favorite surface to play on?
"Clay. My game was so different than most of the players on tour. It was based on ground strokes and passing shots. I was more comfortable on clay."
Because of the improvements in racket technology, will we ever see a true serve-and-volley player again?
"No. Because of the power of the ground strokes, you just don't have time to come to the net and make a volley."
What attracted you to tennis?
"I was good at it and a lot of girls played tennis (laughing). I thought it was a good way to meet girls."
How did you get into broadcasting?
"I knew a guy named Barry Frank in Hilton Head, and he was the head of CBS Sports. The United States was playing South Africa in the Davis Cup. Tony Trabert couldn't do a Davis Cup broadcast because he was the Davis Cup captain. So, Barry Frank asked me, and that was 1976."
If Rod Laver began his career now, could be compete against today's athlete?
"Definitely. He was very strong. He was made of steel and he would have adjusted his game to compete against any style."
Best men's player and why?
"Roger Federer. He's the whole package. Mental toughness. His physical skills and his ability to move around on the court. There is no mental, physical or strategic weakness in his game."
Favorite men's player to watch?
Favorite women's player to watch?
"Chris Evert. For her it was about the strategic capability to move people around on the court and to beat players who were better athletes."
What's going to happen to women's tennis when the Williams sisters retire?
"The same thing that always happens. Another group of young, exciting players will come along. I honestly think that tennis is on the upswing in the United States. I'm not worried about the future."
Venus or Serena Williams?
"Venus. She's got a more sympathetic personality and character. She's the older sister. Open-hearted and lively and fun. Both of them are actually like that, but Venus a little more."
Does tennis miss the personalities of a John McEnroe and a Jimmy Connors?
"I think we have those personalities in the game right now. People think back and remember the outbursts of McEnroe and Connors, but had they had the technology of electronic line calling and challenging system, I think there would not have been the egregious behavior and outbursts from them."
Was the Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe match in Wimbledon in 1980 the greatest match of all time?
"I certainly think it was one of them. I'm not sure you could characterize it as the greatest. I think that the Federer- Rafael Nadal match two years ago at Wimbledon was equally as good."
You love to play golf. Have you had a chance to play since you've been here, and what kind of golfer are you?
"I got out (Friday) and played at the Daniel Island Course, which was fantastic. I've got an 8-handicap."
Favorite Charleston restaurant?
Favorite Charleston historic site?
"The aircraft carrier, Yorktown."
Favorite men's player to interview?
Favorite women's player to interview?
Your house is on fire, but everyone in your family is safe. What's the one material thing you can back into the house to get?
"My golf clubs and tennis racket, which are right next to each other."