Local Tennis Expert
This leading tennis expert travels all over the world covering major matches, but his home is right here in the East Bay.
by Melissa Schmidt
Joel Drucker figures he’s been credentialed at more than 60 Grand Slams over his decades-long career. This year alone, Drucker—one of the world’s foremost tennis writers—will spend more than 100 days away from his Oakland home, covering the sport he first fell in love with as an undersized 12-year-old. If the late TV commentator Bud Collins was the sport’s walking encyclopedia, Drucker is its road atlas: an adept observer who peels back tennis’ layers to analyze both its origins and its present, enlightening us as to where we’re headed.
Drucker’s work has appeared in numerous media outlets, including HBO, CBS, and the Tennis Channel. We met with the International Tennis Hall of Fame historian-at-large to gain some insight for this year’s remaining tournaments.
Q: Serena Williams is pregnant. Petra Kvitová is overcoming injuries she suffered when an intruder invaded her home. New mom Victoria Azarenka is in the early stages of a comeback. Maria Sharapova recently returned to the court after a 15-month ban. Has the women’s tour ever been more wide open?
A: There’s a lot of opportunity in the WTA [Women’s Tennis Association] for players to capture some goodies. It’s a very interesting time. If experience really counts, you’ve got to look to Sharapova. She’s a great competitor.
Q: We were beginning to write off thirtysomething Roger Federer. Now, he’s playing like he was back in 2004. How is he going to maintain his game?
A: Federer knows it’s going to take some special management for him to excel at the slams. He’s undertaken a kind of customized [tournament] schedule management in order to do that. At 35, it’s not business as usual. He’s got to pace himself to manage his time effectively.
Q: You’ve seen generations of players come and go. If you could create the ultimate player, picking strokes from different players across the years, who would your tennis cyborg be?
A: I would take [Pete] Sampras’ serve. [Rafael] Nadal’s forehand. [Jimmy] Connors’ two-handed backhand. Ken Rosewall’s one-hander. John McEnroe’s volleys. Monica Seles’ competitive demeanor. The thing about the game that’s so compelling is that it’s so elemental. It’s sort of revealing of ourselves because we’re not relating to an institution; we’re relating to ourselves. These are the kind of people I want playing for my life.
Q: No Federer?
A: I think Federer and Nadal are both great, but my view of the world is a little more Nadal than Federer. Federer makes you think what life could be; Nadal shows you what life is. joeldrucker.com.