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Bud Collins honored in moving dedication ceremony

By McCarton Ackerman
Sunday, September 06, 2015

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After more than 50 years of covering tennis as a journalist and historian, the contributions that Bud Collins has made to the sport will now be forever remembered at the US Open.

The Hall of Fame inductee was joined by his wife, Anita Ruthling Klaussen, and other family members in a special dedication ceremony to officially name the press center at the US Open the “Bud Collins US Open Media Center.” Legends of the game, including Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Rosie Casals, were all in attendance to pay tribute to the man they consider both a friend and a pioneer to the sport.

“He was one of the few that cared about women’s tennis before it ever became popular, and I will never forget that,” said King. “I love him as a friend, but I also love him as a historian. We wouldn’t know half of the facts that we know about tennis if it weren’t for Bud.”

Collins first began writing a tennis column for the Boston Globe in 1963, eventually joining WGBH-TV for its national tennis broadcasts. He went on to join NBC Sports and become the iconic face of "Breakfast at Wimbledon" for 35 years. Collins has also written eight books on the history of tennis, including the "Bud Collins: History of Tennis" encyclopedia. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1994.

“When I first met Bud at Wimbledon in 1988, I was amazed at what he knew about me and my background,” said Katrina Adams, USTA president and US Open chairwoman. He knew that I went to Northwestern University and would always say, ‘Hey, Wildcat!’ whenever I saw him. He always took care of me and supported me throughout my career."

His colorful attire, including Hawaiian pants and a penchant for playing tennis without shoes on grass courts, was equally matched by his colorful nicknames for players. Jimmy Connors was known as the “Brash Basher from Belleville,” Chris Evert was referred to as “Chris America,” and Rafael Nadal was known as “El Nino.” His nickname for King was “Mother Freedom,” which inspired the Elton John hit song “Philadelphia Freedom.”

In addition to covering the sport, Collins was also a top-level amateur player. He won the U.S. Indoor Mixed Doubles Championship in 1961 with Janet Hopps and reached the final of the French Open Senior Doubles event in 1975.

But it’s his creativity and vision in promoting tennis that not only remains his biggest legacy but also plays a major role in the way that the sport is currently viewed today.

“He invented new ways of thinking about his subject and founded the way that tennis is put on television. The idea of a journalist calling television hadn’t happened before. The art form didn’t exist until Bud created it,” said Ken Solomon, chairman and CEO of the Tennis Channel. “Tennis is no longer a small country-club thing. It’s now a major business and enterprise and would most assuredly look different if it weren’t for Bud.“