Never mind Federer. Forget about Azarenka.
The big news from the United States Open is that Bud Collins is coming back.
Bud’s gaudy slacks have not been seen – and his gaudy prose has not been read or heard – since he ruptured a tendon in his left quad during the 2011 Open. It has taken him a full year for 10 procedures to finally heal the wound, and he missed the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon.
Collins, 83, probably the best-known American tennis commentator of all time, no longer works for a network or The Boston Globe, but he does write for his own web site, budcollinstennis.com, and is always available for interviews or consultations on tennis history.
On Wednesday he and his wife Anita Ruthling Klaussen plan to drive down from Boston. No doubt he will bring along a daily supply of stunning slacks – maybe chartreuse, maybe rainbow motif. You never know.
Remember the time Chris Evert came off the court after getting skunked by Martina Navratilova in the Wimbledon final, and Bud was there with a microphone to interview her for NBC? Evert took one look at the glow from Bud’s lower half and said, “Nice pants, Bud.”
Collins will be attending his 59th consecutive tournament in Queens, going back to the old Nationals at the West Side Tennis Club, where he was an occasional participant.
This is true. Bud was a good enough player to get drafted into the over-35 bracket back in the day.
He always played barefoot on the grass, and on that day he sported old-fashioned tennis whites, the slacks going down to his calves.
“I drew Fred Stolle,” Bud recalled the other day. “I even broke his serve in the first game. As we changed sides, Rino Tommasi told me to default right then and there.”
Tommasi, the grand Italian commentator, had a point. That way Bud could always claim he had beaten Stolle, the former French and United States champion, 1-0. However, Bud did the sporting thing and came out for the second game. He is a little vague on whether he won another one.
He does not go into many details of the last hideous year, when he suffered through many false starts in healing. Anita was a constant, and he had visits from Bill Littlefield, the host of WBUR’s Only a Game, as well as Boston classical musicians like the harpist Ann Hobson Pilot and the bassist James Orleans. On April 5, a former tennis player named Billie Jean King paid a surprise visit, and soon after that, journalist pals Lesley Visser and Cindy Shmerler dropped in.
During Wimbledon, the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay watched the men’s final with Bud and wrote a lovely column about the old war horse temporarily confined to quarters. Bud wore his strawberry slacks for the occasion. He’s had a year to work on his wardrobe and vocabulary for this comeback.