Joel Drucker. Addicted.
To say that this guy knows tennis would be an understatement. Writer, producer and historian, Joel Drucker is a tennis sage who has worked for Tennis Week, Tennis Channel, ESPN, HBO, CBS, TNT and more. He is quite possibly the person who has written the most about tennis among those who cover the sport. He also plays a ton.
Drucker grew up entrenched in what he terms a “tennis nation unto itself,” southern California, playing in junior tournaments that offered up some of the country’s toughest young draws. There, he says, “a player ranked 20 in the section was likely top 40 in the country. For me, a great junior tournament was when I won two matches. I learned to compete.” Today, Drucker is an avid player and reporter who covers the most elite of pro players and tournaments. His game components:
Singles or Doubles: “Close call, but probably singles.”
Favorite surface: Hard court
Best Stroke: “One-handed backhand and backhand volley.”
Baseliner or All Court: “All court but with a disruptive, left-handed, aggressive, counter punching mix of spins, paces and attacks, shades of John McEnroe and Brad Gilbert. Some people have the genetic gift of fast feet; I have what could be called the disruption gene.”
Style of Play: “You can tell I learned to play in the 70s. My balls are based on clean, flat hits, a little like Stan Smith or Todd Martin — but I kind of got off the beam ten years into playing and learned my natural predisposition was to constantly alter spins and paces. Discipline is hard for me. The one-handed back-hand, that’s old-school too.”
Stick: Prince Speedport Black with grommets
How often: Three to five times a week
USTA Rank: “4.5 – 5.0 depending on what part of the country”
Lessons: “The great upside of my job is that I get input from a lot of experts.”
Tennis Thanks: “The book I wrote Jimmy Connors Saved My Life: A Personal Biography says it all.”
Why You Play: “Tennis is the girl next door. I always liked it but did not appreciate it until later in life. It is a sport where you get to touch the ball on every play, a great vehicle for self-expression and self-improvement. I also like that tennis is democratic. No matter what you have, a court is a court, same size, lines and net. Show me what you’ve got.”
On Hitting with Tour Pros: “I’ve done this literally dozens of times. Even a former college player does not hit a ball with anywhere near the sustained depth, pace or consistency of a tour pro. It is difficult to compromise them with any kind of shot. Tennis levels are exponential past 4.5, like earthquakes on the Richter scale.”
Tennis style: “Off the court I hardly care about clothing but on I like wearing nice tennis clothes, collared shirts (no tees) and above the knee shorts. I read something once about how quality clothing creates court presence and I loved that notion. As a kid I stole a white Fred Perry vest that Jimmy Connors was wearing at the time (since paid back). I had just lost a tournament and thought it would make a difference.”
Label Love: Fred Perry (still), Thorlo
Tennis Accolades: Tennis Week Writer of the Year, 1999.
Read Drucker’s Blog The Roving Player at TennisChannel.com