Unsung Legends – The Greatest Tennis Heroes Off The Court

Everyone has their favourite tennis player. Whether you like Andy Murray’s undemonstrative dedication, Roger Federer’s effortless grace, or Serena Williams’ bombastic mastery, there’s bound to be a player out there who embodies your personal idea of what tennis should be. That’s not what we want to talk about today, though. Today, we want to celebrate all the people off the pitch who make tennis what it is. Players make the sport entertaining to watch, but tennis would be nothing without everyone who clubs together to make it a truly unforgettable experience. Here are some of our favourite unsung legends off the tennis court.

Andrew Castle

If you’ve ever watched tennis on the BBC, then you’ve heard Andrew Castle’s soothing, authoritative voice. He’s the leading tennis commentator in the UK, and he’s been present for a huge amount of tennis history. As an interview with Betway makes clear, Castle loves putting his voice to big moments in the tennis calendar, and he’s never happier than when he’s watching centre court at Wimbledon. He’s also got very kind words to say about his co-workers, including legendary curmudgeon John McEnroe (who may well make an appearance later on in this list!). Andrew Castle is an all-around positive force in the world of tennis.

John Skipper

Former ESPN head honcho John Skipper (whose name feels particularly apt in this circumstance) is responsible for bringing Wimbledon and the other four major grand slam tournaments under a unified umbrella. Skipper is famous for saying that it’s not necessary to have American tennis players competing at the top level in order for Americans to be interested in the sport, and he’s absolutely right. He’s also championed women’s tennis, and during a time when the relationship between the sporting world and sexism is more fractious than ever, Skipper’s words – which emphasised play quality and star power over identity – ring true.

Stacey Allaster

Stacey Allaster may not be the current head of the Women’s Tennis Association, but she’s arguably the most influential figure to have ever held the post. Allaster campaigned tirelessly for equal prize pots for both men and women, trying to elevate women’s tennis to its deserved position alongside the sport played by the guys. She had to face widespread sexism and skepticism in the world of tennis about women, but she took it all head-on with a determined, focused attitude, and that deserves to be celebrated. Women’s tennis – and, for that matter, men’s tennis – wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn’t for Stacey Allaster.

Stacy Allaster was one of the most popular head of Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).

John McEnroe

What would any discussion of tennis’ greatest legends be without McEnroe? True, he’s not really “unsung”, per se – he’s actually one of the most recognisable and well-remembered tennis personalities in the world. His opinions and the way he expresses them may be controversial, but McEnroe has never been afraid to speak his mind and stand his ground. Contrary to his on-court persona, McEnroe is gentle, calm, and collected when he commentates, although that doesn’t mean he pulls any punches. Some of the things he’s said are somewhat controversial and retrograde, but he’s still one of the most skilled analysts around when it comes to tennis.

You cannot be serious!

Martina Navratilova

After an incredibly successful career on the court, Martina Navratilova has taken up commentating and activism off the court, and it’s proven just as successful for her. Despite some controversial opinions – mostly surrounding trans athletes – Navratilova has been an outspoken champion of women’s sport and of inclusivity, which has netted her not only a place on this list (prestigious, we’re sure you’ll agree!) but also a place in many tennis players’ and fans’ hearts. You can also often hear her commentating on major tennis events such as Wimbledon and several grand slam tournaments, and her insight is witty, precise, and warm.

Martina was one of my favorite tennis players.

Nick Bollettieri

You might not have heard Nick Bollettieri’s name, especially if you’re not a regular tennis aficionado. Bollettieri founded one of the most influential and prestigious tennis academies in the world; it was at the Bradenton, Florida venue that greats like Monica Seles, Andre Agassi, and Maria Sharapova got their starts. Remarkably, Bollettieri is now 89 years old, and he shows no signs of slowing down. He’s now a teacher, a motivational speaker, and a tennis pundit, and he’s also published a fascinating autobiography that’s well worth a look. If you want to know where the modern tennis style comes from, look no further than Nick Bollettieri.

Li Na

Before Li Na, tennis was a marginal sport in China. Li Na opened the door for professional Asian tennis players to make inroads into the traditionally Western sport, and she’s now considered one of the most influential – if not the most influential – Asian sports personalities of all time. She retired in 2014 at the ripe old age of 32 (tennis players don’t quite hit their prime at the same time everyone else does), and she now has a second career as a businesswoman. While she may not be playing on the court anymore, Li Na’s story continues to inspire Asian tennis players to pick up their racket and start training for greatness.

Li Na is a two-time Grand Slam winner.

Mary Carillo

Another incredibly influential figure in women’s tennis, Mary Carillo’s professional tennis run lasted from between 1977 to 1980, but she’s had a much, much more recognisable career off the court. Carillo is arguably the most well-known women’s tennis commentator around the globe, but she’s equally adept at calling and casting men’s tennis, making her a truly diverse professional. She’s so well-known and well-liked that she was included in the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame back in 2018, and she continues to be a model commentator for anyone looking to get into this side of tennis thanks to her warm personality and incredible knowledge. 

30 thoughts on “Unsung Legends – The Greatest Tennis Heroes Off The Court”

  1. I love that you highlighted the personalities that make tennis work off the court. The players are only one part of the overall experience!

  2. It takes so much more than the players on the court to make the game what it is. I love that you highlighted that.

  3. I’ve only heard of a couple of these tennis players. I love to hear that people in the spotlight spend their time doing things for others!

  4. There are always so many incredible people working in and behind the scenes of our favourite things. It was really neat to learn more about the people behind tennis who help make it so great. Thank you so much for sharing with us 🙂

  5. Great write up on the unsung heroes of tennis. I love that you brought awareness to how Stacey Allaster fought for equal pots for men and women’s tennis.

  6. John Castle and Li Na are so familiar with me. I used to follow Li Na big time, back in the day. I used to wonder what happened to her! Thanks for documenting her!

  7. I am not a fan of tennis. So it’s really good for me to learn some famous names.Thanks for sharing with us.

  8. I am not such a tennis enthusiast but I watch them because it’s my father who loves to watch tennis. Thanks for doing this compilation. I bet many would love to know about these players.

  9. Very interesting especially with the Olympics going on. I have never heard of these people and I loved the history lesson.

  10. I can’t say tennis is my favourite game but my sister and I would watch it from time to time when we were kids. Thank you for the history lesson. Whether I know them or not, it’s still interesting.

  11. To be honest, i know nothing about Tennis (or sports in general haha). I think the only players i know are Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams as I used to see them in many headlines. Thank you for sharing with us these amazing yet unsung legends of Tennis. The story of Stacey was quite captivating. So nice to know how she managed to succeed despite all those hard times, sexism, and more. Kudos for her.

  12. I recognize most of these names. I am a tennis fan in that I religiously watch the 4 majors. I haven’t really heard Martina commentate much but I bet she is great at it. Thanks for sharing this information about influential tennis folks!

  13. I had no idea of the history behind most of these tennis legends, Li Na is a new one for me to learn about but I’m so glad she put tennis on the map in China!

  14. They really are unsung heroes for us tennis fans. Tennis wouldn’t be on the forefront like it is today were it not for their contributions.

  15. My daughter loves tennis just can’t get the hang of it. She’s practiced so hard. Please give me some tips to help her.

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