Tennis

Tom Tebbutt: 145 Grand Slam tournaments and then some

He’s reported from 145 Grand Slam tournaments, 48 Canadian Open events and 20 Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup competitions.

The brilliant freelance journalist Tom Tebbutt was inducted into the Tennis Canada Hall of Fame on Tuesday night, along with the much-loved Aleksandra Wozniak, in front of their home crowd on Centre Court at IGA Stadium.

Although a resident of Toronto, Tom is a true Francophile from Trois-Rivières.

His Twitter bio says it best: “An international tennis writer based in Toronto, but un trifluvien pour toujours.”

Pretty clear.

Decipher our friend Tom’s numbers and you’ll see that they’re unique in Canada and rare in the tennis world.

At the Globe and Mail, RBS, TSN, RDS, Radio-Canada, CKAC and as a columnist for Tennis Canada until very recently, we’ve seen, read and heard him everywhere, in French and English, always as relevant as ever.

Our globetrotter to tennis’ biggest events has honed a winning recipe of efficiency and humility.

Before he switches roles to answer questions rather than ask them, we owe Tom Tebbutt a debt of gratitude for his nearly five decades of tennis service.

How many years as a reporter?

“Of the 145 Grand Slam tournaments, 48 were at Roland-Garros,” recalls the man who says he’s retired but is still around.

“The Canadian Open, now the National Bank Open presented by Rogers, is 48 straight, except in 2020 with the cancellation due to the pandemic, 20 Davis Cup and several Fed Cup, now Billie Jean King Cup, competitions. My first Canadian Open in Toronto and my first Grand Slam at Forrest Hills on grass were both in 1974.”

A Grand Slam is four Olympic Games in a year

“A British journalist told me that. It’s almost true except that, in tennis, you get used to going to the same places every year. It’s easier than the Olympics.”

You come from a family of entrepreneurs in Trois-Rivières. Why choose the insecurity that comes with freelancing?

“Unlike Claude Dubois in Le blues du businessman, I wasn’t business-minded!”

How do you view Tennis Canada’s success after years of misery?

“They hired good coaches like Louis Borfiga, and there’s a bit of luck involved, too. I never understood the lack of good Swedish players after years of fabulous success with Borg, Wilander, Edberg and many others in the Top 20 or Top 10. At one point, four of the Top 11 were Swedish. A few years ago, there wasn’t a single Swede in the Top 400, and that’s certainly not because of a lack of coaches with all the good players they produced, like Larsson, Gustaffson, Norman, Soderling, Sundstrom, Jarryd, etc. I think luck plays a role, and so do players like Raonic, Pospisil, Bouchard, Andreescu, Fernandez, Félix and Denis who inspire each other.”

Pick three for some friendly doubles

“Roger, Rafa and Mats Wilander.”

In Trois-Rivières, did you play at the Radisson tennis club?

“When I was younger, in Trois-Rivières, I played mostly basketball and a little tennis. In 1964, I won the Saint-Sacrement parish mixed doubles with Geneviève Ménard, and that was 100% because she was the best player in the tournament.”

It’s an honour for us, but why did you choose to be inducted into the Tennis Canada Hall of Fame in Montréal instead of Toronto, where you live?

“Montréal and Trois-Rivières will always be my home. And why not also share the moment with the lovely Aleksandra Wozniak?”

And finally, what’s it like to be a legend?

“It an honour, for sure. Mostly, I think about the challenge of trying to do your job well every day when covering a tournament and the privilege of having had the chance to travel and meet people from all over the world.”

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