Heritage Day returns to West Side Tennis Club
The West Side Tennis Club (WSTC) continues to celebrate and honor its legacy. The club was founded in Manhattan in 1892 and moved to its current home in Forest Hills in 1913.
Last year’s events were largely off-limits due to the pandemic, but on August 27 the fourth Heritage Day event took place. The first was held in 2017 to mark the club’s 125th anniversary.
“Each Heritage Day allows us to relive tennis history with the wonderful tennis legends who join us,” said club president Monika Jain. “As we move forward, we are delighted to welcome current tennis superstars to the club.”
Banners honoring Stan Smith, who won the U.S. Open Singles championship in 1971 and U.S. Open Doubles championships in 1968 and 1974, and Bud Collins, a journalist, commentator, and tennis historian joined banners honoring Maureen Connolly, Jack Kramer, Arthur Ashe, Virginia Wade, Rod Laver, Rene Lacoste, and the first U.S. Open.
“Today the club is honoring two men who have not only made tennis history, but have created legendary status in the tennis world,” said Jason Weir-Smith, WSTC’s director of Racquet Sports, who served as emcee for the event.
Collins’ widow, Anita Ruthling Klaussen, donated much of her late husband’s tennis memorabilia to the club, which will be housed in the library, which was renamed “The Bud Collins Tennis Library.”
“One of the incredible surprises is the people wearing some of Bud’s clothes,” said Klaussen, herself a well-respected photographer. “When they all came to gather the books, all 90 boxes, they brought a crew. At the end of the day I asked, ‘Would you all like to look at Bud’s walk-in closet?’ I said to pick whatever you want.
“I believe Bud would be very, very pleased to know that his cherished tennis books are now housed here,” she added. “He loved the West Side Tennis Club.”
Collins was one of the first writers to make the jump to television.
“I just want you to know, I love hearing you talk,” Klaussen recalls an electrician telling her late husband. “I don’t care about tennis one bit, but I never miss your broadcast, since you’re so interesting.”
Collins also loved to play tennis and carried a racket on all of his travels. One of his favorite partners was opera star Luciano Pavarotti.
Ramsey Smith, head coach of the Duke University men’s tennis team, was making his first visit to WSTC and handled the introduction of his father.
“First and foremost, he’s my father, but he’s also my mentor, coach, and role model,” he said. “Someone I always looked up to and admired.”
“Tennis has been a great sport,” the elder Smith told the crowd. “All four of our kids played in college, it has always been an important part of our lives.”
Smith is the namesake of the popular style of Adidas tennis shoes, and even wrote a book titled “Stan smith: Some People Think I’m a Shoe.”
“People always ask about the shoe,” he said. “Back in 1965, the shoe was created as the first leather tennis shoe ever made. Before that, we wore canvas shoes.”
“Seeing him impressed me to see the personal side of the man,” said attendee David Gale of Smith. “Fit, articulate, and appreciative of not only what he accomplished, but also appreciative of the fact that he didn’t do it himself. It is always inspiring to see people who achieved success relatively early in their lives and be very happy and at peace with where they are now.”
“Stan Smith, Anita Ruthling Klaussen, and Bud Collins inspire me through their impact on those around them,” said Michael Perkins. “The ambiance of Heritage Day is characterized by the excitement created by the coming together of loving friends and family to honor their historical and cultural impact.”