Family lawyer and U.S. Open mainstay Richard Kent has written three tennis books
Published in 2018 Connecticut Super Lawyers magazine on October 18, 2018
Richard Kent is no average tennis fan. He has attended the U.S. Open—the annual hardcourt tournament held in New York each August—for 40 consecutive years. He does more than spectate. He’s commentated the event for Bloomberg News and has even written a book about it.
“I know it inside and out—all the nooks and crannies,” Kent says. “In my book, I describe it as ‘Disney World for a tennis fan.’ You could go and never watch a match and still have a full day.”
Kent wrote the book, Inside the U.S. Open, in 2008. It serves as a devotee’s guide, lobbing scoops about ball boys, the tournament’s senior events, the media room and more.
In fact, for Inside research, he even tried out for a ball boy position at the age of 55. He aced every test but one. “I didn’t practice throwing a tennis ball,” Kent says. “I’ve played softball and hardball throughout my life, but you never have a catch with a tennis ball. I had difficulty throwing it, one-bounce, diagonally, across the court. If I passed, I might have done it for a year.”
Though Kent first played tennis at the age of 10, and attended his first U.S. Open in the early 1970s, it wasn’t until later that decade—during the heyday of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe—that he became a true tennis disciple.
“I’ve loved the sport for so many years,” says Kent, who plays both singles and doubles, and is proudest of his net game. “I love the contrasting style between players—when a serve-and-volley player plays a baseline player. I think I’m schooled enough to know how to watch the intricacies of a point. I have a pretty good feel for knowing where the ball is going.”
In the mid-’90s, Kent got his first taste of playing with the pros. “I developed relationships with some players on the Champions Tour—that Jimmy Connors started—at Manhattanville College,” Kent says. “I got to know the head of publicity for the event. Through that I developed a relationship with a lot of those players, and I had opportunities to play a lot with [Guillermo] Vilas, some with Borg.”
He’s also hit with Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Martina Hingis and Steffi Graf. “Obviously, I don’t have the skills of any of them,” Kent says. “They were pretty benevolent. My forehand is stronger than my backhand, so they usually didn’t hit to my backhand.”
Besides attending every U.S. Open men’s singles final since 1998, Kent has been courtside at Wimbledon and the French Open, too. In 2006, at the U.S. Open, he saw his favorite player, Roger Federer, take the title over Andy Roddick.
“Obviously, Andy Roddick was an extremely popular American player,” Kent says. “But the crowd was vastly for Federer. Tiger Woods was there, sitting in Federer’s box. Clearly, Roddick was upset by that whole scene.”
Kent went on to write a book about Federer, titled Roger Federer: Back on Top, in 2012. He wrote a second, detailing Federer’s storied rivalry with Rafael Nadal, in 2013.
“I had one opportunity to interview Federer,” Kent says. “I got some one-on-one time with him, through the kindness of his agent. But most of the stuff that I got [for the books] came from interviewing other players about him.
“One of the most amazing things I heard Federer say,” he continues, “is that when he tosses the ball up—while it’s in the air—he takes a quick look over to see which way, if any way, his opponent is leaning. The eye-hand coordination has always fascinated me.”
Though Kent claims not to get starstruck while hitting with the pros, a session with Federer might be the thing to leave him in awe.
“That,” says Kent, “would be my dream.”