Cliff Drysdale

Born:
May 26, 1941
Place of Birth:
Nelspruit, South Africa
Citizenship:
United States
Induction Category:
Contributor
Year of Induction:
2013
Highest Ranking
Singles - No. 4

After a successful playing career in the 1960s and 1970s and a leadership role in the launch of the ATP, Cliff Drysdale turned his attention to tennis broadcasting in the late 1970s, and for more than thirty years, he has been one of the most respected and appreciated voices of the sport.

Drysdale has been on the air with ESPN since the network's very first tennis telecast—a Davis Cup match between the United States and Argentina on September 14, 1979, just one week after ESPN's debut. In the thirty-plus years since, Drysdale has called all four Grand Slam tournaments and countless important moments in tennis history. Known for his insightful analysis and engaging delivery, Drysdale was named "Best Tennis Announcer" by the readers of Tennis magazine four times. In addition to his television coverage, Drysdale has been a regular contributor to Tennis magazine for more than 15 years. He has played an integral role in sharing the greatest stories of tennis, and has been an influential ambassador for the sport.

Drysdale, a native of South Africa, distinguished himself in tennis long before he broke into the broadcast business. As a player, he was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world in 1965, the year he reached the final of the U.S. Championships at Forest Hills. He also made it to two semifinals at both the French Championships and Wimbledon, and toppled the formidable Rod Laver at the first US Open in 1968. Drysdale won the US Open title in doubles with Roger Taylor in 1972. He was a member of the South African Davis Cup team for eight years.

At the end of 1967, Drysdale and seven other amateur players signed contracts which were then bought by tennis promoter Lamar Hunt. “The Handsome Eight,” as they came to be known, played for World Championship Tennis (WCT), a professional tour that helped push the powers that be towards the start of the Open Era in 1968.

Four years later, in 1972, Drysdale and his contemporaries founded the ATP, which was developed to give players a unified voice and in structuring the professional game for the Open Era. Drysdale served as the organization's first president, in 1972 - 1974, and his leadership was lauded universally by players and journalists alike. He came across then just the way he does today: as a voice of reason who knows precisely what he is talking about.

Grand Slam Record

US Open

  • Doubles Champion - 1972

Contributions

  • Co-Founder & First President, ATP
  • ESPN commentator since the networks first tennis broadcast