He’s studying tennis, so he’d walk in and watch somebody play, and he’d find out what was wrong with his serve or whatever. He noticed those little things that only he could notice. So I wanted to give his name to the tennis center. I asked his friends to explain to him that people slowly forget who you are, so this establishment should be named after you.
Mr. Savitt, you reached the semi-finals of the US Open in 1951, which gave you lifelong advantages, including the ability to access the locker room at Flushing Meadows. What are your best memories of the tournament?
BS: My father went there every day and every night for two weeks. It’s harder for him to get around now, but we went last year and had a great day, and will be going again this year.
When the tournament was in Forest Hills it was much smaller and everyone wore suits and jackets. We were talking to the players. They didn’t have the entourages, all those coaches and coaches, so you had access to them.
For most of his life in Forest Hills or Flushing Meadows, he couldn’t walk five feet without bumping into someone who was a friend or someone who knew him when he was playing competitively.
Our box is right behind the pitch, so when my dad knew all the guys playing, he coached them even if you weren’t allowed. He would encourage them when they went down, or if he saw that their opponent had a weak backhand, he would say, “Take the backhand.
BG: At the US Open at the time, everyone in tennis knew Dick. They would call him Mr. Savitt, or even Arthur Ashe. It’s a little different now, but I think he prefers not to be known. He was always very serious about watching tennis and he didn’t want to talk too much. I remember Alan King, the comedian, had a box next to Dick’s, and when Alan waved at the crowd, Dick would get angry and say, “Sit down.” Sit. It’s about tennis.