» » BILL DWYRE on Allen Fox: When David met four Goliaths

BILL DWYRE on Allen Fox: When David met four Goliaths

 

All too often lost in the lore of Southern California tennis is the name Allen Fox.

In fact, while the old-timers certainly remember, there is sort of a blurred recollection of Fox
winning a Grand Slam in the sport.

Well, kind of.

Fox is 79 now, still working as a sports psychologist and advisor to young players from his home in
San Luis Obispo, still putting to use his degree in psychology from UCLA.

“Tennis is an emotional game,” Fox says, “and I try to help them with anger and strategy and
keeping their nerve in tight spots.”

Back in 1966, when Fox was a 27-year-old somewhat fringe player on the tournament circuit, he
not only kept his nerve, but he rocked the tennis world.

The setting was the old Pacific Southwest Tournament at the L.A. Tennis Club. It was always a huge
event in those days, but the ’66 version was over the top. That’s because the four major men’s singles
champions from that year were all there to compete. Roy Emerson had won the Australian, Tony Roche
the French, Manuel Santana Wimbledon and Fred Stolle the U.S. Open. This would be fun. Tennis fans
would seldom again get a chance at such a prestigious replay.

 

Allen Fox (l) with Weil Academy’s Mark Weil (Weiltennis.com)

 

So, it began and, lo and behold, Santana was upset in an early round. The Roche went out, followed
by Stolle. But Emerson was there in the final, ready to uphold the reputation of these big names and big
winners. But then, he went out, too.

And who was doing all this damage? Who was the giant-killer, the tennis version of a wrecking ball?
What big stud had handled all the big serves and big forehands and big expectations? It was 5-foot-8
Allen Fox, that’s who.

“I always tell people I won a Grand Slam,” Fox says now, laughing at the sound and very thought of
it. “I know I was consistent, kind of a tricky player. I was fast, too. But to beat all four of these guys, that
year, well…”

This many years later, he still loves to tell the story (who wouldn’t?) and still appears to be a little
stunned that it really did happen.

Oh, yes, and he never lost a set to any of the Big Four in that Pacific Southwest.

“By the end, I couldn’t miss,” Fox says. “The ball looked like it was moving so slowly. I remember, in
the final, thinking how strange it was because I always though Emerson had a huge serve. But it just
came at me so nice and slowly.”

Fox was ranked as high as No. 4 in the U.S., and played in six majors, with his best outcome a spot in
the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 1965. He went on to coach tennis at Pepperdine for 17 years,
compiling a 368-108 team record and taking his team to the NCAA finals twice. Among his most
successful and favorite players was Brad Gilbert, now a successful tennis commentator. Gilbert made it
all the way to an NCAA final for Pepperdine.

“Brad is a wonderful guy, and he stays extremely loyal to Pepperdine tennis,” Fox says. “He loves to
chat, but I always found him, and it, delightful. I remember coming out to give him advice during a
match and him saying, ‘Hey, coach. Don’t worry if what you tell me doesn’t work.”

About three weeks ago, they held a reunion of former Pepperdine players, in Fox’s honor. It was
organized by Richard Gallien, a former assistant to Fox and longtime USC women’s coach, and was
attended by the likes of former Pepperdine stars Robbie Weiss and Kelly Jones. Weiss won an NCAA
singles title and Jones was once ranked No. 1 in the world in men’s doubles.

“I’ve always thought,” Fox says, “that it’s a shame to have a eulogy after you die. That way, you
don’t get to hear the nice things people say about you.”

Fox will turn 80 June 25. He was found last week, wandering around the current big Southern California tennis event of the spring, the BNP Paribas at Indian Wells. He was looking spry and doing what he so enjoys—talking tennis to tennis people.

No eulogies appear to be forthcoming.

 

USTA Southern California is honored to feature the musings of renowned sports columnist Bill Dwyre for USTAsocal.com during the BNP Paribas Open, which he has covered in depth since 1982. Be sure to connect with us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter to follow Dwyre’s reflections, as well as all things Indian Wells.

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