Bud Collins, long-time US tennis authority, dead at 86

Bud Collins, tennis veteran and American voice of the sport in print and on TV for decades, died at his home in Brookline

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Bud Collins, a veteran television commentator and newspaper columnist known for his flamboyant trousers and tennis expertise, has died at age 86, his long-time newspaper the Boston Globe announced on Friday.

Collins, who died at his home in the Boston suburb of Brookline, made one of his final public appearances last September, when the media center at the US Open was named in his honor, and he wrote both an encyclopedia and history of tennis that became authoritative standards in the sport.

“Few people have had the historical significance, lasting impact and the unqualified love for tennis as Bud Collins,” retired tennis legend Billie Jean King said on Twitter.

“He was an outstanding journalist, an entertaining broadcaster and as our historian he never let us forget or take for granted the rich history of our sport. I will miss him and I will always cherish memories or our journeys together.”

The self-described “scribbler and babbler” was known sartorially for bow ties and custom-tailored pants that featured bright, vivid colors and often wild designs that were as unique as the man who wore them as he spent more than half a century covering major tennis events.

His tailor, Charlie Davidson from Harvard Square, used swaths of cloth Collins brought from as far away as New Zealand, Bangkok and the Himalayas. One pair of pants was made from Vietnamese flags.

“No media figure in history in my mind has ever been as important to one sport as Bud Collins was to the sport of tennis,” said Mike Lupica, the New York Daily News sports columnist and ESPN commentator who followed the path Collins pioneered from the print ranks to TV fame.

“You can’t minimize it. He became the de facto ambassador to that sport as it was exploding in this country. He educated. He entertained.”

Collins had his first byline for the Globe in 1963 from Australia covering the Davis Cup. His last came in 2011, a story about Serena Williams from the US Open.

“I am heartbroken at the news of the passing of Bud Collins, a great friend personally and an irreplaceable presence in the sport of tennis,” said US Tennis Association president Katrina Adams.

“Bud was truly one-of-a-kind and his good humor and great grace, coupled with his unmatched knowledge of our sport and his love of it, helped to make tennis more popular and more fun for fans throughout the world.

“He was a colorful character, a true gentleman and a passionate proponent of our sport. There will never be another quite like Bud.”

Collins was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1994. He covered Wimbledon 44 times, the first of them in 1968, making “Breakfast at Wimbledon” his realm during the years when the sport enjoyed its greatest US interest.

“He had a passion for the game and the players that was unmatched,” US legend Chris Evert said. “He brought a bright light and an oasis to the often pressure-filled and ego-oriented world of professional tennis. I would relax around his warmth and wit. He was family.”