Friday, 6 February 2015


Now when one of my previous chapters was centered on 'acting skills' I felt obliged to write about someone who I vividly remember from World Tennis when I was a kid. This particular gentleman quite frankly was a talent of immense proportions who in fact went from Hollywood acting to professional tennis then back to acting. Some people are just quite simply rather talented in life.
Vince Van Patten was a child actor who starred in many US television shows including The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Boy plus the hugely successful movie 'Rock 'n' Roll High School'. He also played a part in one of the all time most successful US TV Series, Baywatch. Both of his brothers Nels and Jimmy were also successful actors who all followed in their Father's footsteps. 
Dick Van Patten has long been considered a US Television icon, his biggest claim to fame was playing a lead role in 'Eight Is Enough', an American live television audience show.
Switching from acting to tennis proved that Vince was a seriously talented individual and in 1979 he received an award from the Association of Tennis Professionals as 'Rookie of The Year'. 
Two years later he gained a ranking of 26 in the World and entered the Seiko Tournament in Tokyo. He received a draw that most would have looked at and booked an early flight home as a back up.
In round one he took on Australian Davis Cup hero John Fitzgerald and had a rather surprising straight sets win which earned him the right to play World Number 4 Jose-Luis Clerc of Argentina. Van Patten managed to scrape through the match 6-7, 7-5, 7-6 and set up a quarter final with American legend Vitas Gerulaitis , then ranked World number 7. 
Now Vitas had the game to bother a base liner as Van Patten was but after a one sided 6-0 belting by Gerulaitis, the 'bionic boy' somehow managed to find enough passing shots to win the next two sets 6-3, 6-3. These three victories against more credentialed opponents were nothing compared to a match up in the semi's against World Number 1 John McEnroe. 
Jonny Mac was famous for some quotes which stated at times that he was a far superior being than many of his fellow professionals. So what about playing a former actor ??
I am still searching the net for some dialogue but all I can find at this stage is "I can't believe I lost to Van Patten".
The rather outrageous straight sets win over McEnroe by Van Patten, 6-3, 7-5 was a huge surprise to most but by this stage the former actor was simply starting to believe that he belonged with the best of them. 
The final against top 20 player Australian Mark Edmondson was a match that I still remember watching as a kid, a match that went three sets.
Van Patten had a solid base line game with a brilliant two handed backhand and I vividly remember many passing shots that he hit against 1976 Australian Open Champion Edmondson. The 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory capped off an amazing run in Tokyo by a former actor who somehow also owned the amazing skills to beat the World's best in tennis.
When you own both the talent to play tennis at the highest level and also star in Hollywood movies your next pay cheque is guaranteed. His retirement from tennis in 1986 paved the way for him to renew his acting skills.
Vince Van Patten was a rare talent, a man who still has a starring role in Hollywood as he presents the World Poker Tour for Fox Sports. He has also been the host for Celebrity Tennis on US Television.
As a song from the 80's by Robert Palmer suggested 'Some guys have all the luck'...........

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