Originally Published: October 13, 2011 9 p.m.
Bob Lutz caught my attention at the time tennis was becoming a part of my life in the late 60s.
He was the somewhat silent-muscular framed, blond-haired surfer looking guy that was Stan Smith's doubles partner.
It seemed he could look across the net and intimidate many of his opponents and that was before the serve was even put into play.
He was an NCAA winner in singles and doubles at the University of Southern California and the two doubles titles were with teammate Stan Smith.
Lutz turned pro in 1970 and made a good living earning $1.5 million in prize money between his nine singles and 42 doubles titles, retiring with knee problems in 1983. Lutz and Smith became one of the best duos that professional tennis produced in the 60s, 70s and early 80s. As a Davis Cup player Bob was on five winning teams with an astounding 15-2 win-loss record in singles and doubles.
Now at the age of 64, married to Sharon and with two daughters living in San Clemente, we caught up with Bob to get an introspective view of his journey through and in the world of tennis.
Q: Did you come from a tennis background?
A: I didn't come from a tennis family. My father played tennis in high school, but played football and crew in college.
Q: What other sports did you play?
A: I played all sports growing up. I really loved football, but my parents kept me from playing. I kind of regret that as I had a real passion for football also.
Q: What was your best attribute and stroke as a player?
A: I think my best attribute was that I never gave up. My return of serve, my speed and volley were my best strokes.
Q: Who were your tennis heros?
A: I loved watching Lew Hoad and Gonzalez. I have some great memories playing Laver and Rosewall.
Q: What made you and Stan gel as a doubles team so well?
A: Stan had a great serve and volleyed well. I returned well and was pretty quick.
Q: During your days on the tour, most players played both singles and doubles. Compare that to today's players.
A: I think it's a shame that doubles has taken a back seat. We just never thought of just playing one event. Today, the top doubles players make a lot of money but they're second tier players who couldn't make it playing singles.
Q: Did you have a preference of singles over doubles?
A: My preference was first playing singles. But after I was out of singles, then I wanted to win the doubles.
Q: Was there any resentment when Stan's singles career took off more than yours?
A: (Laughing) Stan and I always competed against each other from the time we were 17. I didn't really resent him winning. I missed a few good years with knee problems.
Q: What did you enjoy the most about being on the tour?
A: I would have to say the camaraderie and the travel. We got to go to some of the nicest places and meet the nicest people on the road. In the early days we stayed with families and built friendships.
Q: Mention one of your best moments and worst while on the road?
A: Lots of interesting things happened on the tour, but one that stands out was a tourney in Lagos Nigeria. We got to the semis and there was a coup d'état and the President of Nigeria was killed. We had to postpone the tourney for awhile because they were trying to find the killers. We eventually were given word that we could resume. I played the first semi and lost to Stockton - I think. Ashe was playing against Okker in other semi. While they were playing, soldiers stormed on the court and everyone scattered. We had to wait days to get a plane out of there to our next stop that was Rome. They had to finish tourney in Rio months later.
One of my best memories is winning the U.S. Pro (tourney) at Longwood in 72. Not winning any of the three finals at Wimbledon grates on me!
Q: What are you up to today in your day-to-day life and how important is tennis in it?
A: I'm actually back to teaching tennis. I was in the mortgage biz for years but you know where that went.
Tennis in my life has been a real blessing. Not only could I pursue a sport that I loved for my livelihood, but I got to travel and meet some great people and have experiences that you couldn't have in other sports.
Q: What else should we know about Bob Lutz?
A: I'm an avid Trojan fan and love watching football. I'll watch the grand Slams but I'm not a great spectator.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 35 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.