Theo Mandel with Arthur Ashe in the last 1970's.
by Blake Grimsley
TUCSON, Ariz. – It might come to a surprise to many of the Southwest men’s team’s opponent’s this weekend, but Theo Mandel will probably not be intimidated no matter who he and his doubles partner face during the USTA League presented by Chrysler 4.5 Senior National Championships.
No it isn’t because Theo lacks the emotion of fear or is any type of tennis ringer. It’s because he has spent a significant amount of time on the court with some of the greatest tennis players to ever play the game.
In the 1970’s, Mandel even got the opportunity to play against the great Arthur Ashe. Ashe, as just about every tennis fan is aware of, is considered one of the best ever to pick up a racket. Ashe was a great civil rights leader as well and is the only African American player to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open.
Mandel at the time was working on designing tennis racquets for Head Tennis in Boulder, Colo. and often times would cross paths with these tremendous athletes.
“Arthur and myself wouldn’t really play competitive matches against one another, but often times I got the chance to go and hit with him,” said Mandel. “Arthur was a great person all around.”
The main stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Park, where the US Open is played, is named the Arthur Ashe Stadium. This is also home to the annual Arthur Ashe Kids Day.
In addition to Ashe, Mandel got to play many matches against Argentine star Guillermo Villas. Villas spent time testing racquets at the Head facility in Boulder as well.
“In 1975, Guillermo was ranked No. 1 in the world, so getting the chance to play with him was definitely a great thrill,” said Mandel.
Mandel first became interested in playing tennis at the age of 13 playing high school tennis. During his freshman year at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio he won the Intermountain Section 21 & Under singles title. That title earned him a 3 post column on the cover of the Denver Post's sports page. He later started with Head on their advisory and testing board.
“I was with Head for about 15 years doing design work and now I’m currently with Prince racquets, said Mandel. “The 1970’s sure were innovative times back then, just thinking how far we have come with racquets.”
This is Mandel’s third time playing at national championships and he and his Southwest men’s team looks to take home the title.
“Well we had some good success this morning, lets hope it continues,” said Mandel.
So while Mandel might have lost a step since his days of playing Ashe and Villas, don’t count out the knowledge and experience he has gained through the years.