By Robin Jovanovich
By the time most of you read this, Lloyd Emanuel will have been inducted into the USTA Eastern Hall of Fame. The ceremony is April 28 at New York Athletic Club.
The longtime tennis professional downplays the honor. “I’m not getting in as a player,” he said modestly. “I think I was selected because of all the volunteer work I did, my love of the game.”
In fact, Emanuel was nominated because of his “extraordinary” contributions to Eastern tennis — volunteer, player, premiere tennis coach for nearly 40 years — and his “dogged determination to create a competitive circuit for adult players that has never been matched in any other section of the country,” writes Bill Litwin, a 2001 inductee.
Emanuel not only founded and directed the Eastern Masters Grand Prix (1985-2002), but signed up sponsors, from Tennis Week to Swiss Army Brands, and arranged for matches to be played at some of the most prestigious centers and clubs, from West Side Tennis Club to the National Tennis Center to Shelter Rock.
Meanwhile, he found time to direct the Bill Talbert Cup Men’s 35 Intersectionals, the USTA National Men’s and Women’s 30 & Over Indoor Championships, and the Eastern Junior Level 1 Championships.
Local weekend warriors have improved under Emanuel’s instruction at Sound Shore Indoor Tennis since the early 1990s, and at Fairview Country Club in Greenwich, where he has been the head pro for 22 years. Many haven’t minded losing to the nice guy with the big left-handed serve in club matches near and far.
He will always have a soft spot for Sound Shore, “the mecca” of Westchester tennis. “It was through pro Dave Meyers, in 1992, that I met my future wife, Kate, who lived in Rye. At the time I was commuting to Sound Shore from Long Island. We were married the following year and Rye became my home, the place we raised our children.”
Growing up in New Rochelle, with both of his parents working, Lloyd often had to find his own way — mostly via public transit — to tennis tournaments. He was one of New Rochelle High’s winningest players, captain of the team, All County and Section 1 Finalist (he neglected to mention that he’s in the New Rochelle Sports of Fame). He went on to play for Columbia University, where he was Varsity Captain and ECAC Doubles Champion.
“It was Dick Stockton (who made it to many Grand Slam finals in the mid-70s to mid-80s) who shattered my dreams of playing professional tennis,” he recalled.
It is worth noting, however, that in the USTA Eastern, Emanuel was ranked in the top 10 eighteen times, and in his 40s, earned a No. 8 national ranking.
Knowing how hard it was going to be to make a living playing tennis, he went to SUNY New Paltz and earned a teaching certificate in High School Social Studies. “I took the LSAT’s, but I didn’t really want to be a lawyer.”
One of the first things he did after arriving at Saugerties High School was introduce himself to the tennis coach and volunteer to be his assistant.
“As luck would have it, the team had two very good players. We won the Ulster County Championships, and I was considered their ‘white knight’!” Emanuel said beaming.
That summer, he was asked to stay on and teach at the local swim and tennis club in Woodstock. “It was the best summer of my life. I was making big money — $12 an hour!” It was a big jump from the $3.75 an hour he made working in the Columbia publications office, where he was a delivery guy and did the occasional editing.
“I never taught a day of school after that. I became a tennis teacher, at Columbia’s tennis center, before landing a job in Manhasset,” he relayed.
In the mid-70s, he started connecting with fellow teaching pros, who like him, wanted to keep competing as long as they could. The difficulty was that once he entered his 30s, he was facing more and more players in their 20s.
“The local tournaments weren’t the best in those days,” Emanuel recalled. So, he decided to start ones and run them. “My mentor was Gene Scott.”
For Lloyd Emanuel, “the more I gave to tennis, the more it gave back.”
By the way, those hours he spent editing Columbia publications have begun to pay off. Lloyd Emanuel now writes about tennis for a website and has a big following on Facebook (he garnered our attention in his three articles about Roger Federer).
“I’m on to my next career,” said Emanuel with his signature playfulness.