Photo : Pascal Ratthe/Tennis Canada
Mike McIntyre (@McIntyreTennis) is the co-host of Match Point Canada, the official podcast of Tennis Canada.
In terms of Canadian tennis voices, none have been doing it for as long or as well as Tom Tebbutt.
After a storied career that included notably 20 years at the Globe and Mail as a writer and columnist and 10 years continuing to bring us insider Canadian tennis scoops writing for Tennis Canada, Tom is receiving a recognition that we all knew would eventually come his way. On Tuesday night in Montreal, Tom was inducted into the Tennis Canada Hall of Fame to recognize all he has done for the sport in our country.
Tom got his start in the industry after finishing at college where at first he worked as a production assistant in the film industry. Even then he had a strong love for tennis and found a unique entry into the field. Prior to the 1974 Canadian Open in Toronto, he went around offering his services to a few newspapers and eventually found an editor who provided their business card and proceeded to hand-write on the back for him, “Please extend press privileges to Tom Tebbutt.” Tom never looked back from that moment on.
I can remember grabbing copies of the Globe and Mail during the Grand Slams when I was younger just to turn to the Sports section to see the latest from Tom Tebbutt. He was the one regular Canadian sports voice we had who focused almost entirely on tennis.
As media has adapted, so too has Tom, bringing us in more recent times his online weekly column for Tennis Canada entitled, “Tebbutt Tuesday’s” as well as a weekly radio show in the summertime that used to be held on Sportsnet’s The FAN590 called, “Aces” alongside veteran sports personality Roger Lajoie. Tom’s even gotten quick handy on Twitter too where you can find him @tomtebbutt.
To say that Tom is someone I’ve looked up to as tennis writer would be an understatement. Simply put, he’s “The Man” when it comes to tennis coverage in our country. When I first met him at the tournament back in 2008 as a rookie reporter, I was a bit intimidated to approach him – the great Tom Tebbutt. (He’s going to kill me for writing that!) Tom warmed up to me and was kind enough to let me tag along during my first few years covering the sport, answering my numerous questions about the field of sports writing and sharing stories of all the great tennis players he’s spoken to over the years. He’s a wealth of tennis knowledge and a great story-teller too.
In 2021 in the midst of the pandemic, Tom chose to retire from regular tennis writing and as he told me at the time he, “wanted to leave on his own terms.” He still pops up semi-regularly for Tennis Canada especially during the Majors and international competitions like the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup.
While currently enjoying some down time in Montreal this week around his induction into the Tennis Canada Hall of Fame, I was honoured when asked to assume the daily writing duties during the National Bank Open that Tom would typically produce for them. I hope it’s just a temporary assignment, so that I can get back to reading his work again soon.
One of the accomplishments Tom was most proud of achieving (although he’ll never boast about it, that wouldn’t be his style) was when he attended his 100th consecutive Grand Slam tournament at the 2000 Australian Open. I’ll give you a moment to do the math on that one, it’s absolutely staggering.
When his retirement was announced, the comments flooded in from players such as Genie Bouchard, Milos Raonic and Daniel Nestor as well as many others from within in the industry who all spoke so fondly about him in a video tribute that he admitted brought a tear to his eye. In particular, Tom shared with me that having New York Times correspondent and friend Christopher Clarey included in the video was extra special as the two had grown close from all of the Roland Garros tournaments they had covered together over the years. Tom’s not just respected here in Canada, his talents as a tennis savant are recognized around the world.
Tom was always cautious with making predictions and wise in his observations. He has done so much to further people’s interest in the sport and I always like to think of him as a tennis fan first and foremost.
Congratulations on your induction into the Tennis Canada Hall of Fame Tom, it’s very much deserved and about time too!