Written by: on 22nd January 2017
FullSizeRender (7)

Editors Note: We loved this event. We loved giving Don some input from time to time on some “Rookies” or some might say “Ringers”.

But we loved the whole concept. Especially that they knew the only way the whole thing could be fun for the “guys” was minus the media.

Tennis has its hard core base of supporters… we quietly help where we can…. We are the Guardians of the Game….

But the “BigBoys” treasure their privacy…..

At one point DON was basically the 5th largest tournament director in the world. (ok 6th if you threw in the year end championships)

Don was a great tourney director! Still is a great coach! A great Chiro. And a great guy. He has an eye for the sport that’s one of the keenest! Thanks for sharing this story with us.

And Don didn’t even mention the entertainment the HUGGY had each year. The Beach Boys, The Pointer Sisters, I can’t remember practically everyone but The Beatles. Somebody share that info with us please. (LJ)



Aussies at Huggy Bears


Watching the marvelous matches coming to us from the Australian Open in Melbourne, I am of course reminded of all the tremendous Aussies I got to know in the years that I was tournament director for the Huggy Bears Invitational from 1985 to 2004. There were 26 Aussie pros off the ATP tour, a couple of teaching pros and even three old codgers named Rosewall, Stolle and Roche.


What was the Huggy Bears Invitational you ask? Well, I’ll get to that in a minute, but here’s a list of those Aussies: Wayne Arthurs, David Brent, Darren Cahill, Ross Case, Pat Cash, Colin Dibley, Scott Draper, Brod Dyke, Josh Eagle(2000 Champion with Paul Saputo), Mike Fancutt, John Fitzgerald, Andrew Florent, Richard Fromberg, Paul Hanley, Andrew Ilie, Andrew Kratzmann, Mark Kratzmann(1993 champion with Rosewall), David Macpherson, Peter Mallett, Wally Masur(1988 finalist and 1991 champion), Paul McNamee, Pat Rafter, Luke Smith, Sandon Stolle(1995 and 1998 champion with his dad), Michael Tebbutt, Peter Tramacchi(2001 champion with Fred Stolle), Laurie Warder, Kim Warwick, Ken Rosewall (1993 champion), Fred Stolle (4 time champion).


It’s really quite a list for a little pro-am held almost exclusively on the courts in the back yards of three brothers. But the Huggy Bears was unique. I was the tournament director the first 20 years. The three brothers were Tony, Ted and Nick Forstmann. The backyards were in the Hamptons. And at its peak, I handed out over $700,000 in player compensation each year in our little pro-am. In the last 15 years I ran the event, we also gave over $15,000,000 net to children’s charities. The tournament ran four more years after I resigned during which another $1,000,000 was donated to charity. By the time it was all over the field had included Borg, John McEnroe (playing with Pancho Gonzales), Gerulaitis, Connors, Vilas, Kuerten, Stich, Curren, Fleming, Santana, Nastase, Stan Smith, Pancho Segura, Alex Olmedo, the Bryans and even Martina Navratilova as well as the previously mentioned Rosewall, Stolle and Roche. There were individual years where the draw included as many as 20 players who had held a number one ranking on the ATP computer. Most years I had 5 of the top 10, 10 of the top 20 and 15 of the top 30 currently ranked doubles players in the world.


That’s a pretty good field for any tournament, but for a backyard private party that didn’t allow any press through the gates, it was amazing. We took advantage of the fact that we were the week before the US Open and players wanted a chance to prepare for the US Open without wearing themselves out. So we created ideal conditions for them: plenty of practice courts, great housing, a nice appearance fee and a chance to win more money than they could make in the competing ATP events. They had a good time, got plenty of practice and arrived at Flushing Meadows acclimated to NY and refreshed and ready to play. If they had to play a match on the weekend, they were well compensated for the effort. The winning pro could win as much as $100,000 and the winning “amateur” or “ex-pro” as much as $40,000. Sometimes the amateur would give his share of the prize money to his partner; and there were probably plenty of “bonuses” I never heard about, not to mention a piece of the Calcutta.


All that made it a pretty interesting tournament, but it was something else that really made the tournament unique. The Huggy Bears was Walter Mitty’s ultimate tennis fantasy for anyone who loved tennis but didn’t get to play in major tennis championships like Wimbledon or the US Open. Sure, it was just a pro-am, but the prize money was significant. In the early 90’s, the pro champions’ Huggy Bears prize was more than winning the doubles at Wimbledon or the US Open. The pros were not playing customer tennis; they were playing for real. In pro-am events, the key is the play of the amateurs because the difference between the best and the worst pro is usually less than any two of the amateurs; usually the best am wins short of some pro giving a phenomenal performance and an amateur playing way over his head. Certainly, when the pros are or have been among the best 30 or 40 players in the world, they can all play really well and the outcome becomes dependent on the amateurs.


But Huggy Bears was different … because we handicapped the teams with bisques. A bisques is a free point you can take any time you want. There were situations where teams had as many as 10 bisques to use as they pleased in a three set match. There were no bisques the first two years; then in years three, four and five, there were bisques in the final only; but from the 6th year on, bisques were used to handicap the entire tournament. What that meant was that Walter Mitty really had a chance to win. If he played his best tennis, playing against one of the best players in the world, but with his own world class partner, every player in the draw could win a match; occasionally, they could make it deep into the draw and even win the whole thing. And that did happen.


Let me give you an example of one Aussie’s first trip to the Huggy Bears. We started out as a little event for just the guys that played with Tony Forstmann on his court. I was the house pro. He had walked on my court for a 9PM lesson at TennisPort in NY in the fall of 1976. He sponsored me on the tour for a year and then sponsored me on Wall Street. That didn’t work out so well, but I ended up spending the summers in the Hamptons living on his estate in Water Mill. I was treated like a member of his family. As Tony’s tennis got better, I invited more and more of my teaching pro friends over to the house for doubles. Tony thought he could tighten up the opposition by raising the stakes, so the afternoon games in Water Mill became the place to play and pay for your summer housing. We ended up with 9 teams in 1985 and there were no real tour pros in the field. In the second year, it jumped to 17 teams and we had four current tour pros. We basically invited 16 guys to play and told them they could play with anyone they could get to play with them. I was one of Paul Annacone’s coaches and I got him to come play with Pancho Segura and he brought along his doubles partner to play with Tony. And we got Anand Amritraj to come play with Tony’s son, Tony Jr. We didn’t use any bisques the first two years, but by the third year there was a clear split between the “pro-am” and “pro-expro” divisions and the final between the two divisions was handicapped – 10 bisques to the “pro-am” team to give them a chance. By the fourth year, Anand was invited to come along as an “ex-pro” and bring his own pro. Anand was semi-retired, but just to get in shape he played the tour event in Schenectady and reached the quarter-finals of the doubles. And he brought along Aussie Wally Masur as a partner. I heard a lot of complaining about Anand being allowed to play as an “ex-pro”. But they didn’t get that much respect in the Calcutta. The team they were to play in the first round sold for $120,000 and I think Anand was able to buy his own team for a relatively reasonable price.


I’ve got to stop right here and explain just a little bit about the Calcutta those first years. We started with a friendly backyard “Tennis and Jetski Extravaganza” (really!). Tony wanted to have a great party for his friends. He liked to play Santa Claus in August. We had to have Jetski races so the non-tennis players could participate. The Calcutta for the Jetski races on the bay in front of the property was actually more than the Calcutta for the tennis tournament: $27,000 to $25,000. (My partner on the jetskis, the 14-year-old daughter of a friend, and I won the Gran Prix prize for combined performance in the tennis and jetski competition – 2nd on the jetskis and semis of the tennis!) In those first years, the tennis players had to participate in the jetski competition and sometimes you came out of the water and went right to the court to play your match – interesting to say the least. As the draw grew from 9 to 17 to 34 and 48 teams in two divisions by the fourth year, the Calcutta had grown from $25,000 to $440,000 to $1,200,000 to $1,400,000. Those first three years, the players were getting 1/3 of the prize. That was not unusual. Usually the bids in the Calcutta went into the pool and the pool was split among the winners. But Tony wanted to juice the pool a little, so he added a couple of hundred thousand dollars worth of letter stock in one of his companies. That was Santa Claus in August. In the third year, George Fareed and Tomas Smid won over $300,000 so George and Tomas split over $100,000. There was a trick to how we got the Calcutta that high without really risking that much money, but no one was playing for giggles anymore.


Remember, I said that the draw was setup those first four years so that anyone could look at the draw and think they had a chance to win their first two matches and there were no bisques until the finals. This was an “Extravaganza”, not a tour event. Tony Forstmann arranged the draw as he wanted. That meant that some of the best teams would meet each other in the first round and many of the best teams did go out in the first two rounds. The round of 64 matches were really qualifying matches with small prize money attached. Although there were appearance fees for the pros, there was no prize money for first match losers. Teams winning the round of 32 and round of 16 matches won $45,000 for those matches, $37,500 to the “player coach” (read owner) and $7,500 to the team. So reaching just the quarterfinals was worth $15,000 to the players as a team and $75,000 to the owners. As I recall, there wasn’t much of a Calcutta in the Jetski race, but second prize in the Jetski races was a pair of Jetskis and first prize was a pair of Jeeps. Remember the 80’s; it was just a little bit ostentatious. But it was fun!!


So let’s get back to Wally Masur. He arrives in the Hamptons to play a little backyard pro-am with his buddy Anand and the first match is for $45,000 and he’s the underdog. He won the Newport singles and upset John McEnroe in singles that summer and was one of the best doubles players in the world. Hmm!! Well, Wally and Anand upset the $120,000 team of Bernie Mitton/Danie Visser and win 4 matches to win the “Ex-Pro” side of the draw. Now they faced Pancho Segura and Paul Annacone who had been finalists two years before. In 1987 the bisques had been enough to enable the “Pro-Am” team of Fareed and Smid (one Davis Cup doctor and one world #1 doubles player) to beat Sammy and Tony Giammalva. The Giammalvas had been a pretty good team on the tour winning the Tokyo Indoors in 1984, but Tony had retired in 1985; still Tony was only 29 years old. Every pro watching that match figured Sammy and Tony were a lock, but the 10 bisques were just enough. (Sidenote: Tony got the best prize of anyone in the history of Huggy Bears; he married Tony Forstmann’s daughter, Christina and they have three lovely daughters.) So the bisques were cut back to just 8 for the final between Segura/Annacone and Amritraj/Masur.


I’m sorry I had to take you through all that but it was necessary to set the stage for what I think is one of the all-time greatest performances in the history of senior sport, any sport! Pancho was 67 years old at the time and if you saw him walk with those bowlegs, you would say he looked it. But he could handle the tennis ball if he could get to it. But he and Paul Annacone(25) were giving away a lot of years to Masur(25) and Amritraj(36). You are talking about two comparable players: Masur was ranked 22 in the world in doubles, Annacone was ranked 33 but they were both elite tour pros with good singles rankings. Anand still had a doubles ranking in the top 500.


So the plan was clear: Annacone had to serve big and hold serve without any bisques. They would need to hold Pancho’s serve at least 4 times with the use of not more than a couple of bisques and they could get three other breaks using 2 bisques at a time if they could just get to 30-30 or deuce. Something like that. The rule was that they could not use more than 6 bisques in any one set. But Pancho is 67 years old and looks like he can barely walk…. But it is deceiving.


The match starts and Paul and Pancho manage to get to 5-2 using just 4 bisques to get two breaks and two holds plus one hold of Paul’s service games without any bisques. At this point they have 6 bisques left, but it would seem they must win this set and they only have two bisques left they can use this set. They got to 5-2, but they never got within two points of set. Wally and Anand break Pancho and hold so Paul needs to serve it out, but he is broken. The whole business about when to use the bisque or not gets very arcane, but I have never seen any serious tennis where the spectators get more involved because they all have an opinion about when to take your bisques. The other side of it is that the players really focus; every point becomes even more important. Understand, if Pancho and Paul had used the bisques for a break point and not gotten the break, they would be left with only 4 bisques to win two sets – not enough.


At this point it didn’t look very good for Pancho and Paul. But Pancho played his little corner of the court like the master he was and Paul was flying all over the net creating havoc for Anand and Wally. Pancho and Paul manage to use just 3 bisques for 2 breaks and didn’t need any to hold Pancho’s serve with Paul’s net play and Paul was serving bullets. So we arrive at a set apiece with 3 bisques left for Pancho and Paul.


Now they go into the third set and you have to be concerned for Segura’s endurance but he hangs in there beautifully. Amritraj and Masur played flawless tennis in the third set dropping only one point on serve in their first 5 service games and that one at 40-0 so they could not be “bisqued” to a break. Annacone was managing to serve big enough to hold serve, but the key difference was that little Pancho at 67 lost only one point in his three service games. When Segura and Annacone got the first point of the 12th game, that was the match 5-7, 6-4, 7-5. That was probably the biggest payday of Segura’s career and I defy you to show me a comparable performance by a 67 year old athlete against world class competition for that kind of money. It’s not the amount of money, but the fact it was enough that they were really trying.


Wally came back and tried again with Anand the next year, but they ran into another ringer “ex-pro”. Bruce Steel was a young journeyman pro ranked outside the top 500 and was around the property when the field was being drawn up right before the tournament; Tony Forstmann decided to let him play on the “Ex-Pro” side of the draw. We paired him with a 20 year old German player who just broke into the top 100 earlier that summer and was making his first trip to the States – Michael Stich. Steel/Stich won one more match to reach the semis. I’m pretty sure we gave Stich his first 5-figure check and Steel his only one. Michael looked like he had a future. Hmmm!


Masur didn’t come back in 1990 when we contracted the draw to its final configuration with 32 teams and a bisque handicap for each team to be used from the first round of the tournament. There was still a big handicap difference in the finals between the winner of the “pro-am” and the “pro-expro” sides of the draw. But Wally was very smart; he came back with an “am” for a partner so he would get the bisques. But not just any “am”. In ’91, ’92 and ’93 Wally played with all-time great doubles player, Fred Stolle. Fred was a little short of 53 years old and we let him play in the “am” side of the draw. We tried to handicap him a little but it didn’t do any good. We dropped the spread in the finals to 6 bisques and Wally and Fred won rather handily. In fact, the “Pro-Expro” champion didn’t win in the finals until the 10th year of the tournament. Wally came back to play a few more times even partnering up with John Fitzgerald three years, but never repeated the early success he had winning 11 of his first 13 matches. Overall, he ended up winning 13 of 25 matches in 11 years including a 4-4 record in the consolation draw.


In 2001, Wally and John played a terrific 2nd round match against Scott Davis and David Pate. The bisque differential gave Fitzgerald/Masur one bisque they could use anytime and one additional one they could use only in the third set. The tennis was classic serve and volley doubles with the highest intensity but Scott and David were just a little better and came out ahead 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. I remember at the time I was really upset that I only got to watch a little of the match. Here were 4 retired pros playing at their peak because they didn’t get to play for that kind of money when they played veterans events at Wimbledon or the US Open. And they loved the competition. And even trained a little bit for it. But that was Huggy Bears: world class tennis in your back yard, sometimes with a legend, sometimes with a rank amateur (but even the rank amateurs were usually the equivalent of a local club champion if not a former college player turned businessman who could survive the blistering pressure these world class players could bring when they were playing for real.)


The tournament was conducted in a very special spirit and, in the end, we donated millions of dollars to worthy children’s charities. It was imbued with the kind of sportsmanship that we think of when we think of the old time Aussies like Rosewall, Emerson, Laver or even more recently Pat Rafter. Oh, I had a full crew of world class lines persons to call the lines, but there was a very special kind of atmosphere that pervaded the whole event. Sure there were great parties and world class entertainment at the Saturday Night “White Night” parties. A lot of long lasting friendships were made as well. I had a dedication that I put in the front of the program for a few years that captured a bit of that spirit:


Dedicated to the spirit of the

child in all of us

that makes us want to play games,


have a great time,

May that spirit stay

strong in every one of us

That spirit


all of us

that you get

more by giving!


-an ancient Chinese tennis pro


I was born in China so I am the ancient Chinese tennis pro. I always thought that passage was some of my best writing ever.

If you are interested in hearing more stories about the Aussies in the Huggy Bears or just Huggy Bears stories in general, please like us on Facebook and let us know.


If you are interested in getting in touch with Don Brosseau for tennis lessons in person in Los Angeles or with video online, check the website, tennischiro.com.



Topics: , , , , , ,

10sBalls Top Stories

In Case You Missed It



Tennis Canada announced on Wednesday that Eugenie Bouchard is the winner of the 2018 Excellence Awards in the Female Player of the Year and Singles Player of the Year categories.


Time to get tickets to watch! Surly you have heard about The Largest Open Tennis Event in America!


According to Uncle Toni, Rafael Nadal was supposed to be back at practice on either Dec. 4 or 5. Well, better late than never!
Conchita Martínez prepara la temporada 2019 de Karolina Pliskova en Tenerife thumbnail

Conchita Martínez prepara la temporada 2019 de Karolina Pliskova en Tenerife

Española y checa ya trabajaron juntas durante el pasado Open de Estados Unidos


Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia hits a forehand to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia during her second round match at the Nature Valley International tennis tournament in Eastbourne, Great Britain, on Tuesday, June 26, 2018.