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What Critics Are Saying About "Unflappable."

"As the man who came to dinner and numerous soirees via ladders and fire escapes, Whitney Reed was the life of countless parties and tournaments as America's best tennis player in a time when the game was more fun than money. Hurrah – he has survived!”

– Bud Collins, Boston Globe / NBC

“Whitney had a unique style of play. Undoubtedly, the most unconventional of any champion of his era. Over the years, he has exerted a tremendous influence on my game, my approach to teaching, and my philosophy of coaching.”

– Jackie Cooper, Jackie Cooper Tennis Center,
Palm Desert, California

“Hallelujah, he’s the number one tennis bum.”

– Sports Illustrated May 7, 1962


“Most of the stories about Whitney Reed are true.”

– TENNIS WEST/EAST February 1974



The Life and Times of Whitney Reed

Who Should Read Unflappable?

Anyone who loves a good read.

Unflappable gives you a look into the pro tennis tour of the 1950’s and 60’s – before coaches, the paparazzi, and monster purses. This was a time when the some of the best players in the country were forced to hitchhike from one tournament to another.  It was a time when a certain player had to give his trophy to a toll taker to be able to travel on the interstate. It was a time when the best players on the tour played for the love of the game.

Unflappable introduces you to Whitney Reed, the number 1-ranked player in the United States in the early 60’s. Unflappable lets you experience pro tour life through the eyes of a real-life, unabashedly original character. Even if you are not a tennis player, you may be captivated reading how someone could survive a whole life time in our society doing exactly what he wanted to do, without guilt, conscience, or a visible means of support.

If you are between 30 and 40 and a tennis player all you have been exposed to is tennis pros whose entire lives have revolved around tennis. These players come from tennis academies where the goals are:  win tennis matches; make lots of money. These players have been pampered, isolated, and sterilized. Their public persona is well monitored; they have coaches, trainers, financial advisors, and social directors. You may enjoy Unflappable’s fresh look into the tennis world of a simpler time.

If you are between 50 and 60 and a tennis player you definitely noticed the transition from amateur play for gold trophies to professional play for very large purses. You may have been aware of Jack Kramer’s single handedly changing the financial face of tennis.  You may have heard of Whitney Reed, and you may have even seen him play. Unflappable may bring back some memories of, maybe not a better time, but a different time in tennis history.

If you are between 60 and 70 and a tennis player, you do know who Whitney is—unless, of course you played your tennis in Appalachia or Nova Scotia. If you witnessed one of his matches, then you experienced about as much fun as can be expected from a tennis match. If you played against him, you may have experienced a very frustrating time and lost very badly, or you caught him in-between escapades and possibly won a match. Either way, playing or watching Whitney, the number one tennis character in the tennis world, was like reading a Ludlum thriller. You could never be quite sure of the outcome.

If you are not a tennis player -- maybe not even a tennis follower – read the book anyway! You may find it a real kick.



Moderated by Whitney Reed

Whitney’s buddy Jackie Cooper
has a unique tennis perspective
He says, “Play More, Win More, Have More Fun.”

Far in the future, when the Grim Reaper strolls on the court and says, “Jackie, you are about to hit your last mid-court volley” it would be terrific if, at that moment, all of life’s mysteries were unveiled. Personally, I’d like to know the truth about the Kennedy assassination; I’d like to know what happened to Jimmy Hoffa, and I’d love to understand why a no-mans-land, and swinging volleys strike fear in the hearts of most tennis players. So, in the next 1500 words, I’m going to try and convince most tennis players that no-mans-land is not such a scary place, and swinging volleys are not just for player with world rankings.

We as tennis professionals want everyone to improve their play, win lots of USTA matches, have fun, and spend more money taking tennis lessons. We are out to improve everyone’s play, from the housewife’s backhand to Rafael Nadal’s half volley. I personally favor a more aggressive style of play. Aggressive, in that as we grow older we don’t move in the cat like fashion of our youth. We need an edge. We need a way to play competitively without having to spend a fortune on medical care for our arthritic knees. In my soul, I feel that learning to play in the mid-court will extend your tennis life, increase your winning percentage, and actually makes tennis more fun.

I say these things because my life is tennis. I think more about analyzing players’ technique, strategizing matches, and dissecting tennis mechanics than I do thinking about girls.  

Most tennis pros say, stay out of no-mans-land---that dreaded area from the service line to a couple of feet inside the baseline.  Most tennis pros say being caught in no-mans-land is more miserable than a toothache. They say the ball will be non-returnable, because you can’t return a ball if it hits you in the shoe laces. They say the best thing you can expect is a lucky 1000 to 1 carom off the frame of your racquet for a winner. They say the worst thing you can expect is the humiliating experience of witnessing your ball ricocheting into the grandstands.

I call no-mans-land the land of opportunity. A place where a player can move to at a convenient pace, cut off the angles, pick off  passing shots, and be in a better position to put away lobs. To be successful in the land of opportunity, a player needs to overcome a few basic prejudices. First, the player needs to realize that hitting the ball to the corners may not be the best tactic. A ball hit deep to the center of the court affords your opponent a limited choice of returns, and no tight angles. Second, the player needs to over come the fear of the half-volley. Third, the player needs to realize that volleying from behind the service line is not a shot restricted to players that have a world ranking of 100 or better.


When I watch the best volleyers in the business, I don’t see a lot of charging the net, coming to a complete stop, holding the racquet up, and allowing the ball to ricochet off the strings---not in Kentucky, and not in any place that I ever played. I see the ball being hit with a slight shoulder turn on both the backhand and the forehand. The stroke is short, firm, and concise.

At my club in Palm Desert, I tolerate, and even encourage alternative teaching techniques. Any pro can teach anything they feel is worthy. I reserve the right to interject a few salient comments if I don’t agree with what I’m hearing. (Hey, It’s my club)  But, before I jump in with my two cents, I consider the mind set of the students. If everyone is giggling and having fun---no harm, no foul.

As long as the students are pleased with their progress, they can stand on their heads and hit volleys. I appreciate the clarity of the game, so I’d probably try and help the student with the head-standing affliction. However, if winning is the most important consideration, and if the head-standing player wins consistently then far be it from me to be critical.

A problem arises when a student is losing consistently and questions the effectiveness of his/her volley. Nothing makes a student more fickle than losing. They grab the phone book and start with “T” for tennis teaching professionals.  We, as professionals, better have an alternative solution, because all the exercises and all the explanations known to man are useless if they don’t help the student win a few sets now and then.

I try to impress upon my student the value of relaxation. I have them hold the racquet comfortably at 45-degree angle, shoulders, elbows, and wrists relaxed. As I feed a forehand volley, I ask the student to turn their shoulders, take the racquet back, and strike the ball with a short punching action without a follow through. I ask them to hold the racquet rigid momentarily after the ball makes contact with the strings. The idea is to stress fluidity in preparation and rigidity at impact.

If the ball is high to the forehand, a topspin shot is effective. As a drill, I have my students alternate, the short swinging volley and the topspin-swinging volley. If a student continues to hold the racquet out like a big paw, I give them their money back.


In Kentucky we say, let’s beat the pants off the guys on the other side of the net. We don’t push a volley at our opponent, we stroke it pass them, through them, or around them. We don’t let our opponents have easy passing opportunities. We make them win points the hard way, by earning them. We aren’t out too make our opponents look good; we are out too embarrass them, humiliate them, and send them back to their club pro demanding a better game.

Jackie CooperJackie CooperJackie Jackie Cooper


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More info on Whitney:

Wikipedia Listing

Article #1

Article #2



Reed was ranked No. 1 in the United States in 1961 and was ranked in the U.S. top ten in 1957 (No. 8), 1959 (No. 9), 1960 (No. 8), and 1962 (No. 6).

During his career he had wins over Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Neale Fraser, Chuck McKinley, Frank Sedgman, Manuel Santana, Gardnar Mulloy, Art Larsen and Alex Olmedo. All of those players have been enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

He won the 1959 NCAA Intercollegiate singles championship while at San Jose State. Also that year, he won the singles title and reached the doubles final at the Cincinnati Masters. In 1961 and 1963, he won singles titles at the Canadian National Championships.

He also was named three times to the United States Davis Cup squad, 1958, 1961 and 1962.

Readers Reviews:

Review #1:

Well-deserved tribute, January 31, 2007
By Rodger Stollery (Crooked River Ranch, OR)

Stewart captures the essence of one of the most unique and talented tennis players of the '50s and '60s. Having lived with Whitney at San Jose State, chauffered him to several tourneys in the bay area, and shared quite a few beers and played poker, California gin rummy and bar shuffleboard with Reed,the author doesn't exaggerate his exploits on or off the court. There are those who wonder just how great a player he might have been by carrying out a healthier lifestyle, but I think that most of his friends would admit that his "unflappable" nature made him what he was. I treasure the memories I shared with him, and the author creates a vibrant picture of an athlete that is deserving of recognition in print and for those tennis aficianados who aren't familiar with players whot toiled before the big money, live TV era.

Review #2:

When to play was king., January 1, 2007
By Mark Thatt "coerf agile" (Alameda, Ca United States) -

This is a romp down memory lane with the laid-back, two-martini before sunrise Whitney Reed, forgotten hometown champion (Alameda, Ca.)of the National Men's Singles title('61), breezily and humorously told by Curtis Stewart, another long admirer. Anyone who saw a Reed match in any decade leading up to the money circuit years (1970 to the present day) will remember with delight the thrall Reed held over the gallery, taking the court with unorthodox strokes and Buddy Ebsen "hillbilly" charm,facing a top-seeded opponent to unexpected results. He played out of his age bracket and upset time and again the great tennis legends: Laver, Neal Fraser, Roy Emerson, Ken Rosewall and others along the way. Curtis, with a Mark Twain pen, has recorded more than enough Reed off-court "stories" to fill another volume, and this admirer cannot wait for the next volume. These were the days when the quality of play mattered, not the rewards of celebrity and endorsements. I encourage any tennis player to read this book about those innocent times when the great players were truly hungry about the game and the level of play. Some of Reed's off-court antics are told, being chased by jet Setters, fleeing LA hotspots ahead of jealous husbands, showing up for key matches without so much as a racquet, and flubbing a Wimbledon showing enough to be left off any hall of fame tennis induction. This is one fast, hilarious read that should spur Hollywood to take note. One other bad-boy of note, the great Richard "Pancho" Gonzales, was enough of an admirer to label Reed's overhead as "Grandma's" stroke and then embrace him as an equivalent court presence in his later years.Plenty of tennis great photos make this a wonderful tennis fan present.


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