Shaun Assael was raised in Forrest Hills, Queens, where during the 1960s and ’70s he regularly went to the West Side Tennis Club to attend the U.S. Open. After two decades as an investigative reporter for ESPN, he recently moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. He is also the author of four books, including The Murder of Sonny Liston, the basis for a forthcoming documentary on Showtime.
A Southern Journey from the Summer 2019 issue.
Lenny did all he could to hang around it over the next couple of years, cleaning lines, fetching balls, brushing the clay to maintain a smooth surface. Eventually, after cocktail hour ended and the guests went home, Gibson set him in front of a backboard and showed him how to rotate his back foot and drive the ball. She even imparted a few life lessons, foremost among them, he remembers now: “Every time you come to this gate, you better be ready to go.”