— In 12 years as a professional athlete, Richey Reneberg earned $4.4 million in prize money with an investment strategy that maximized his skills and energy on a tennis court.
Now, from an eighth-floor office above Park Avenue, he talks to investors, accountants, financial advisers and business associates about the latest twists and turns of hedge funds.
Unlike most of his former adversaries, Reneberg, winner of three singles titles and 19 doubles crowns, has escaped the gravitational pull of the tennis world.
As he takes the court at Flushing Meadows this week for the U.S. Open's Masters Doubles Championship, Reneberg is a rare commodity: Someone who earns a living outside tennis.
The Masters competition is financed with $394,000 in prize money from the U.S. Tennis Association. Once a year, dozens of former top men and women players, now in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, step back onto the U.S. National Tennis Center courts for a week of camaraderie and competition.
Organized by Vic Kasser, a Philadelphia club player and former USTA director, the tournament is part reunion, part flashback.
"The invitations go to former Grand Slam champions [meaning those who won the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, the French Open or the Australian Open], former top 10 players, and world-class former players who are still competing at a high level," Kasser says.
This year, he invited 68 male and female players. Their Masters' matches are played on outside courts as a sideshow to the U.S. Open championships, largely out of sight of the tens of thousands of fans who watch the younger stars in the Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong stadiums and grandstand.
"It's a good way to see the guys," says Reneberg, who maintains friendships with a handful of fellow retired players, but sees many more of them during the U.S. Open Masters event.
As a businessman, husband, and father of two children, Reneberg limits his tennis workouts to once every week or two. As a player in the Masters' events, he says, the lack of practice means "there's a much higher risk of making an idiot of yourself."
In his sparsely furnished office recently, seven or eight tennis racquets were stacked against a wall. Nearby, two large tennis bags sat behind him under a window overlooking Park Avenue.
When a photographer placed one of the racquets on his desk to shoot a picture, Reneberg was focused elsewhere, explaining an investment option to a client over the telephone.
The racquets were a reminder that Reneberg and his fellow former competitors face a wide range of temptations to stay within the tennis industry.
Many top players vanish from center court at the end of their playing careers only to reappear as tennis teachers, coaches, broadcasters, or corporate promoters.
John McEnroe, who won 77 titles and earned $12.5 million as a player, now dominates the U.S. airwaves during the four Grand Slam tournaments.
Gene Mayer, who ranked fourth in the world in 1980 and earned $1.3 million in his playing career, now stages promotional tennis events and coordinates paid appearances by celebrity players.
Gigi Fernandez earned $4.6 million in prize money, winning the U.S. Open women's doubles championship five times between 1988 and 1996. Today, she is a college coach in Florida.