On the latest edition of the Beyond the Baseline Podcast, host Jon Wertheim talks with actor, former professional tennis player and World Poker Tour commentator, Vincent Van Patten. A former top-25 ATP player, Van Patten talks about how he got into tennis (including how he won the 1979 ATP Rookie Of The Year and beat then-World No. 1 John McEnroe); how he got into acting and his experience starring in and directing films; his relationship with his father and how he got into the world of gambling and poker; his new movie 7 Days To Vegas, which is being released this fall; and much more.
Jon Wertheim: I was looking. Your IMDB page runs circles around your ATP bio page. But your ATP bio is pretty strong. I think you are the only person to have beaten John McEnroe and have had a recurring role in Baywatch.
Vincent Van Patten: That's got to be correct. That's funny.
JW: Give me your backstory. Because I mean you were a child actor and then you play tennis and you switch over.
VVP: I grew up in Long Island. The first 12 years of my life and we played very little tennis. There were two little, little tennis courts. They were almost black tar by the railroad tracks. And for some reason no one played tennis back then. And my father just loved exercise. He was like the only one in the village back then, a grown upm that played tennis and he almost couldn't get a game of tennis with any of the adults because back then the adults just weren't doing exercise. So you play with kids and he kind of inspired us all to get the fire department to these two stupid courts and play tennis.
And then one summer a guy in the neighborhood said, “Dick, we got to go to the U.S. Open at Forest Hills.” And my father says OK. So he brought us along. I was about nine years old, went with my two brothers, and I just took a loving to the game. I went to that West End tennis club and saw Billie Jean King and Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith and Jimmy Connors play on these grass courts—these beautiful grass courts. And by the way back then you could go right up to the court walk—right up to the court! No one was watching, it seemed like. And as little kids we'd squeeze in there and watch these players play and that kind of inspired me to play the game of tennis.