Once a 'Posterboy' Always a Poster Boy for Lloyd
Jul 22, 2023
With his distinguished good looks, stately voice, and gifted athleticism, John Lloyd earned the acknowledgment of "poster boy of British tennis". Why? Lloyd was the number one singles player in England. He reached a career high of number 21 on the ATP tour. This charismatic Brit was a singles Grand Slam finalist at the Australian Open in December 1977 losing in five sets to the flashy, ever-entertaining American, the number three player in the world Vitas Gerulaitus. The Lloyd- Gerulaitus final established Lloyd as the first British male tennis player in the Open era to reach a Slam singles final. Lloyd, now a Palm Beach, Florida, resident, confirmed himself also as a considerably proficient double player, winning two Wimbledon and one Australian Open Mixed doubles titles with Australian Wendy Turnbull, conqueror of nine Slam doubles titles.
Lloyd was an 11-year member of the British Davis Cup team and went on to captain the squad for the 2006 Davis Cup Finals, losing to the United States.
Strong Wimbledon Brit family pride was proven within the Lloyd family. Dennis Lloyd, father of the family, knew how to get a good ball bounce on grass and lead the in-house team to numerous notable accomplishments. John and his two brothers, Davis Cup Captain David Lloyd, who achieved global notoriety as founder of his fitness leisure clubs, and youngest brother Tony Lloyd, who also represented the Lloyd family in United Kingdom Davis Cup play, kept the ball in play within the lines of success. They were household celebrities in the Essex, England, towns. All three of the Lloyd brothers, in the same year, played in the singles draw in the Wimbledon Championships at the All-England Club. Chances are this will never happen again!
Middle Lloyd brother John has provided tennis enthusiasts across the biosphere with his informative entertaining tennis broadcasts on HBO, BBC and Sky Sports.
The first time that I met John Lloyd was at the 1996 Nuveen Masters in Naples, Florida, which included John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, and Andres Gomez. Eager to display his skill with this Slam champions alumni, Lloyd, like other champions, decided to do the interview first and get it out of the way. So, there we were. John and I were sitting down for a post-match Fox Sports Sunshine Network interview. It was a relaxed conversation going into its 13th minute. Suddenly Lloyd started to lean forward and said, "thanks, this was fun." I responded "no rush, our audience will enjoy this time with you. We can go longer". The English gentleman then whispered "I think that someone behind us is ready. It was McEnroe. Lloyd knew that when Johnny Mac arrives, it is his time to start.
Now this kid from Essex who started his tennis career hitting balls against the wall, is sharing his autobiography with captivating insightful stories in his new book "Dear John". This hardcover is dedicated to his kids Aiden and Hayley, and the foreword is by Borg. The story evolves as Lloyd writes guidance and advice letters to his former self in a "if I only knew then what I know now" manner. The book reveals life with John's parents and growing up with his family, his marriage to tennis legend Chris Evert, his personal battle with cancer, drug addiction, broadcasting greats, being a father and much more.
Koz: John, you got yourself inside the top-four on the Senior Tour. Your game become strong later in your career?
Lloyd: I think that coaching made a difference. You know more. You start to examine your technique. On the Nuveen Tour, my forehand was stronger. My strategy was better.
Koz: Your family was strongly into competitive tennis. What was it like at the dinner table? Who talked the most?
Lloyd: Well, we did talk tennis. My dad, who just loved the game, along with my older brother David, an established player, helped me a great deal. It was low pressure. We all just loved doing it together.
Koz: Three brothers in the main draw the same year at Wimbledon. What was that like for your family and country?
Lloyd: Great for everyone! The best moment for us brothers was seeing our parents' faces, knowing all the sacrifices that they made for us, including our sister.
Koz: What was it like to win Slam mixed doubles with Wendy Turnbull
Lloyd: I must tell you, Koz, She really taught me much about doubles. It was actually Chris who suggested the exceptionally good idea. It helped me get those titles. I still see Wendy in Boca. We visit and play some.
Koz: John, you just mentioned Chris. You were a husband and coach to the legendary Chris Evert Lloyd.
Lloyd: Chris was a great champion. She is a superior breed competitor. As I was coaching her, I was learning how a champion thinks. Her belief and the desire were incredible.
Koz: Your dad and your family inspired you. Looking back, what players were models for you?
Lloyd: I have always admired the Australians. I loved Laver, Hoad, Rosewall, Newcomb, Stolle and the Down Under boys. Their attitude, hunger, and enjoyment were positive. Loved to watch them on grass with wooden racquets and classic strokes. When I was 11, I got to hit with them and Margret Court.
Koz: Well, let's talk role models in broadcasting. Who inspired you?
Lloyd: My first job was with HBO. I was taking the place of the late great Arthur Ashe. He was a personal hero for me. I was incredibly sad how this opportunity became available. I learned a lot from Jim Lampley, a very established boxing broadcaster. He was so comfortable and natural on air. At BBC, I learned from two of the best, the late great Dan Mascal with some of the greatest catch flashes and his economical words. His advice was to learn from your audience and not talk above its knowledge. I also collaborated with John Barrett. He was so meticulous in his preparation. When McEnroe came into the BCC broadcast booth, I saw how the tennis broadcast was taken to another level. He brought it all together.
Koz: Terrific innovative title for your book "Dear John". How did you come up with that?
Lloyd: My first idea for the title was to call it "Lucky Lloyd" because I have been extremely fortunate in life, but my co-writer Phil Jones, with his CNN background, came up with the "Dear John" idea. It seemed to work. Writing was fun for me. There were some difficult chapters for me to write. We really tried to make it fun reading and we did.
Koz: What was the toughest chapter to write?
Lloyd: When I told my son Aiden that I was going to author a book, he asked if I was going to include him? I told him no. Immediately he said to me "dad I want the book to include me to share how we worked together to conquer my addiction with drugs which, I acquired when I was in college. I am immensely proud of Aiden, who was able to overcome the addiction and has been 14 years clean now. It showed great strength. He came through amazingly. We are so proud of him.
Koz: Congratulations on your nomination of the top five sports books in the Sunday Times. John, how can our readers get the book?
Lloyd: The "Dear John" book is available on Amazon. Koz, thanks for all you that you do.
The Lloyd/Koz relationship has been terrific. It has been great fun witnessing John Lloyd contributing to and growing the game.
Written by: Dave "Koz" Kozlowski. Kozlowski is one of the USPTA's first 17 Master Professionals in the world. His show was previously broadcast on The Tennis Channel and he was named the USTA Broadcaster of the Year. Photos: Koz; @ArtSeitz; Pitch Publishing. This article also appears in the July-August 2023 issue of Florida Tennis Magazine. Be sure to subscribe for expanded coverage, exclusive interviews, and in-depth tennis news.