Ken Flach of Mill Valley
Photo by Tim Porter
In the world of tennis, four-time Grand Slam winner, two-time Wimbledon champ and Olympic gold medalist Ken Flach is a big daddy. And conveniently, for this month of paternal admiration, the moniker can translate to his personal life as well. Together with his new bride, local girl and makeup entrepreneur Christina Flach, he now has eight reasons to celebrate Father’s Day: Dylan, 23; Madison, 21; Noah, 19; Melanie, 17; Rose, 15; Hannah, 14; Nikolai, 10; and Ben, 4. A 34-time men’s doubles title holder, Flach these days is director of tennis at Novato’s Rolling Hills Club and is actively teaching the next generation of champs how to score.
Q Why Marin?
A I came here to “see about a girl.”
Q Who inspired you to play tennis?
A My older brother Rick started playing, and I followed suit.
Q When did you realize it could be a career?
A At 16, playing money tournaments in France.
Q How was it walking into the Seoul Olympic Stadium?
A It was amazing to be standing there among all of the athletes. Carl Lewis recognized my partner Rob Seguso and me, and we started talking. Lewis had been getting a lot of press attention, so when it came time to walk in, we stuck by him and ended up getting on camera, too.
Q As a youth, how were you able to focus on tennis?
A I loved to win, and I like the “individual“ aspect of tennis.
Q What do you remember about the infamous “hair shot”?
A It was the finals of the 1985 U.S. Open Doubles. A shot bounced off the net cord and whizzed by my head. Our opponents, the French team of Yannick Noah and Henri LeConte, must’ve thought the ball hit my shoulder and went long (I was close to the net), because they went berserk. Balls whiz by your body and head all the time in doubles, but their whining and complaining is what made this one different. We went on to take the third set, and instead of trying to fight back they totally tanked the fourth set in fine French fashion [laughs]. That really upset the crowd. After the match, I was interviewed by Brent Musburger. Of course, the first question he asked was, “Ken, did the ball hit you?” I said it didn’t hit my head, but I felt the ball go by — so it may have touched my hair. Well, the “hair shot” was born and has followed me for 25 years!
Q Do you prefer to play singles or doubles?
A Doubles! The whole court is way too big.
Q Do you keep in touch with your former doubles partners?
A Yes, but not as much as I’d like to.
Q Do you play tennis with your kids, and would you encourage any of them to go onto the pro circuit?
A No, none of my kids plays tennis, and no, I wouldn’t encourage them to go on the pro circuit; it’s not as glamorous as it seems.
Q Any up-and-coming Marin players?
A I am seeing some great talent come through my junior clinics at Rolling Hills and keeping my eye on Cole Miller, Matt Halligan and Cooper Bradshaw.
Q Do you have a favorite court in Marin?
A Center court at Harbor Point.
Q Favorite court on the planet?
A Centre Court at Wimbledon. My second favorite is Stadium Court in Seoul, where we won the gold medal.
Q When you think of your dad, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
A Him gritting his teeth and pounding his fist into his palm during my matches.
Q What have you learned from your dad, regarding parenting?
A That you need to show and tell your kids how much you love them every day.
Q Favorite family restaurant in Marin?
A Bungalow 44 and El Paseo Chop House.
Q Favorite special-occasion spot in Marin?
A Scoma’s in Sausalito.
Q Favorite drink, and where you like to drink it?
A Bloody Mary at Balboa in Mill Valley — so good!