[Karen Scott (Happer) was the first female to be responsible for the organization of a Grand Slam – the 1978 and 1979 Australian Opens]
November 15, 1979
By: Kathleen Buchanan
“SHE’S GOT THE OPEN ORGANISED”
“KAREN SCOTT’S smile could stop Nastase’s racquet-throwing tantrums. quell the ferocious McEnroe snarl and has even lured ‘bad boy’ Jimmy Connors to Kooyong for Christmas.
As the summer tennis season and our premier event – the Marlboro Australian Open – looms closer, she is really getting in the swing of things.
Karen, tanned, talkative, and maybe just a little nervous is nearing the eve of her first year as tournament organiser. And in a game fast becoming known for its temperamental stars and macho brats, Karen, with her strawberry blonde hair and frilly off the shoulder dress, looks perfectly at home.
She might be the first women in the world in a job like this, but Karen is no stranger to tennis.
She grew up on Sydney’s famous White City courts with John Alexander and Tony Roche….
Now aged 31, and working for Tennis Camps of Australia Pty. Ltd., which runs the open,
Karen has tournaments like the Thiess Toyota International Challenge in Adelaide, the Berri South Australian Open and Australian Hard Court Championship in Tasmania to organise as well as the ‘big one’.
Fourteen-hour days are not uncommon as Karen prepares for the two months of tennis ahead.
She has been rushing from one state to another, making sure everything is in working order.
But in her South Yarra office, covered with posters of tennis personalities and usherettes’ uniforms, Karen Scott shows no signs of fatigue. She can talk endlessly, bubbly and excited, about the build up for a grand slam event like the Australian Open.
‘I go right from the grass roots level’ she says. ‘I deal with the sponsors, liaise with the television stations, organise the sale of tickets, catering, police, check usherettes and hostess uniforms, accommodation, even who provides soft drinks and tennis balls.
‘I’m on the go until they finally present the winner’s cheque.’
And she’s been out and about approaching tennis talents, trying to get name players in the Open.
‘All the Australians are playing,’ she says proudly. So are Americans Roscoe Tanner, Dick Stockton and Gene Mayer.
‘Vilas is coming so are the Amritraj brothers from India and Bernie Mitton and Ray Moore from South Africa.
‘McEnroe and Borg want to be home for Christmas.
‘I had lunch with Nastase at the Italian Open. He really wants to come to Australia but he and his beautiful wife, Dominique have a little girl and they want to spend Christmas with her.
THERE are always wild cards in the tournament if anyone decides later that they want to play, they can apply.’
Doesn’t that say something about the timing of the Australian open scheduled from December 24 until January 2?
The tournament organizer replies firmly:
‘I don’t think it should be changed. Our current major sponsor and TV network are keen on having it between Christmas and New Year.
‘It’s the time of year when Australians are in the frame of mind to watch tennis. The crowds justify our existence.\
‘The last three days are already sold out.
‘This year has taught me a lot about being thick skinned,’ says the tall, pretty ‘woman in a man’s world.’
‘Ninety-five per cent of it has been super delicious, but five per cent of it has been tough because of chauvinism.
‘I took over from a man (John Brown) and you know people in the media are used to dealing with a man. People in Kooyong and around are used to dealing with a man.’
But Karen Scott, smiling broadly, doesn’t seem to mind.
‘The Australian Open is the richest tournament per participant in the world,’ she says.
And even though the men in this tournament are competing for an estimated $350,000 prize money and the women for $50,000 she has still asked the girls to come and play.
THIS YEAR HAS TAUGHT ME A LOT ABOUT BEING THICK-SKINNED!
KAREN SCOTT ....HER BUSINESS IS TENNIS - AND TEMPERAMENTAL SUPERSTARS.
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
By Greg Growden, Staff Writer
KAREN SCOTT IS A DYNAMO. SHE HAS TO BE
MELBOURNE - Karen Scott is a dynamo. She has to be. As tournament organizer of Australia’s biggest tennis championships, the Australian Open, her job is enormous. “I have to make sure the sponsors are happy, organize the sale of tickets, make sure that the players’ favourite drinks are at courtside, check usherettes ...everything,” Miss Scott said. With only a month to go before the first ball is bounced at Kooyong, Miss Scott, 31, admits she is a little nervous, but her voice still exudes confidence. “This year’s Open is going to be the best ever. We have some of the world’s great s playing - Connors, Tanner and Vilas. Also all the top Australians will be playing.”
Karen was appointed tournament organizer in February this year, after being marketing manager for a sports management firm.
By Geoff Roach, Writer
THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN AUSTRALIAN TENNIS
Karen Scott spent only an hour in her office at Melbourne’s Kooyong tennis yesterday. By then it was 6 am, the sun was rising and she had to catch a plane to Adelaide. At 10 am she breezed through the first of a series of media encounters. Come noon, she was at Memorial Drive working. Last night she flew to Hobart to perform similar tasks today. She’ll be on the same exhausting schedule for a while yet because Karen Scott is, at this time of the year anyway, the most important person in Australian tennis.
She is the tournament organizer for the glittering series of summer spectacles that start with the Theiss Toyoto International Challenge here from December 6-8, followed by the Berri SA Open at Memorial Drive through December 10-16.
Then comes the big one, the $400,000 Marlboro Australian Open at Kooyong from December 24 to Jan 2 following by the Australian Hardcourt titles in Hobart. So 14 hour days are the norm because she must, she says, imbue everything in which she’s involved with her personal touch.
“That’s why being a woman is an advantage in this job” she says. “The help I get is fantastic but if you don’t nag them you don’t know that everything is set up the way you must have it. “ Karen is almost certainly the only woman in the world in such a role but she’s no stranger to tennis.
Her speech overflows with words like “charisma” and “macho” but there’s nothing trendy about their delivery. From her they sound absolutely natural. Her answers are instant, lively and controversial. She’s a straight shooter in a sometimes curved business and the media already respects the fact that she doesn’t float rumors or play cat-and- mouse. So, finally how hard has it been for an attractive woman to work in what has always been a man’s province? “Ninety-five per cent has been super delicious and five per cent has been tough because of .well, chauvinism isn’t the right word, the older men particularly have been fantastic, but some people are used to dealing with men. I’ve learned a lot about the value of thick skin”, she says.
Then, with the toss of the tawny mane and a dazzling smile, she’s off to organize, to provide that personal touch. To talk to sponsors, caterers, police; organize ticket sales, usherettes, laundry, uniforms; decide who accommodates whom and what soft drinks will be used. And a whole lot more.
It is very obvious that she loves every minute.
EVENING TIMES OF GLASGOW AND EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND
By Chick Young, Sports Writer
SERVICE WITH A SMILE – THE LADY THAT CAN GET ANYONE FOR TENNIS
John McEnroe and Ivan Lend playing tennis in Scotland is the sporting equivalent of Vincent Van Gogh emulsioning the front room. However straight from the you’d better believe it department, McEnroe, Lendl, Henri Leconte and Andres Gomez will play in the Bank of Scotland sponsored Grasscourt Championships at Edinburgh’s Craiglockhart between June 6 and 14.
Incredibly the tournament entry list now boasts four of the world’s top ten men and two of the world’s top ten ladies, for Gabriela Sabatini and Zina Garrison will also compete. It is a feast of action for quality-starved Scotland and already the Saturday semi-finals and Sunday finals are a sell-out, which means maximum attendances of 3,231.
“Everything is wonderful,” says promoter Karen Scott, an Australian lady charged with the task of doing for Scottish tennis what Crocodile Dundee did for the outback. She is succeeding too, and in astonishing fashion. Karen’s company, ProServ, have been working a marriage with Edinburgh District Council. The honeymoon takes place in the unlikely setting of Craiglockhart. “I don’t see why top-notch tennis shouldn’t come to Scotland,” says the 38-year-old executive who first tasted the promotions side of the industry when she came to Britain as Miss Australian Tennis in 1970.
ProServ is an international player management and tournament promotions company which also works in the sporting world out with tennis and she is the managing director. “It is not a joke that the tourney should be played here,” she said. And certainly they aren’t laughing at the Queen’s Club, venue of the traditional Wimbledon warm-up. What the lady from Down Under has achieved for Scottish tennis really does take some grasping. She says: “We have been accepted in Scotland beyond my wildest dreams. I know about the sports you really love here, football, rugby and golf, but I know that Scots love seeing the best in sport. We are bringing the best to Edinburgh. Ticket inquiries have come in from all over the country and there is no reason why this cannot go on and on. And look what it is doing for the Scottish game. Local players WILL play against the big names.”
These big names will include John McEnroe, despite his recent wanderings from the straight and narrow. Curiously enough, deterioration in the Brat’s self-control usually coincides with a direct increase in demand for tickets.
ProServ has certainly fired an ace down the throat of the Queen’s Club, helped by the fact Ivan Lendl is one of their clients and that John McEnroe’s diplomacy went down like vinegar on strawberries at the snooty pre-Wimbledon tournament. McEnroe isn’t exactly globally adored for his tantrums, but when ProServ asked “Anyone-for-menace?”, the Scottish Lawn Tennis Association served a volley of enthusiasm.
Karen Scott was their match in that department. She brought them not only McEnroe and Lendl, but also Henri Leconte 1986 French Open and Wimbledon semi-finalist.
And Andres Gomez, the man who defeated Boris Becker and Yannick Noah in New York’s Tournament of Champions earlier this month.
Says Karen: “Scottish tennis has been suffocated by what happens in England, but that is about to change. You need your local heroes, and players here can only improve by meeting the world’s great names.”
Divorcee Karen can boast to be the only woman in the world to run a Grand Slam tournament - the Australian Open - but she gave that up to open the Down Under branch of ProServ. Now the lady, who goes about her day’s business on turbo-charge, has injected life into Scottish tennis, a breed of sport in this country previously comatose. She is doing it with a touch of class, too. The only way left to catch the semi-final and final day action at Craiglockhart is to purchase one of the 30 courtside boxes, which seat six. That will set you - or your company back £425, but only a few of them are still available.
ATLANTA DAILY NEWS
Jan Hnyda, Correspondent
HAPPER MEETS THE CHALLENGE OF DIRECTING FEDERATION CUP
NORCROSS—“Standing on a chariot holding the reins for this event” is how Karen Scott Happer, with 16 years of experience directing world class tennis events, describes her job as tournament director for the Federation Cup. Appointed 15 months ago, Happer has organized the competition which will bring 200 of the top women tennis professionals from 47 countries together for a week-long tournament before an anticipated 80,000 attending spectators and worldwide television coverage.
Putting together an event the size and prestige of the Federation Cup has been a task of Olympian proportions, but Happer has more than met the challenge. She has made innovations in the 28-year-old tournament, which comes to the United States for only the fourth time, and has created a week of social events and entertainment for Atlantans in addition to the matches. “Atlanta doesn’t know what it’s in for,” Happer said. “From the first trumpet blown during the opening ceremony, there will be fantastic emotion here during this occasion. There will be an excitement and pathos that can only come when players come together to represent their countries.”
Karen Happer’s interest in working with sponsors and corporate hospitality for the Federation Cup led to her eventual appointment by the Southern Tennis Association as tournament director. “Corporate hospitality is done beautifully at Wimbledon,” Happer said “But it is underdone and undersold in the United States.” So she has designed corporate hospitality packages for the 1990 Federation Cup including box seats, passes to an elegant poolside area alongside Center Court known as Champagne Tennis® Etcetera, Inc., a “Meet the Players” party and elegant meals.
The Federation Cup has never been involved in charity work before, but Happer obtained permission from the International Tennis Federation for this year’s tournament. On Tuesday, the United States team (Wimbledon finalist Zina Garrison, Jennifer Capriati, Gigi Fernandez and Mary Jo Fernandez) will host a charity night to benefit the Gwinnett Foundation.
Happer worked with the USTA in securing Barbara Bush to serve as Honorary Chairperson of the 1990 Federation Cup. She follows a tradition of First Ladies serving in this capacity as Betty Ford served for the 1976 event and Nancy Reagan in 1982.
Happer will not take much of a break when her work here is complete. She has been appointed organizer for the annual Women’s International Tennis Association awards dinner at the Plaza Hotel in New York in August for the second consecutive year.
By Linda Pentz, Editor
THE MOST POWERFUL WOMEN IN TENNIS
Happer is the sort of woman, who when one indulged in school sports, one would pick immediately for the home team. There is a certainty not only about her willingness to try 100 percent, but her conviction that she will get results. Born and raised in Australia, Karen Scott, as she was before marrying the USTA’s Executive Director, Marshall Happer, has been an independent tennis promoter for 20 years.
There is a zest about Happer, as colorful as her fashion sense and blaze of auburn hair. “My great love is finding and servicing sponsors,” she says, a talent she has recently put to good use on Jimmy Connors’ new Champions’ Tour. Happer remembers the “Champions” when they were less fond of attending cocktail parties and mixing with sponsors. “Off the court, the boys have grown up,” Happer says. “I tell them, ‘do you remember what little s—t’s you were to deal with before?’“
When Connors and Co. were troublesome teenagers, Happer was the tournament director of the Australian Open and remains the only woman to have held that position at a Grand Slam event. Since coming to the United States in 1988, after opening a ProServ office in Australia, Happer has concentrated on sponsorships. And while she has been privy to some of the game’s inner machinations, both through her own involvement and her husband’s, she prefers to distance herself from such complications. After all they do little to enhance her mission with sponsors. “I’m not a politician, I’m a promoter”, she says. “I don’t want to know the dirt”.
RALEIGH NEWS & OBSERVER
By A.J. Carr, Staff Writer
HAPPER MAKES IT HAPPEN AS FED CUP ARRIVES ON SHORT NOTICE – TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR, EXPERIENCED, ENERGETIC
RALEIGH—Karen Scott Happer was having a tough night. Already travel weary and waiting to catch a late flight from Atlanta to Raleigh, she made matters worse by spilling a dish of chicken and black bean sauce in her lap. Then her cell phone rang. It was her husband, Marshall, calling to say United States Tennis Association officials wanted to talk to her about the possibility of moving the Fed Cup from Croatia to Raleigh because of the war in Yugoslavia. “I can’t do it,” blurted Happer, who despite spilling the beans, still had a full plate—figuratively speaking—as director for the BTI Champions senior tournament set here April 21-25.
But after returning home, getting a good night’s sleep and putting on fresh clothes, Happer, 50 embraced the Fed Cup opportunity. She submitted an official application and landed the event for Raleigh despite rival bids from Florida clubs in Del Ray Beach and Amelia Island.
“She is the key reason it is here” said longtime friend, Billie Jean King, the captain of the US Fed Cup Team that will meet Croatia Saturday and Sunday in a quarterfinal match at the Raleigh Racquet Club. Preparation time for the Fed Cup is typically about four months. But this one was coming on two weeks notice, and tennis officials needed an experienced tournament director who could rally volunteers, secure sponsors and generate ticket sales.
Carole Graebner, a former fifth ranked player in the world and current chairman of the Fed Cup USTA, told the committee Happer could deliver on short notice. King concurred and here they are.
It’s all coming together now. The 2,500 seat Racquet Club is sold out and more spectators will plop down on the grassy bank. Sponsors are in place. The teams are ready. “I’m so deliriously happy to be a part of having the world’s best tennis players in Raleigh,” said Happer, an energetic native of Australia. “Everything is perfect. All I have to do is accommodate the people on the grass.”
Racquet Club personnel, USTA officials, and dozens of volunteers also have worked relentlessly to pull off one of the biggest tennis events in North Carolina history. And BTI tournament sponsors, at Happer’s request, agreed to set up a week earlier to aid the Fed Cup.
Like her celebrity husband, who founded the Racquet Club and is a former executive director of the USTA, Happer can get things done effectively and expeditiously. She knows the tennis racket, so to speak, having started working in the administrative side of the sport with John Newcombe in Australia in the mid 1970s. And she’s the only woman ever to serve as tournament director of a Grand Slam event, twice overseeing the Australian Open.
“She’s vivacious, a dynamic personality; she really likes people, she’s organized, delegates when she needs to, and she is very good on details,” said King, reeling off reasons Happer succeeds at directing tournaments and managing other tennis related business. “She knows all elements of an event, the social as well as the other. She’s great with the players and the players like her, and she takes care of the customers. You don’t always have both of that. She just truly likes you and loves tennis.”
Jimmy Connors, who will be here for the BTI Tournament next week is one of Happer’s biggest boosters. Since 1996 she has worked as partner of the 35 and over circuit Connors conceived, and she directs the flagship tour tournament in New York in addition to the Raleigh event. That requires her to spend three days in the Big Apple every other week.
Happer’s tennis resume also includes directing 35 and over tournaments in Australia that drew luminaries including Rod Laver, Fred Stolle and Cliff Drysdale. After moving to the United States in the late 1980s, she remained involved in the game and directed the ‘90 Fed Cup in Atlanta, which attracted teams from 47 nations.
Sometimes, it seems she can’t get enough tennis. Happer plays the game herself. At home with Marshall, now a Raleigh attorney, table talk includes various aspects of the sport. “Everyone who’s ever met her says she’s possibly one the most upbeat persons they’ll ever meet,” Marshall said of his wife of 11 years. “And she’s a perfectionist at running tournaments. She’s probably the best promoter with sponsors I’ve ever seen in developing strong relations with them.”
The Happers have other common interests—entertaining friends, gardening and cooking. “She works just as intently at home as on her job and she’s a great cook,” Marshall added. And if all goes as smooth as expected this weekend in the Fed Cup and next week in the BTI Champions tournaments, Karen might celebrate afterwards by carefully serving up another dish of chicken and black bean sauce.
VENICE HERALD TRIBUNE
By Mic Huber
PROMOTER TAKES CAUSE PERSONALLY
Karen Scott Happer can’t talk about her little baby without getting emotional. Her baby is called the Grand Slam Winners Classic, a fundraising tennis event to be held Nov. 3-Dec. 1 at The Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key. The event, which will benefit the Wellness Community of Southwest Florida, is more than just a project for the veteran tennis promoter.
This time it is personal. “I got breast cancer exactly this time last year,” Happer said Tuesday. She explained how her friend, Susan Bassett Klauber, helped her find doctors and was there for her in her time of need. “I said, ‘As soon as I get through this, we are going to put on an event that knocks everyone’s socks off,’” Happer said. “That is how the Grand Slam Winners Classic was born out of my breast cancer experience and my friendship with Sue.”
Now cancer free, Happer is the event organizer and the co-chairwoman with Bassett- Klauber. The event is being held at the Colony, which is owned by Bassett-Klauber’s husband, Murray “Murf’ Klauber. The purpose is to raise money for TWC, a nonprofit organization that provides free psychological and educational services for cancer patients and their loved ones.
And Happer’s hope is that there is a hefty amount of money to give. “Every cent we make will go to the charity,” Happer said. “No one is getting a salary, and the players are doing this at a fraction of what they normally charge. The event is designed to provide a chance for 24 guests to pay for a “once-in-a- lifetime opportunity” to play on the courts with and against eight celebrity players. And not just any players. All eight have won at least one Grand Slam tournament title.
Already committed are Guillermo Vilas, Fred Stolle, Stan Smith, Owen Davidson, Johan Kriek and Robert Seguso. Happer plans to announce the final two players next week and promises that tennis fans will be pleasantly surprised.
“This is the first event I have ever run for myself and I have called in favors on everyone,” she said. Her long history in the game has laid a foundation for plenty of favors. Happer used to run the Australian Open tournament - still the only woman to direct one of the four Grand Slam tournaments — and also managed the Australian branch of ProServ, one of the game’s biggest management firms.
She has been involved in every aspect of the game around the world. She still manages Jimmy Connors’ ventures and helped put together the agreement that has Connors coaching Andy Roddick. She is married to Marshall Happer, who was once the head of the Men’s Tennis Council, which at the time governed the men’s international tennis tour. Marshall Happer also has served as the executive director and chief operating officer of the USTA.
Since moving to Venice two years ago, both have been involved with Karen Happer’s Champagne Tennis® Etcetera, Inc.,a company that promotes various events.
It was while Karen Happer worked for ProServ in Australia that young tennis pro Carling Bassett was one of the company’s top clients. Happer came to know Bassett’s mother. She lost contact with Sue Bassett for several years, but the friendship was reinforced, particularly when the Happers moved to Florida, where they have a home at the Venice Golf and River Club.
“We absolutely love it here in Florida,” Karen Happer said. Marshall Happer, who was a former top junior player in North Carolina, still plays tennis around the area. And Karen Happer is busy with her little baby. “It was important to me to find not only Grand Slam champions but also players who are fun,” Happer said. “If you walk away from an event and are laughing and having fun, you can’t wait to come back the next year.” For now, her energy is putting together this year’s event, which will include a party Friday night (Nov. 30) for players, guests and sponsors.
Saturday (Dec. 1) will be a full day of tennis. That night there will be a dinner/dance for participants and also members of the public who wish to purchase tickets.
MELBOURNE HERALD TRIBUNE
By Megan Miller
MY BRILLIANT CAREER
She has helped shape the career of several tennis greats and counts the sporting elite among her friends. For Australian-born sports agent Karen Scott Happer, it all began with a trip to Wimbledon as a newly crowned beauty queen almost 40 years ago.
TENNIS young gun Andy Roddick found has wife in the pages of Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.
He proposed to bikini model Brooklyn Decker four months later after getting his agent to track down her number. They tied the knot in April. Roddick‘s long-time friend, Sir Elton John, was the wedding singer.
Karen Scott Happer tells the story to show the power of celebrity in the tennis world.
For more than 30 years, the Australian-born sports manager - think a female Jerry Maguire with the same megawatt smile - has worked with the tennis elite on and off the court and rubbed shoulders with the sport’s A-list aficionados such as Vogue high-priestess, Anna Wintour and the crocodile rocker.
Her beauty may have got her into tennis, but her brain has kept her in the game all this time.
When the now Florida-based Aussie triumphed in the Miss Australia Tennis Quest beauty pageant, she won a trip to Wimbledon.
The next year; 1973, she chaperoned her successor to the strawberries-and-
cream championships, where she forged friendships that remain today.
After the breakdown of her first marriage, Happer returned to Melbourne from South-East Asia, where she’d been living, to take a job as to tournament manager of the Australian Open.
With a background in sports marketing, she held the role from 1977 to 1980, a post never before hell by a woman. She says she’s still the only woman to have managed a Grand Slam.
“It’s sad because there are so many talented women out there,” Happer says. “They are not getting the opportunity because maybe, just maybe, the national associations are too stodgy to invest in women.
“Women are so creative and they will look at all angles to promote it. We think outside the square”. Though Happer has been instrumental in changing the face of tennis with her marketing and sponsorship ideas and helping to elevate the Open from being a “poor cousin”, she believes more money in the game has been a double- edged sword.
“It’s a much more sterile environment and it’s all created by money. The money is so incredible that (players) are so much more serious about it.”
Happer would throw players’ parties at her South Yarra digs, and cook dinner and play surrogate mum to those who missed the comforts of home while on tour.
“I gave Tracy Austin her 2lst birthday. She was living with me then and working with Tony Roche who’s still coaching successfully. ‘The players were much more
approachable in those days.
‘That’s not to say anything bad about them now, but there’s so much money
involved. The agents protect them so much that they don’t have the freedom and they are not allowed to enjoy themselves as much because they could lose an endorsement.
‘They are more disciplined today because of the amount of money involved.”
Happer’s Taste of Tennis event aims to make players appear more accessible, and get them into the social as well as sports pages.
After “a bout with breast cancer” three years ago, she scaled down her commitments to looking after the career of long-time friend, US tennis legend Jimmy Connors; and later running a Hall of Fame event with Ivan Lendl at New York’s Madison Square Garden and bringing Taste of Tennis to Melbourne.
“I just wiped the slate clean except for Jimmy”, she says. “When I came back I could see the bad times coming so I thought I’d work on events that are recession-proof if there‘s such a thing.”
She joined forces with the Learner sisters, who had run Taste of Tennis at the US Open for 10 years, convincing them food and sport-mad Melbourne would be the ideal place for the event to leave the Big Apple for the first time.
“I found out from (Australian Open tournament director) Craig Tiley that 80 per cent of the people who go to the Open come from Melbourne, 10 percent from the rest of Australia and 10 per cent from overseas — it’s the perfect mix” Happer says.
Melbourne hosted its first Taste of Tennis at this year‘s Open, and aces, including Roddick, teamed with celebrity chefs such as George Calambaris and Guy Grossi to make dinner for 600 guests at the Grand Hyatt. The money went to the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
Happer is in town to secure talent for a bigger and better event next year. It fits with the synergy between tennis and food in Melbourne she says. Just about every player seems to have their favourite noshery, whether its Roddick at Nob U, Leyton Hewitt at South Yarra’s Fiesta Mexican or Marcos Baghdatis downing souvas at open all-hours Greek eatery Stalactites.
“Tennis players love to get to know the top chefs so they always have a good seat at their restaurant for the two weeks of the Open,” Happer says.
“And the chefs love to hang with the tennis players. Let’s face it, if I’m Guy Grossi and I have (Fernando) Verdasco sitting out the front of Florentino every night it’s a good look”.
Likewise, Gucci is a good look for Happer. I commented on her designer handbag, which was a Mother’s Day gift to her from Connors. “We were in New York for a promotion and I glanced at it in a shop window as we were walking down Fifth Avenue,” she says. “He said. ‘That’s all you’, but I said ‘Gucci’s a little bit out of my price range. I’d just gotten over breast cancer. It was early May and the bag arrived at my home the next week, saying ‘Happy Mother’s/Best Friend’s Day Welcome back to good health.”
The two met when Happer opened the Aussie arm of American sports management company Pro Serve in 1980.
The business looked after- Connors, Pam Shriver; Lendl, Austin and basketball pro Michael Jordan.
After Connors made an improbable run to the US Open semi-finals at the age of 39, he and Happer began the senior’s tour in 1993.
By 1996, it had grown to 22 events world-wide.
Happer also struck the deal in 2006 for Connors to coach Roddick.
They parted ways last year.
"The worst person in the world to put with Jimmy Connors, who ‘s considered to be one of the greatest competitors of all time is someone with natural ability, which Andy has, but doesn’t want to work 365 days of the year” she says.
“He wants the playboy life and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it ‘doesn’t work for Jimmy. But they parted great friends.”
Happer also negotiated for Connors to commentate at Wimbledon for the BBC and to be the colour- commentator for the US Open in August.
She vows she’ll push for him to work at Rod Laver Arena one day once Jim Courier’s contract with Oz Open broadcaster Channel 7 expires.
“Channel 7 wasn’t interested in him, but they should have been. They’d already signed Jim Courier and didn’t want two American boys at an Australian event.”
Such is her passion for tennis that Happer will stay in the US, her second home for the past 21 years.
“Tennis is my life. I have played since I was, well, a lot younger and still play a couple of times a week,” she says. "I can do in the States things I could never do here and that’s governed by the population – 300 million people in America. There are so many more diversions you can take.”
Like calling your agent for the number of your future wife.
KAREN SCOTT HAPPER ON:
Ex-tennis champ Chris Evert marrying Greg Norman:
When I told Jimmy Connors (who was engaged to Evert in the 70s) about it, his glasses fogged up. They seem to be very happy.
He’s not a brat. He’s misunderstood. Perhaps he should have had a PR company looking after him. He’s a bit like (John) McEnroe. They were disgusting on the court sometimes, but they never let their country down and were always available to play Davis Cup.
Maria Sharapova’s grunting:
It just drives everyone nuts. I think Monica Seles started it and it’s become mainstream now. It’s a shame because it’s so unattractive. As a spectator, it is distracting. I walk away from it. It does annoy a lot of the other players. You don’t hear the men do it.
Pushy tennis parents like Damir Dokic:
My husband used to be head of the US Tennis Association and there were several occasions when he had to get parents escorted from the court. Remember Mary Pierce? Her father had a gun one day at the US Open and Marshall had him escorted off the premises. You only have to look at Jelena Dokic and it’s this deer-in-the-headlights face. She’s a very gifted player.
The lack of Aussie tennis talent rising through the ranks:
Australia is in the depths like America is. There are no up-and-comers in America either. What’s happened – and it’s no fault of Australia or America – it’s the French, the Spaniards, the Argentines and Russians have spent a fortune on junior development and all of a sudden kids came out of the woodwork and we’ve fallen behind.
KAREN SCOTT HAPPER