The Biofile Luke Jensen By Scoop Malinowski

The Biofile Luke Jensen
By Scoop Malinowski

Status: Former ATP Tennis Professional. Former French Open doubles champ. Currently serves as head coach of Syracuse University women’s tennis team.
DOB: June 18, 1966 In: Grayling, Michigan
First Tennis Memory: “That would be playing the Firecracker Open at the court in Luddington, Michigan. My dad was the high school tennis coach. And he always had the Firecracker Open during the Fourth of July and the Cannonball Classic on Labor Day, U.S. Open. And just going out there and competing for the first time, figuring out what the score meant and trying to get the ball in the box and rallying with a wood racquet with the white tennis balls.”
Tennis Inspirations: “Honestly, probably watching the 1979 Wimbledon on TV live, Bud Collins calling it with Borg and Roscoe Tanner. Tanner had the perm going. Left-handed. Goes five sets and him hitting the match point into the side fence, basically into the front row [laughs] and Borg going down on his knees. And then saying to myself, ‘I don’t know what I have to do to become a professional tennis player but this is what I want to do. This is just the coolest thing.’ Bud Collins’ calls of ‘Net cord!’ And ‘Chalk dust!’ And he just elevated live tennis. The Ice Man Borg and the lefty American, red, white and blue. And then McEnroe-Connors and the whole thing. Tennis was just in a zenith.”
Greatest Sports Moment: “I would say it’s a slam dunk – winning the French Open with my brother (Murphy). But internally – being in the ‘96 Australian Open with my brother and sisters (twins Rachel, Rebecca), to be a family of four that come from really nothing in terms of tennis terms, in Luddington, Michigan and now all four of us were in the main draw in the Australian Open in doubles. That was, as a team, we were always a team, the Jensens was about a team concept. And we were all gonna be on the Tour and do it. That was our real pinnacle.”
Most Painful Moment: “Blowing out my knee. Couldn’t play again. Going through that, on a daily basis, that when I’m at a major and watching professional tennis, knowing that I can still be there. But you blow your knee out, you do the surgery, you do everything you can to come back. And you just gotta move on. (Where did it happen?) Coral Springs playing Jonas Bjorkman. Going out for a forehand, split out and it just basically crumbled, annihilated, imploded. I was never the same.”
Closest Tennis Friends: “My brother Murphy. We were fishing buddies growing up as munchkins. We got into sports and got into tennis, got a chance to play at the highest level of the game. Still today, get to travel around and be this thing called the Jensen brothers, whatever we created through our energy and enthusiasm. He’s definitely the closest. Outside of my family, I would say probably Richey Reneberg. He used to always get me in trouble, he was the instigator, tell me to do something, I’d do it. From wingin’ water balloons at Pete Sampras and doing crazy stuff. He was the instigator, we were really close.”
Funniest Players Encountered: “I really had a lot of fun with Agassi, when he was…before he got serious. That was a lot of fun. Because when he said, ‘Hey, let’s take off and do something” – it was in a private plane and it was with some celebrity, it was – he paid for everything. It was a shark trip in Australia when he was gonna give me $50,000 to take a lap around a shark infested boat. I mean, it was always something. I mean, to me, he was always the funniest guy to be around.”
Toughest Competitors Encountered: “The guy that I felt never gave me a point in practice or anything was always Jimmy Connors. And my first year here as a junior in ‘83, Connors took me out basically as a sacrificial lamb. And beat the living snot out of me. Didn’t give me points. And he really taught me so many things. And continues to to this day. Whenever I see him, I learn so much from him, just based on you don’t play this to win, you play this to compete. And that guy just never let up. He never let up on the media, he never let up on his opponents, he just, even now, he just wants someone to play against, to battle against.”
Why Do You Love Playing Tennis: “To be honest, whether it’s a park or whether it’s a final of a slam or anything, I just like winning. I like going out there and someone’s gonna win, someone’s gonna lose. It doesn’t matter what you’re ranked, doesn’t matter what your age is, spin the racquet and it starts up zero-zero. And someone’s gonna serve and someone’s gonna return. At the end of the entire contest, if you’ve put in the entire effort and you’ve put in the right tactics and you executed it, you’ve got a shot to win. And, to me, it’s about putting it on the line. And no one can pull you off the court, there’s no politics, it’s raw, it’s out there, it’s real. And it’s the best thing of all time. Once you leave that arena, it’s political. It is, Who’s popular? It’s who you know. It’s not so clear. And this game is extremely clear. You’re winning or you’re losing.”
Strangest Match: “I think every match we ever played is kind of out of the ordinary [laughs]. The first thing that jumps out of my mind – I didn’t even play – was dealing with Murphy’s disappearance in ‘95 at the Wimbledon Championships. We were out of the doubles and we were staying at a house at Wimbledon. And Murphy is playing with Brenda Schultz and they were in the quarters of the mixed doubles. And he honestly just disappears and leaves. And dealing with all the media and it was reality TV. And he’s running around away from the media and they’re trying to chase him up in Scotland. It wasn’t a match but it was a situation. And to do it at Wimbledon. And again, coming from humble tennis beginnings, and now you’re this center of attention because your brother’s a knucklehead – and he just doesn’t want to play Wimbledon. How do you not want to play Wimbledon? But Murphy’s Murphy.”
Embarrassing Tennis Memory: “I know there are lots of them…When I was a junior player I went out and you have your warmups and you
pull your warmups down and I don’t have my shorts on.”
Favorite Players To Watch: “Number one, to be perfectly honest, I could watch Rafael Nadal practice, I could watch him in the player’s lounge, the man is so intense. And so focused and has so much purpose and drive that he’s truly such an overachiever because he doesn’t have the biggest guns, he doesn’t have the most talent. This is all self-made. He’s like one of those self-made millionaires. Came from nothing really. Plays with his opposite hand. He’s not left-handed, he’s right-handed. He’s not a hard court player but he became one. He’s not a grass court player, he became on. He’s evolved. How many players, that we’ve covered now, they get to a point and it is too hard and they don’t evolve. And they just kinda sit in the same spot. And they drop and they come back – and this guy continues to get better. His new challenge is Djokovic, truly is, another kind of chapter in his life where he’s gonna figure it out, it may be the next tournament, it may be next year, I don’t know, but the guy is not going away. And I have so much respect for that attitude.”
Which Match Were You At Your Very Best: “Agassi in ‘96, playing him in Memphis. Played completely out of my mind. Playing that good should have been illegal – I should have been arrested after that match. That was truly one thing. I had to play a certain – I couldn’t play any other way – it was all-out, two first serves, there was no second serve. Nothing under 100 miles an hour. It was as hard as I could hit, every single point. And everything went in. It was one match, one time the stars were aligned and it was a Super Nova time. I was just so on Cloud 9. I’ve seen it on video since then a bunch of times. I still can’t believe that person who won that match is me.”
Scoop Malinowski is the author of "Marcelo Rios: The Man We Barely Knew" and is the co-founder of
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