Former Australian Open Tournament Director Colin Stubs died on Wednesday, aged 81, after battling pancreatic cancer, and is being remembered as a great pioneer of tennis, having been influential in the AO’s switch from grass to hard courts.
He was an astute and widely respected tennis businessman who invested everything in showcasing the sport and staging tennis events of the highest order. He was an excellent player and very much his own man. Craig Tiley
“The tennis community lost a very likeable and good man in Colin Stubs,” former doubles World No 1 Paul McNamee wrote on Twitter. “He was honest as the day is long, and made a great contribution to Australian tennis. RIPStubsy.”
McNamee succeeded Stubs as the Grand Slam’s tournament director and was among many to post a tribute.
Tennis Australia Chief Executive Officer, Craig Tiley, who is also the current Australian Open Tournament Director, said: “He put players first and gained their trust. He was an astute and widely respected tennis businessman who invested everything in showcasing the sport and staging tennis events of the highest order. He was an excellent player and very much his own man.”
Stubs, who also competed at all four Grand Slams as a player, will be remembered as a pivotal figure in reviving the fortunes of the Australian Open, which struggled to attract the best players in the 1980s.
Melbourne-born, he won the under-19 Victorian Championships aged 16, and went on to complete a 4-year degree in pharmacy, travelling on the international tennis circuit between 1961 and 1970 prior to becoming a pharmacist.
After retiring from the tour, he juggled his career as a pharmacist with his Australian Open duties for several years.
In 1975, Stubs’ good friend, the-then Tennis Australia President Wayne Reid, encouraged him to work as a consultant and he sold his Wheelers Hill pharmacy 3 years later to expand his sports marketing and management company.
Stubs not only shaped the early careers of Todd Woodbridge, Richard Fromberg and Jason Stoltenberg, but was a leading figure in the growth of the Australian Open in the late 1970s until 1994, when Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf captured the singles titles.
He developed strong player relationships, which helped bring them to Melbourne and served him well when he ran the Dubai Tennis Championships and Australian Men’s Hardcourt Championships in Adelaide.
He helped the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in the mid-1990s, and was Tournament Director in Adelaide until 2003.
The man known as ‘Stubsy’ also founded the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne in 1988, working in partnership with the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club until 2014, when the event was sold to IMG.
1988 was the same year the Australian Open moved to its new state-of-the-art, $94 million home at Flinders Park, which was renamed Melbourne Park 8 years later.
The Kooyong exhibition tournament still runs today, and will be part of the next tennis summer after a couple of years off because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Stubs, who later worked as a gardener in Sherbrooke Forest, east of Melbourne, is survived by his wife, Sue, and children Tom, Georgia and David. Another son, Richard, passed away in 2019.
Colin Stubs, player, promoter and tournament director, born 27 February 1941, died 13 July 2022.