Gottfried was one of the best tennis players in the world in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1977, he was ranked No. 3 in the world. Seemingly addicted to practice, Brian skipped practice on his wedding day, but put in a double session the next day. He received the ATP Sportsmanship award for 1984 and is a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame,
Birth and Death Dates:
b. Jan. 27, 1952
When Gottfried was five years old, some Japanese players stayed with his family while competing in a local tournament. Before leaving, they gave Brian a tennis racket as a present, thus launching his tennis career. Gottfried went on to win an incredible 14 national junior titles, his first at the U.S. boy's National 12 and under singles and doubles (Jimmy Connors was his doubles partner). Brian went on to an All-American career at Trinity University in the early 1970s; he was the runner-up in NCAA singles and doubles in 1972.
Gottfried turned professional in 1972, and the following year, he won his first career singles title in Las Vegas. That year, he reached the third round of the U.S. Open before losing to fellow Jew, Tom Okker of the Netherlands in 4 sets. Over the next few years, Brian continually improved and moved up the world rankings; he finished No. 29 in the world at the end of 1974, No. 23 in 1975, and No. 10 in 1976. The following year was the best of his career as he reached 15 singles finals, winning 5 of those matches, and he was runner-up at the French Open. At one point during the year, Gottfried was ranked No. 3 in the world (he finished the year No. 5), and in April, 1977, Newsweek said he was "simply the best male tennis player in the world at the moment." In 1978, Brian remained in the top ten, winning three more singles titles and finishing the year ranked No. 7 in the world.
As good as Brian was as a singles player, he may have been an even better doubles player. With partner Raul Ramirez, Brian won Wimbledon in 1976, the French Open in 1975 and 1977, and the Italian Open doubles championship for four consecutive years (1974-1977). Although Gottfried remained in the world's top twenty-five from 1979-1983, by 1984, he began to struggle and decided to retire following the season; he was ranked No. 91 at the end of 1984. Brian finished his career ranked tied for 22nd in the 50 all-time open era singles titles leaders (16) and tied for 12th in the doubles leaders. Asked if he missed playing, Gottfried answered: "I don't miss anything. I was able to stop under my terms. I was still ranked about 50th in the world and I just said, 'I've had enough. I've enjoyed it. It has been great, but I'm ready to do something else. My family is now my priority.' If I wasn't playing well and my ranking had dropped and I still wanted to play, then I would imagine, there would be some regrets. Now I don't even remember the time when I played, it was like it was a different lifetime." Brian, who currently resides in Florida, works with the ATP tour and occasionally plays on the senior circuit.
Use links below to navigate through the tennis section of Jews In Sports.
Also, read a chapter from The Jew in American Sports by Harold U. Ribalow and Meir Z. Ribalow
Great Jews in Sports, by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)