INTERVIEW WITH DONALD FRILOT
December 15, 2013 By Billy E. Crawford
Donald Frilot was inducted into the Louisiana Tennis Hall of Fame in 2006.
Q. Where were you born?
A. Laurel, Mississippi, in 1937. We moved back to New Orleans when I was an infant.
Q. Where did you attend high school?
A. Jesuit High in New Orleans from 1950-1954. My brother George and I both attended Jesuit in Honors classes.
Q. Where did you play tennis in college? Years?
A. Loyola of New Orleans, then Loyola of the South, from 1954-1958.
Q. What did you major in?
A. My major was physics. I received a Masters in Engineering from LSU in 1967.
Q. What are some of the “highlights” of your college tennis career?
A. I just throughly enjoyed playing tennis at Loyola. College sports was more fun than it appears today. Kids have to get up at 5am and practice for hours every day. I am thankful that we did not have that kind of rigorous training although we did practice most afternoons.
Q. Is it true that Loyola played a match at Spring Hill in Mobile, Alabama when Nick Bollettieri was on their tennis team?
A. Yes, in 1953 at # 3 singles had Johnny Hernandez of Loyola defeating Nick Bollettieri in straight sets. My mother had the clipping from the newspaper.
Q. How old were you when you started playing tennis?
A. My brother George started taking lessons from Emmett Pare’ when he was about 11 and I tagged along at the age of 8.
Q. Who influenced you and contributed to your love of tennis?
A. My father was a weekend player and he got us started with lessons from Pare’. Emmett Pare’ was a fine gentleman and a great tennis coach. I thought the world of him all of his life. He was an obvious influence on my love for the game. George and I were lucky enough to play at the New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club, where there was a large group of very good players who were willing to let young kids play in their games once you got halfway decent. These included Ernie Sutter, Harcourt Waters, Tom Stokes, Lester Shapiro, Billy Westerfield, Randy Gregson, Barney Phelps, Arthur Hammond, and many others , too numerous to name. The level of doubles was particularly high and we learned a great deal about playing doubles from these fine players.
Q. What were the first tournaments you participated in?
A. Besides the New Orleans tournaments, we traveled around the south to the Southern Juniors in Davidson, North Carolina, and tournaments in Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The state tournament was in Shreveport and we played there.
Q. What brand was your first racquet?
A. Wilson, probably a Don Budge or Jack Kramer
Q. After graduating from college in 1958, what were your next career steps?
A. I worked as an Electrical Engineer for some years, but wound up as a Commercial Real Estate Appraiser with the MAI designation. I am now retired from that.
Q. What are some of the “highlights” of your tennis playing days after college?
A. I became more serious about my tennis when I reached 35 and my four kids were in school. I started playing in the 35 and over division. I played a fair amount of doubles with Floyd Hamilton, Joe Manderson, Mike Kearney, Wm Cleburn Simon, my brother George, and a few others. This carried over into the later age groups as well. I remember having some classic 35s matches with Floyd Hamilton against Ronnie Fenasci and Steve Wilson.
One on the first things you learn in doubles is to get a good partner and I have been lucky in that respect. Besides George and those mentioned above, I lucked into some mighty fine partners. In 1983, a Californian named Herman Ahlers called me from Sarasota, Florida to come play with him in the National 45 and over Clay Court championship. We managed to win the National Tournament and again in 1985 we won the National Indoor Championships. In 2002, Bob Helton of Tennessee and I won the 65 and over National Clay Court and Grass Court Tournaments. We were ranked number one in the country for that year. In other national finals, I played with my brother George , with Alan Shapter, and with Fredie Ferzanagan.
One of my biggest regrets is not winning the 55s with George in Knoxville.
One memorable match was having the opportunity to play against Pancho Gonzales and Whitney Reed in La Jolla.
Q. I understand you introduced William Howard Kuntz to tennis. Will you share this experience?
A. I received a call from Howard, who I knew through his business at the Harvey Canal, asking me to be his partner in a tournament at Diamond Head. At that time Howard was in his late 50s and I was ranked #3 in the South in the 35s. Well, we ended up winning the tournament. The duo we defeated had a player who would always walk around the court on his hands after they won. After our victory, Howard walked around the court on his hands. (he had been a gymnast at Tulane). Everyone got a big laugh!
Q. What has the game of tennis meant to you?
A. My wife Ursula and I have traveled to tournaments in many places in the country and have many friends around the country through tennis. There is nothing more important than friendships. Tennis is also a major way to stay fit and I hope I never have to give it up.
Q. What are your interests/hobbies other than tennis?
A. A few years ago I took up golf and generally play once a week. I have been into woodworking fairly seriously. There is a woodworker named Sam Maloo, famous primarily for his rocking chairs. I have been inspired to try to build similar rockers. I have attached photos of two of the three I have recently completed.