Parsons: ‘grandfather of tennis’
Daily Telegraph lawn tennis correspondent John Parsons has died at the age of 66. He was the newspaper’s tennis correspondent for 23 years and the archives of his reports for the paper amount to 41 files in the Telegraph’s warehouse.
Having covered more than 40 Wimbledons, Parsons was truly respected throughout the tennis world. Player Tim Henman called him “the grandfather of tennis”.
Parsons had an insatiable appetite for tennis and his enthusiasm for the game never waned.
He had known the Henman family through their connection with Oxford and he was one of the first off the mark to identify Tim’s talents. While Henman was trying to break into the top ranks, Parsons followed him to minor tournaments around the world. He was delighted by his great successes.
Parsons was introduced to tennis as a boy by his father, who was a prominent figure in Oxford tennis and one-time president of the Lawn Tennis Association for the Oxford area.
At just 14, Parsons began his journalistic career writing match reports for the Oxford Mail. After leaving school, he continued to work for the paper and moved on to the Daily Mail, covering West Country sports from Bristol.
In 1981 he joined The Daily Telegraph, where he remained for the rest of his life. He did retire from fulltime work at the paper following a kidney transplant in 2001, but covered the major events. He was in Miami reporting on the Nasdaq tournament before he was taken ill.
Deputy editor of the Telegraph, Keith Perry, worked alongside Parsons for 18 years. He said: “John was the most conscientious and diligent man you could ever wish to meet. He commanded great respect everywhere he went and travelled around the world picking up awards all the way.
“He was enormously kind and enormously encouraging to young writers who came along.
“John was a doyen of the sport’s writers, he truly was. We will miss him greatly. It’s hard to find people with that quality.”
Parsons was also a dedicated supporter of the renal unit at Churchill Hospital in Oxford, for which he helped to raise funds. Another interest was the Oxford-Leiden Association – the two towns are twinned.
He was the author of The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Tennis, the definitive guide to world tennis, and he produced The Official Wimbledon Annual.
This year would have been the 21st edition.
Parsons was an honorary member of The All England Lawn Tennis Club and a past secretary of the Lawn Tennis Writers’ Association.