Publish date:

Out of Aces Bankruptcy, debts, warrants: Why Roscoe Tanner can't go home again

Few falls from grace have been as puzzling as that of former
tennis star Roscoe Tanner. During a 15-year career that ended in
1985, Tanner won 15 singles titles, including the '77 Australian
Open, behind a concussive serve that once reached 153 mph.
Handsome and popular with fans, Tanner was a golden boy, a
Stanford grad from a Tennessee family whose bloodlines, it was
said, could be traced back to the British royal family. Today,
Tanner, 51, lives in Germany, where he relocated last year in the
wake of warrants for his arrest for failure to pay child support
and accusations that he swindled a Tampa yacht broker out of
$36,000. (A New Jersey warrant also claims he is in unspecified
"arrears" for $70,950.)

Tanner, who earned $1.7 million as a player, has had legal
trouble for years. In 1997 he spent a night in jail after failing
to pay $500,000 in child support to a New Jersey woman with whom
he'd had a daughter. Tanner, who maintained he was not the
child's father despite a 1994 blood test showing a 99.5%
likelihood that he was, said he couldn't pay and filed for
bankruptcy in '98.

Then in May 2001, after working as a tennis pro at resorts in
Florida and the Caribbean, Tanner was arrested on the court
during a seniors doubles tournament in Atlanta for falling behind
on child support payments to one of his two ex-wives. He spent
several days in jail for "willful criminal contempt of court" and
was released after paying $8,000. But a warrant on the same
charges was issued two months later. Last October, Tanner, who
couldn't be reached for this story, told the Los Angeles Times,
"I'm sorting it [out]. I haven't skipped off with anybody's

Interested parties might watch the ITF Men's 50 and over
tournament in Hanover, Germany, on Aug. 17. Tanner, ranked third
in the world in that category, plans to play. He likely won't be
arrested; extradition on such charges is unusual.

Some of Tanner's friends note that his father, Leonard Roscoe
Tanner II, a retired lawyer, could pay his debts. "[The
situation] is surprising because he thought of Roscoe as the
second coming," says Donald Dell, Tanner's former agent. When
reached by SI, Tanner II, 87, said he hasn't spoken to his son in
a month and hasn't kept track of his legal troubles. Said Tanner
II, "I just don't know [about him] anymore." --Chris Ballard

COLOR PHOTO: TONY DUFFY (TANNER PLAYING) WANTED Tanner (left in 1979, above in '97) will play in Germany.