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 money."
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."