Music man Randy Jackson knows a thing or two about tennis. The former American Idol judge and music producer has hit with some of the biggest names in the game, and in 2011 served as a chair umpire at the US Open for a heated battle between the teams of Will Ferrell and Matthew Perry and John McEnroe and Jim Courier. Sunday at the BNP Paribas Open we caught up with him while he took in the Agnieszka Radwanska-Flavia Pennetta final inside Stadium 1.
BNP Paribas Open: OK Randy you’re a huge tennis fan! So tell us about when you initially got into the sport.
Randy Jackson: I got into the sport right after college. I had a friend that was a player. I went out and kind of hit the ball all over the fence and everything. I would play sporadically here and there. Then in my late 20s I really thought, “I’m going to do this, I love this sport and want to get serious about it.” I started taking lessons and joined a club. Then I got the proper gear – racquets, shoes. You have to look good to play good.
BNPPO: So true. So how often do you play?
Jackson: I play about three times a week. I’ve been working on my serve, trying to get a little more power and have a more consistent toss. I’m working on all facets of my game, but my groundstrokes are pretty good.
BNPPO: You said you’ve been at the BNP Paribas Open for a few years. How have you seen the tournament evolve?
Jackson: I’ve watched it evolve, and I just love that it’s here. I love that it’s men’s and women’s, and I love that you get a chance to see everything here. I go to the US Open all the time, and from year-to-year I’ll visit the French Open, Wimbledon or the Australian Open. But it’s great to have it right here in the L.A. area.
BNPPO: What’s your favorite part of watching the pro players up close?
Jackson: Well that John Isner-Novak Djokovic match yesterday, Isner is such a powerful guy! There were some serves that were almost 140mph. I don’t even know how guys can get a racket on that serve. Also, just to see the finesse of their game, the consistency and how they can change the game to throw the opponent off.
BNPPO: So we know you’ve umpired celebrity matches. What is one fun moment for you on the tennis court?
Jackson: I did the Arthur Ashe Kids Day at the US Open, and I had my team against Billie Jean King’s team. Her team beat me even though I had Rafael Nadal and a bunch of other great players on my team. But it was just a fun day. Billie Jean is the queen of tennis! She is very smart and uber-talented.
BNPPO: She certainly is. If you could take one tennis player, and mold them into an entertainer, who do you feel would translate pretty well?
RJ: I would take Djokovic. I would make him the lead singer of a rock band, and make him more of a model/actor like myself and Brad Pitt. Yes, I’m putting myself in that category! [Laughter.] But I think Djokovic has a bit of swag, and he feels more like an entertainment guy.
BNPPO: Who in your industry would make it in pro tennis?
Jackson: Gavin Rossdale would make a good pro player. He really gets after the ball.
BNPPO: Say you could take one pro player’s game and make it your own. Whose would you take?
Jackson: For me, the guy with some of the greatest skills in tennis is Roger Federer. He’s moving fast, but it never feels jerky. His form is textbook and just seems effortless, no matter how hard the struggle or what’s going on. The guy glides across the court. You just can’t teach that. It’s like ballet on a tennis court.
BNPPO: Thanks Randy! Enjoy the tennis.