Watch CBS News

89-Year-Old Tennis Pro Looks Back On Career, Undercover Work With CIA

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Fred Kovaleski is a tennis pro who spent a decade using the sport as a decoy for the CIA – and now, as one of the world's oldest tennis players, he has begun talking about his past.

As CBS 2's Emily Smith reported, Kovaleski, 89, remains a master of the tennis court. And he tells it how it is.

"I'm probably the best 85 and older in the world, and I'm going over to Europe in another two days to play in the world championships," he said,

Kovaleski is a tennis champion, whose lifelong love for the sport afforded him a college scholarship – and ultimately a job with the CIA.

He said tennis was "absolutely" his cover.

Kovaleski got the gig without even really wanting or trying for it. He traveled to Europe for a tennis match representing the United States.

During an obligatory meeting with the U.S. Counselor of Embassy in Egypt, he received an offer to work undercover.

"I spoke Polish and Russian -- still do," he said, "and Russia at that time was a serious enemy of ours."

Kovaleski spent time in Egypt playing pro-tennis, but as a new CIA agent, he also aimed to recruit agents.

"We were really looking for information on how they operated," he said.

After 10 years, in 1961, Kovaleski decided to leave the life of a secret agent, behind taking a full-time job with Pepsi-Cola, and focusing on his wife, Monya, and their son.

While at lot has changed, at 89 years old, he is still playing tennis and is currently one of the premier senior tennis players in the world.

Kovaleski said his life has been a series of lucky breaks, and now he cannot wait to see what the next decade brings. He turns 90 in October.

Kovaleski played Wimbledon in 1950. He is considered the 13th best player in the world.

He said had there been money in tennis back then, he would have made that his one and only career.

You May Also Be Interested In These Stories:

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.