When Robert Evans Beat O.J. Simpson on His Home Tennis Court

Tennis legend Novak Djokovic, Darryl Goldman and Robert Evans, home courtside.- Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Darryl Goldman

Robert Evans weathered tough times in his 70-plus-year career, but there was one constant: tennis.

Evans, the producer and executive who died Oct. 26 at 89, loved the sport and hosted many A-list stars and athletes on his home court on Woodland Drive in Beverly Hills. Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Ted Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Jimmy Connors were just a few of the names who served and volleyed with Evans on his invite-only space. The one name who saw it all was 35-year tennis instructor Darryl Goldman.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the tennis pro, 60, said that their relationship dates back to the early 1980s after they were introduced by Evans’ lawyer Alan Schwartz. At the time, Goldman recalls that Evans’ court was “the number one action court around,” regularly filled with stars and sports icons. “We hit it off right away and became great friends.”

So much so that Goldman moved his base headquarters to Evans' house, where taught lessons on the court, which was unique in that it was painted black and green. “They stopped painting courts that color years ago, but Bob had a sense of style and wanted to keep it,” he says. “Novak Djokovic came to play once, took a look at it and loved it. He said he’d never seen that before.”

Goldman saw the court — and Evans — almost daily. “He was a best friend, almost like a surrogate father or brother to me,” Goldman explains. “A brilliant guy who was so generous to so many people. His sense of humor was unbelievable. There was not a time when we talked that we didn’t have a laugh.”

Of Evans' skill on the court, Goldman says he was “very crafty and could beat a lot of players you wouldn’t think he could,” and that included major victories against Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin. He even beat O.J. Simpson “when he was just a football player,” Goldman says.

Evans has said that many Hollywood deals went down on and around the court, and Goldman, who is still careful not to reveal too much out of respect for his late friend, did recall one time when the late businessman Kirk Kerkorian stormed off the court due to an MGM deal that was going south. “He had to sell something to stay alive and Bob talked him back and told him, ‘You really need to do this,’ “ Goldman says. “I don’t really know what it was. There are so many things you can’t talk about that happened there. There was no place in the world like it.”

What he would say is that Evans got extra points for his great appreciation and vision for the sport, as well as “a lob as tall as eucalyptus trees.”

As for life now that Evans is gone, Goldman admits he’s still in the early stages of grief. “It’s hard to grasp when you see or speak with somebody almost every single day for 35 years. You can’t replace something like that. It hits hard and it’s tough. What a gift and honor and privilege it was to have spent this time with him and be able to see that engine run.” 

A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.