Melbourne VIC, Australia, 17 August 2016 | ATP World Tour

The tennis world is remembering Andrew Florent as a charismatic, generous and fun-loving personality after the Australian doubles specialist passed away Tuesday, aged 45.

Florent waged a spirited fight after first being diagnosed in January 2013 with bowel cancer, which subsequently spread to his liver. At the time he was told he had between three and 18 months to live, but he fought on bravely for three-and-a-half years and even competed in the legends’ doubles at Australian Open 2014.

Florent is survived by his wife Rachael and their two sons, Ollie, 18, and Jai, 15.

“Flory could light up a room like no other. He was the life of the party and never took himself too seriously,” said his close friend and former doubles partner Paul Kilderry.

Long-time doubles partner Josh Eagle said Florent had an “insatiable zest for life”.

“He was one of a kind. Everybody loved Flory,” said fellow Australian doubles specialist David Macpherson, who partnered Florent for two seasons. “He was jovial, witty and as positive a life force as you would ever meet. He was very generous and derived a lot of enjoyment from doing things for other people.”

Florent turned pro in 1990 and played through 2003, finishing with 211 doubles match wins and winning three titles: St. Poelten (1994 and ‘99) and Adelaide (1998). He reached a career-high Emirates ATP Doubles Ranking of 13 in 2001.

But Florent will perhaps best be remembered as a larger-than-life character beloved for his high jinks and camaraderie. Stories of his playfulness are legendary.

One of Florent’s favourite stops on the ATP World Tour was the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, during which the annual players’ revue is held. Florent loved nothing better than to get in character and entertain his peers on stage. “That was his number one reason for wanting to play Monte-Carlo,” Eagle said. “He wanted to be front and centre in the show and he absolutely loved it. While others were shying away from taking the stage, his M.O. was to make the players laugh and smile.”

At Scottsdale in 1997, Eagle and Florent were on the wrong end of a hiding from Rick Leach and Jonas Bjorkman. Sitting at the changeover with their opponents about to serve for the match, the Aussies donned Incredible Hulk masks to play out the final game. “You wouldn’t’ get away with that today, but the crowd on centre court loved it,” Eagle said. “And Rick and Jonas weren’t at all annoyed. They knew that was Flory just having a bit of fun.”

At a Challenger in Chinese Taipei in 1994, Eagle and Florent drew the local wildcards, who had never played on the tour. Florent insisted that he and Eagle go out to ‘celebrate the draw’. They arrived home at 6am and proceeded to lose the match 7-6 in the third later that day.

Tributes to Andrew Florent

Paul Kilderry

“Flory had a unique ability to connect with people from all walks of life. He was one of the friendliest players on tour and had amazing relationships with everyone, from the top ranked, to lowest ranked and all staff members. Flory never had a bad word to say about anybody and was an awesome mate to all of his fellow Aussie players.

“Flory could light up a room like no other. He was the life of the party and never took himself too seriously. Often when you would get to an event, people would ask, ‘Is Flory coming this year?’ That could be anyone from the drivers to accreditation staff or the tournament director.

“Flory was an amazing natural athlete after a very good junior career focused on his doubles. His volleys were a throwback to the great Aussie volleyers of the past.”

David Macpherson

“He was one of a kind. Everybody loved Flory. He was jovial, witty and as positive a life force as you would ever meet. He was very generous and derived a lot of enjoyment from doing things for other people. He shared that special Aussie bond with his countrymen and he was one of our favourite people in the whole world.”

“He and Rachael were a great couple who met early in life and she was always so supportive. He was a tremendous father to his boys and he took a lot of pleasure seeing them grow up the past few years, especially as he watched them develop into good footballers.

“As a player he had a beautiful technique and his volleys were as good as anyone who played the game. He was an incredible athlete who was explosive at the net, and one of the game’s best poachers.”

John Fitzgerald

“Andrew Florent was one of a kind.

“After his family, Flory’s mates were incredibly important to him. He was at his best surrounded by fun-loving people who quite often looked to him to create an atmosphere that made you glad to be alive. He loved tennis but loved his family and mates much more. The devotion of his friends since his illness is a remarkable testament to him.

“In all the years I knew him, I never came across one person who didn’t love the bloke, such was his infectious nature. He would never say no to participating in a charity event, whether tennis was involved or not, and in the case of my charity in Adelaide, he quite often ‘made’ the event himself as the star of the show.

“I had the pleasure of playing doubles with Flory a couple of times. One of those was in Indian Wells and Flory taught my two toddler daughters Do Re Mi from the Sound of Music…’Doe a deer, a female deer’! He remained ‘Doe a deer’ to them for the rest of his life.

“Ollie and Jai are Andrew and Rachael’s pride and joy. The whole family can take strength knowing that a lot of love is directed towards them and Flory’s mates will forever look out for them.

“Flory never failed to bring a smile to my face, right to the end. RIP mate.”

Joshua Eagle

“Flory was one of the ‘good guys’ of world tennis. Extremely popular on and off the court with all his competitors, he had an innate ability to bring people together for the better. He was always one to celebrate his wins and losses and savour the fact that he was traveling the world playing the game he loved with his close mates, whom he treated as family.

“Flory was the most generous person in the world, always giving his time to help out a young fan or volunteer or to play a clinic with sponsors. He was always first to buy dinner or a round of drinks at the end of the day for his mates and often would give the shirt of his own back if he felt it looked better on them.

“Flory brought so much enjoyment to every single day that he lived and it was infectious. Every morning when we shared a room he made me start the day by singing his beloved Hawthorn Football Club song with him and occasionally we even belted it out at the odd karaoke venue around the world. Flory received great pleasure out of making his family and friends happy and laugh.

“After life on the ATP World Tour, Flory embraced his next journey of family and work. With his beautiful wife Rachael, they have done a tremendous job raising two highly capable and respected boys and he loved nothing more than spending time with them and watching them develop.

“We all loved Flory. With his insatiable zest for life, he absolutely crammed in many great times and memories that will live on forever.

“Flory will be sadly missed. However, his amazing fighting spirit will be remembered all around the world as he certainly put up the good fight right to the very end.”

Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman and President

“Andrew’s passing is a great loss to the tennis family. He played the sport with absolute class and his popularity amongst his fellow athletes will long be remembered. Our thoughts are with Andrew’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

Tennis Australia

“The tennis family mourns the loss of our much loved friend Andrew Florent who has lost his long and brave battle with illness. Florrie, as we all knew him, was a true character of our sport as a player and coach, and a larger-than-life personality. His infectious sense of humour and love of life touched so many around the tennis world and he will be sorely missed. Our sympathy goes out to his family, Rachael, Ollie and Jai, and his many friends. RIP Florrie.”