My father was a corporate pilot who flew all over the world throughout his 45 year professional career…..and one thing that he took with him on every trip that he made was his tennis racquet…..when he would find a public tennis court close to the hotel that he stayed at during his overnight stays in the places that he visited…..and he would go to the court and “hit on the boards” until another single would come along…..which would lead to a match. Since Pops was an avid tennis player…..when there was a significant match on TV, we would watch it with him…..wherein this was a period in mens professional tennis…..which was dominated by the Aussies from down under with the likes of Ken Rosewall, John Newcombe, Tony Roche, Roy Emerson, Lew Hoad, Neale Fraser, Frank Sedgman, Ashley Cooper, Fred Stolle and the best of them all was Rod Laver, “The Rockhampton Rocket”…..known to the tennis world as The Rocket.
Tennis – Mini-Documentary – 1956 To 1979 – An Australian Open TV Special – “Rod Laver – A Memoir” – A Preface to His Book By The Same Name”
Rodney George Laver (born 9 August 1938) is an Australian former tennis player…..who was the world # 1 ranked professional in some sources in 1964…..while in all sources from 1965 to 1969….. and in some sources in 1970…..which was a career that spanned 4 years before and 3 years after the start of the Open Era in 1968…..so, from 1964 to 1971…..plus, he was also ranked the world # 1 amateur in 1961 by Lance Tingay…..and in 1962 by Tingay and Ned Potter. Laver’s 198 singles titles are the most in tennis history…..which included his all-time men’s record of 10 or more titles per year for 7 consecutive years (1964–1970). The Rocket, like all really great champions, excelled on all of the court surfaces of his time…..albeit grass, clay, hard, carpet, wood.
Tennis – Mini-Documentary – 1956 To 1979 – A Baseline Tennis Special – “Rod Laver: A Rocket Through Time – Why Rod Laver is Tennis’ Most Influential Player”
Laver won 11 Grand Slam singles titles…..albeit he was banned from playing those tournaments for the five years prior to the Open Era. Laver is the only player, male or female, to win the Grand Slam (winning all four major titles in the same calendar year) twice in singles, in 1962 and 1969…..with the latter remains the only time a man has done so in the Open Era. He is the first male player out of two to be winner and runner up at all four grand slams, followed by Roger Federer. He is the 2nd of four male players to win each major title twice…..as he was preceded by Roy Emerson…..and followed by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal). Laver also won 8 Pro Slam titles, including the “pro Grand Slam” in 1967….. a and he contributed to 5 Davis Cup titles for Australia during an age when the Davis Cup was deemed as significant as the four majors, The Laver Cup tournament and the Rod Laver Arena are named after him.
Tennis – 2022 – A Tennis World Production Special – “Rod Laver: How Good Was He Really?”
Rodney George Laver was born in Rockhampton, Australia, on 9 August 1938. He was the 3rd of 4 children of Roy Laver…..who was a cattleman and butcher…..along with his wife Melba Roffey. Amongst his relatives were the cricketers Frank Laver and Jack Laver.
Tennis – Intimate Interview – 2017 – A Current Affair Production Special – “Rod Laver’s Incredible Career and the Aussie Tennis ‘Golden Age'”– With Nine U.S. correspondent Robert Penfold’s Interview Of Laver
Laver was a teenager when he left school to pursue a tennis career that lasted 24 years…..when he was coached in Queensland by Charlie Hollis…..and later by the Australian Davis Cup team captain Harry Hopman…..who gave Laver the nickname “Rocket”. Laver was both Australian and US Junior champion in 1957…..then he had his breakthrough on the world stage in 1959…..when he reached all three finals at Wimbledon…..while winning the mixed doubles title with Darlene Hard. As an unseeded player, he lost the singles final to Peruvian Alex Olmedo after surviving an 87-game semifinal against American Barry MacKay. His first major singles title was the Australian Championships in 1960…..when he defeated fellow Australian Neale Fraser in a 5 set final after coming back from 2 sets down…..and saving a Fraser championship point in the 4th set. Laver captured his 1st Wimbledon singles crown in 1961 by beating Chuck McKinley in straight sets in the final…..which was a match that lasted just 53 minutes…..which is still today in June 2023, one of the shortest men’s singles Wimbledon finals on record. Laver was ranked world # 1 amateur for 1961 by Tingay and by Ned Potter.
Tennis – 1959 – A British Pathe Production Special – Wimbledon Championship Men’s Tennis Finals Highlights – Alex Olmedo Vs Rod Laver
Tennis – 1960 – Wimbledon Championships Men’s Finals Highlights – AUS Neale Fraser Vs AUS Rod Laver
Tennis – 1961 – Wimbledon Tennis Championship Men’s Final Highlights – USA Chuck McKinley Vs AUS Rod Laver
In 1962, Laver became the 1st male player since Don Budge in 1938 to win all four Grand Slam singles titles in the same year…..plus, he won an additional 18 titles, for a season total of 22…..as well as among those titles were the Italian Championships and the German Championships…..thus giving Laver the “clay court triple” of Paris, Rome and Hamburg…..which had been achieved previously only by Lew Hoad in 1956. At the Australian championships, Laver beat Roy Emerson in the final. The biggest hurdle to Laver’s winning the Grand Slam was the French Championships on slow clay…..where Laver won three consecutive five-setters beginning with the quarterfinals. In his quarterfinal with Martin Mulligan, Laver saved a match point in the 4th set with a backhand volley after coming to the net behind a 2nd serve. In the final, Laver lost the 1st 2 sets…..and was down 0–3 in the 4th set before coming back to defeat Emerson. At Wimbledon, his progress was much easier…..as he lost only one set the whole tournament, to Manuel Santana in a quarterfinal…..who held a set point for a 2 set lead. In the final, Laver beat Mulligan in 52 minutes…..which was a minute shorter than the previous year’s final. At the US Championships, Laver lost only two sets during the tournament…..and defeated Emerson again in the final. Laver was ranked world # 1 amateur for 1962 by Tingay, by Ned Potter and by an Ulrich Kaiser’s panel of 13 experts.
Tennis – 1962 – French Open Men’s Finals Highlights – AUS Roy Emerson Vs AUS Rod Laver
Tennis – 1962 – Wimbledon Championship Tennis Men’s Finals Highlights – AUS Martin Mulligan Vs AUS Rod Laver & Women’s Finals Highlights – USA Karen Susman Vs. CZEC Vera Sukova
Tennis – 1962 – US Open Tennis Championship Men’s Finals Highlights – AUS Roy Emerson Vs AUS Rod Laver
In December 1962 Laver turned professional after winning the Davis Cup with the Australian team….. when after an initial adjustment period, he quickly established himself among the leading professional players such as Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad, Andrés Gimeno and Pancho Gonzales…..when the American returned to a full-time schedule in 1964. During the next 7 years, Laver won the U.S. Pro Tennis Championships 5 times…..which included 4 in a row beginning in 1966.
Tennis – Amateur – 1961 – Davis Cup Competition Highlights – Italy Vs Australia – With AUS Roy Emerson VS ITA Nicola Pietrangeli & AUS Rod Laver Vs. Orlando Sirola
Tennis – 1962 – Wimbledon Tennis Championship Men’s Singles 2nd Round Highlights – IND Naresh Kumar Vs Rod Laver
In February 1963, he appeared on the panel game show To Tell the Truth…..where all 4 panelists identified him based on his knowledge of the history of tennis. In the beginning of 1963, Laver was beaten consistently by both Rosewall and Hoad on an Australasian tour…..as Hoad won the 1st 8 matches against Laver…..and Rosewall won 11 out of 13…..albeit, Laver won the best-of-5 set matches against Rosewall at Kooyong Stadium and at Adelaide’s Memorial Stadium…..so, by the end of the year, with 6 tournament titles, Rod Laver had become the # 2 professional player in the world behind Rosewall. In the 1st phase of the World Series tour, Laver finished 2nd, with a 25–16 record. The top two players Rosewall and Laver then played a series of matches against each other to determine the champion. Rosewall won 14–4. Laver’s gross earnings for 1963 were 1st among the pro players.
Tennis – 1963 – Kitzbühel Professional Championships, Austria Men’s Finals Highlights – AUS Ken Rosewall Vs AUS Rod Laver – Featuring Laver’s 2nd Pro Match
Tennis – 1970 – Australian Open Men’s Finals (Entire Match) – AUS Ken Rosewall Vs AUS Rod Laver
In 1964, Laver and Rosewall both won 7 important titles (in minor tournaments Laver won 4 and Rosewall won 3)…..but Laver won 17 of 24 matches against Rosewall…..while capturing the two most prestigious titles in the US Pro Championships over Gonzales…..and the Wembley Championships over Rosewall. In Tennis Week, Raymond Lee described the Wembley match…..where Laver came from 5–3 down in the 5th set to win 8–6…..which was possibly their best ever and one that changed tennis history …..when Lee regards this win as the one that began and established Laver’s long reign as world # 1….. whereas the other prestige title, the French pro, was won by Rosewall. Rosewall finished top of the official points table in 1964 and after winning at Wembley, Laver said “I’ve still plenty of ambitions left and would like to be the world’s No. 1. Despite this win, I am not there yet – Ken is.”
Tennis – 1967 – U.S. Pro Championships at Longwood Cricket Club Men’s Singles Semi-Finals Highlights – Rod Laver Vs Fred Stolle
Tennis – 1964 – U.S. Pro Championships at Longwood Cricket Club Men’s Singles Finals Highlights – Rod Laver Vs Pancho Gonzales – On Grass
Tennis – 1969 – Wimbledon Championship Men’s Semi-Finals (Entire Match) – USA Arthur Ashe Vs AUS Rod Laver
Tennis – 1960 – Wimbledon Championship Men’s Singles Finals (Entire Match) – AUS Neale Fraser Vs AUS Rod Laver
In 1966, Laver won 16 events, including the US Pro Championships…..while beating Rosewall in a 5-set final…..then winning the Wembley Pro Championship by Rosewall easily in the final…..along with eight other important tournaments.
Tennis – 1961 – US Tennis Open Championship Highlights At Forest Hills – Women’s Singles Final with AUS Anne Hayden Vs USA Darlene Hard & Men’s Singles Final with AUS Roy Emerson Vs AUS Rod Laver
In 1967, Laver won 19 titles, including the Wimbledon Pro by beating Rosewall in straight sets in the final…..plus the US Pro Championships by beating Gimeno in the final…..followed by the Wembley Pro Championships by beating Rosewall in the final…..and the French Pro Championship by beating Gimeno in the final…..which gave him a clean sweep of the four most important professional titles, a professional Grand Slam. The Wimbledon Pro tournament in 1967 was the only professional event ever staged on Wimbledon’s Centre Court before the Open Era began.
Tennis – 1967 – Wimbledon World Professional Lawn Tennis Championships Highlights – AUS Rod Laver + AUS Fred Stolle Vs. SPN Andres Gimeno + USA Pancho Gonzales
Tennis – 1970 – US Boston Open Men’s Finals Highlights – USA Pancho Gonzales Vs. AUS Rod Laver – A Great 5-Set Match
With the dawn of the Open Era in 1968, professional players were once again allowed to compete in Grand Slam events…..as Laver became Wimbledon’s 1st Open Era champion in 1968 after beating the best amateur, American Arthur Ashe, in a semifinal and fellow-Australian Tony Roche in the final…..with both victories being in straight sets. Laver was also the runner-up to Ken Rosewall in the 1st French Open. In this 1st “open” year, there were only eight open events besides Wimbledon and the French Open, where professionals, registered players and amateurs could compete against each other. The professionals mainly played their own circuit, with two groups – National Tennis League (NTL) and World Championships Tennis (WCT) – operating. Laver was ranked # 1 universally…..while winning the US Professional Championships on grass and the French Pro Championship on clay…..with both being over John Newcombe. Laver also won the last big open event of the year, the Pacific Southwest in Los Angeles on hard courts. Ashe regarded Laver’s 4–6, 6–0, 6–0 final win over Ken Rosewall as one of his finest performances…..when Laver’s post-match comment was, “This is the kind of match you always dream about. The kind you play at night in your sleep.” Laver was ranked # 1 for 1968 by the panel of journalists for the ‘Martini and Rossi’ Award, by an Ulrich Kaiser panel of 18 experts, by Seagrams panel of 15 journalists, by World Tennis, by Lance Tingay, by Rino Tommasi, by Bud Collins and by The Times.
Tennis – 1968 – Wimbledon Championship Highlights – Men’s Singles – AUS Rod Laver Vs AUS Tony Roche + Women’s Singles – USA Billy Jean King Vs AUS Judy Tegart + Men’s Doubles Finals – AUS John Newcombe + Tony Roche Vs. AUS Ken Rosewall + Fred Stolle
Tennis – 1968 – French Open Men’s Singles Semi-Finals Match Highlights – HOL Tom Okker Vs Rod Laver
In 1969, Laver won all four Grand Slam tournaments in the same calendar year for the 2nd time…..after sealing the achievement with a four-set win over Roche in the US Open final. He won 18 of the 32 singles tournaments he entered (still the Open Era titles record) and compiled a 106–16 win–loss record. In beating Newcombe in four sets in the Wimbledon final, he captured the title at the All England Club for the 4th consecutive time that he had entered the tournament…..while reaching the final for the 6th consecutive time…..as he had been runner-up in 1959 and 1960. He set a record of 31 consecutive match victories at Wimbledon between 1961 and 1970 …..which lasted until 1980 when it was eclipsed by Björn Borg. Unlike his 1st Grand Slam year in 1962, Laver in 1969 played in events open to all the best professional and amateur players of the world. In the year’s Grand Slam tournaments, Laver had 5 five-set-matches…..while twice coming back from two sets down in early rounds. In the four finals, however, he lost a total of only two sets. His hardest match was a marathon 90-game semifinal against Roche at the Australian Open under tropical hot conditions. Other opponents at the Australian Open included Roy Emerson, Fred Stolle, and Andrés Gimeno. At the French Open, Laver beat Gimeno, Tom Okker, and Rosewall. At Wimbledon, Laver overcame strong challenges from Stan Smith, Cliff Drysdale, Ashe, and Newcombe. At the US Open on slippery grass courts, he defeated Dennis Ralston, Emerson, Ashe, and Roche. Laver proved his versatility by winning the Grand Slam tournaments on grass and clay, plus the two most important hard court titles (South African Open at Ellis Park, Johannesburg and the US Professional Championships at Boston)…..and the leading indoor tournaments (Philadelphia US Pro Indoor and Wembley British Indoor). Laver was ranked # 1 for 1969 by the panel of 13 international journalists for the ‘Martini and Rossi’ Award, by Tingay, by Collins, by Tommasi, by Frank Rostron and by World Tennis.
Tennis – 1969 – Wimbledon Tennis Championship Men’s Finals (Entire Match) – AUS John Newcombe Vs AUS Rod Laver
Tennis – 1969 – US Open Tennis Championship Men’s Finals (Entire Match) – AUS Tony Roche Vs AUS Rod Laver
Tennis – 1969 – Australian Open Tennis Championship Men’s Finals Highlights – AUS Tony Roche Vs AUS Rod Laver
In the early 1970’s, Laver lost his grip on the major tournaments. He played only five Grand Slam tournaments from 1970 through 1972…..as this was partly because of his contracts with NTL and WCT…..but on the WCT tours, he remained the leading player and by far the leading prize money winner.
Tennis – 1970 – Live at Madison Square Garden – $10,000 Winner Take All Match Highlights – AUS Rod Laver VS USA Pancho Gonzales
Tennis – 1970 – Marlboro Open Tennis Tournament in South Orange, New Jersey – Men’s Finals Highlights – AUS Rod Laver VS AUS Bob Carmichael
Tennis – 1970 – South African Open Tennis Championship – Men’s Finals Highlights – AUS Rod Laver VS SAFR Frew McMillan
In 1970, Laver won 15 titles and US$201,453 in prize money…..which included the rich “Tennis Champions Classic” …..along with wins at the Sydney Dunlop Open, in Philadelphia, at Wembley, in Los Angeles and at the South African Open…..as these events were not the equivalent of today’s tour championship…..albeit the field included 8 or more of the world’s top ranked players participating. With only two majors played by all the best players (Wimbledon and the US Open), there was no clear-cut World # 1 in 1970. Wimbledon champion Newcombe, US champion Rosewall, and Laver (who won the most titles and had a 3–0 win–loss record against Newcombe and a 5–0 record against Rosewall) were ranked the highest by different journalists and expert panels. The panel of 10 international journalists who voted for the ‘Martini and Rossi’ Award, ranked Rosewall No. 1 with 97 points over Laver (89 pts) and Newcombe (81 pts). The panel of 12 journalists which made the WCT draw for 1971 ranked Laver 1st, Rosewall 2nd and Newcombe 3rd. Rex Bellamy ranked Laver No. 1, with Rosewall No. 2. Judith Elian of L’Equipe Magazine (Paris) and Rino Tommasi placed Rosewall No. 1, while Robert Geist co-ranked Rosewall, Laver and Newcombe # 1. Newcombe later wrote in his autobiography “Newk-Life On and Off the Court” (2002) that the top honor for 1970 belonged to Laver. Lance Tingay, John McCauley and Bud Collins. ranked Newcombe ahead of Rosewall and Laver…..regardless, it was a fabulous era of tennis showcased by The Aussies…. of which I can personally remember…..cuz my baby brother Runt, was a very good tennis player…..and Runt was ranked in our district…..and Runt proved to me over and over that Rocket was the best…..for these fond memories of the entire Australian contingency…..which went about 12 deep…..cuz the truth be known, this Australian team was beyond incredible.
Tennis – 1970 – Finals of The Dunlop International Highlights – Ken Rosewall Vs. Rod Laver
Tennis – 1971 – US Pro Tennis Men’s Doubles Finals At Longwood Highlights – Okker / Riesen Vs Emerson / Laver
In 1971 Laver won seven titles, including the Italian Open in Rome on clay over Jan Kodeš…..who was the reigning French Open champion. Laver successfully defended his title at the “Tennis Champions Classic”, winning 13 consecutive winner-take-all matches against top opponents to the tune of US$160,000. For the year, Laver won a then-record US$292,717 in tournament prize money…..and became the 1st tennis player to surpass US$1 million in career prize money. In 1971 and 1972, Laver finished as the points leader of the WCT tournament series but lost the playoff finals at Dallas to Rosewall in a match that is rated as one of the best of all time…..which and drew a TV audience of over 20 million.
Tennis – 2010 – An AvecDoubleCordage Production Special – “Rocket Rod Laver’s Serve in Slow Motion”
Tennis – Instructional – 2013 – A GreatBase Tennis Production Special – “Rod Laver: 140 Slow Motion Backhand Strokes”
Tennis – 1969 – A US Open Championship Men’s Singles Final Highlights Special – AUS Rod Laver Vs AUS Tony Roche – Featuring Rod Laver’s Backhand
In 1972, Laver cut back his tournament schedule, partly because of back and knee injuries and his tennis camp businesses…..but he still won 5 titles that year…..then in 1973, Laver won 7 titles…..while successfully participating in the semifinals and final of the Davis Cup…..where he won all 6 of his rubbers for Australia. In 1974 Laver won 6 titles from 13 tournaments…..and ended the year as World # 4 based on the ATP point system. At 36, he was the oldest player during the Open Era to have been included in the year-ending top 5.
Tennis – 1973 – Davis Cup Competition Men’s Doubles Highlights – Australia Vs United States – AUS Rod
Laver + John Newcombe Vs USA Eric Van Dille + Stan Smith
Tennis – 1973 – A DeFilm Production Special – Davis Cup Competition – Australia Vs USA Men’s Singles Highlights – AUS John Newcombe Vs USA Tom Gorman & AUS Rod Laver VS USA Stan Smith
Tennis – 1973 – A DeFilm Production Special – Davis Cup Competition – Australia Vs Czechoslovakia Men’s Singles Highlights – AUS John Newcombe Vs CZEC Jiri Hrebec and & AUS Rod Laver VS CZEC Jan Kodes
In 1975, Laver set a record for WCT tournaments by winning 4 titles and 23 consecutive matches but in 1976, he semi-retired from the main tour, playing only a few selected events. He also signed with World Team Tennis, where he became “Rookie of the Year” at the age of 38…..while winning 5 titles overall that season. At the end of the day, despite turning 30 just months after the Open Era began…..the fact remains that Rocket had tremendous success while winning 74 singles titles…..which remains 7th most of the era. Plus, like most players of his day, he regularly played doubles, winning 37 titles. Laver’s career earnings were approximately $1,540,000.
Tennis – 1972 – WCT Dallas Men’s Singles Final Film Special – “WCT 1972 Final: AUS Ken Rosewall Defeats AUS Rod Laver In 5 Sets”
Tennis – 1975 – WCT Dallas Tennis World Championship Final Film Special – “WCT 1975 Final: AUS Rod Laver Defeats SWE Bjorn Borg In 5 Sets”
Laver had a long-running, friendly rivalry with Ken Rosewall between 1963…..when he started out as a pro, and 1976, when both were semi-retired from the main tour. Including tournaments and one-night stands, they played over 130 matches, all of them as professionals, with some results from the barnstorming pro tours lost or badly recorded. Overall a match score of 89–75 in favor of Laver can be documented. Against the older Pancho Gonzales, whom he played 1964 to 1970 on the pro tour, Laver had a lead of 43–22. Laver had another, even longer rivalry with his fellow Queenslander Roy Emerson…..when they met 1st on the senior amateur tour in 1958…..and then dominated the amateur circuit until 1962, before Laver turned pro. When open tennis arrived in 1968, Emerson joined the pro tour……and had many new battles with Laver. Overall the score is 49–18 in favor of Laver, with 7–2 in major Grand Slam tournaments. Laver had also many battles with Lew Hoad in his 1st years on the pro circuit 1963–1966…..albeit he lost the 1st 8 matches in January 1963, Laver later in the year began to turn around their rivalry, and until 1966, he had built a 38–21 lead. Against Arthur Ashe, Laver had a head-to-head lead of 21–3, winning all of the first 18 matches. Ashe’s first win came in 1974, when Laver was 35. Another younger rival in the Open Era was John Newcombe, whom Laver led 16–5 in their head-to-head score.
Tennis – 1969 – French Open Championships Men’s Singles Finals Highlights – AUS Ken Rosewall Vs. AUS Rod Laver
Tennis – 1964 – Men’s Singles Finals at Longwood (US) – Highlilghts of Rod Laver vs Pancho Gonzales on Grass
Tennis – 1961 – U.S. Tennis Championship at Forest Hills Men’s Singles Finals Highlights – AUS Roy Emerson Vs AUS Rod Laver
Tennis – Mini Documentary – 1960 To 1969 – A JB Tennis Production Special – “History of Tennis: The 60’s – Featuring Rod Laver + Margaret Court + Ken Rosewall + Roy Emerson + Billie Jean King”
Laver helped Australia win the Davis Cup 4 consecutive times from 1959 to 1962. In 1973, professionals were permitted to play in the Davis Cup for the 1st time…..and Laver was on a winning team for the 5th time….. claiming two singles and a doubles rubber in the final as Australia beat the United States 5–0. Australia was crowned Davis Cup champions in each of the 5 seasons Laver played in the competition…..when Laver won 16 out of 20 Davis Cup singles matches and all four of his doubles.
Tennis – 1956 To 1979 – A Super Productions 18 Highlights Special – “Rod Laver: A Humble Aussie Tennis Legend”
Albeit that Laver was average height and medium build (1.73 m/5 ft 8″)…..he developed a technically complete serve-and-volley game…..with aggressive groundstrokes to back it up. Commentator Dan Maskell described him as “technically faultless”. His left-handed serve was well disguised and wide swinging…..while his groundstrokes on both flanks were hit with topspin…..as was the attacking topspin lob…..which Laver developed into a weapon. His stroke technique was based on quick shoulder turns…..with true swings and accurate timing…..while hs backhand was often hit on the run…..and was a point-ender that gave him an advantage. Laver was very quick and had a strong left forearm. Rex Bellamy wrote, “The strength of that wrist and forearm gave him blazing power without loss of control, even when he was on the run and at full stretch. The combination of speed and strength, especially wrist strength, enabled him to hit ferocious winners when way out of court.” At the net, he had forcing volleys, often hit as stroke volleys…..all the while when especially on the backhand, he could hit sharp underspin angles as well. He was difficult to lob, because of his springing agility…..and when forced to retreat, he could come up with a vicious counterpunch.
Tennis – 2019 – Australian Open Tennis Championship TV Special – “Rod Laver: Launch Of A Legend – Relive Rocket’s 1969 Journey To Win All 4 Major Opens and Achieve a Grand Slam in the Open Era
As an amateur, Laver was a somewhat flashy player…..and often a late starter…..who had to learn to control his adventurous shot-making…..plus, integrating percentage tennis into his game when he turned professional. In his prime, he could adapt his style to all surfaces and to all conditions…..plus, he had a strong record in 5-set matches…..and often turning things around with subtle changes of tactics. Laver is widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis players in the history of the sport. Laver was ranked the world # 1 amateur in 1961 by Lance Tingay and in 1962 by Tingay and Ned Potter. Laver was the # 1 professional in some rankings in 1964….and in all rankings from 1965 to 1969…..when in some rankings in 1970.
Tennis – 1975 – Las Vegas Challenge Match (Final 3 Sets) – USA Jimmy Conners Vs AUS Rod Laver – Incredible Laver Comeback Victory
Tennis – 1975 – Las Vegas Challenge Match Highlights – USA Jimmy Conners Vs AUS Rod Laver – Incredible Laver Comeback Victory
Jack Kramer, the long-time tennis promoter, ranked Laver only in the “second echelon” of great players, just behind the six best. He writes that although Laver was “absolutely unbeatable for a year or two late in the 1960s”, a “careful comparison” could be made between Laver and the somewhat older Gonzales…..and that Kramer is “positive that Gonzales could have beaten Laver regularly.” Kramer’s main argument for downgrading Laver is that, “Ken Rosewall beat Laver in those two World Championship of Tennis finals and that was a title Laver really wanted.” Kramer sees as evidence of Gonzales’ superiority over Laver the fact that Gonzales defeated Laver in a 5-set match before 15,000 spectators in New York City’s Madison Square Garden in January 1970…..when Gonzales was 41 years old and Laver was still considered the World # 1 player…..whereas, on the other hand, Gonzales was still a top ten player when this match took place…..and Laver subsequently won this event, beating Gonzales in a straight-sets semifinal. Overall, his head-to-head-record with Gonzales was either 35–19 or 38–21 in favor of Laver, depending on the source. Laver was 12–5 against Gonzales during the Open Era…..albeit Gonzales was then in his late thirties.
Tennis 1956 To 1979 – A Laver Cup Special – “Rod Laver UnRivaled: The Career of Tennis’ Greatest Legend”
In 1975, Don Budge ranked his top five players of all time and rated Laver # 5 behind Vines, Kramer, Perry and Tilden. In 1978, Ellsworth Vines ranked his all time top 10 in Tennis Myth and Method and rated Laver #4 behind Budge, Kramer and Gonzales. In the early years of the 21st century, Sidney Wood compiled his list of the Greatest Players of All Time…..which was later published posthumously in a memoir “The Wimbledon final that never was and other tennis tales from a bygone era”……when Wood 1st entered Wimbledon in 1927 and won the title in 1931. “From that time on, through to the late 1970s (doubles only towards the end), I was privileged to compete against virtually every top player in the world” said Wood…..as Wood would later rank Laver # 5 behind Budge, Kramer, Tilden and Gonzales. In 2014, Frank Sedgman ranked Laver # 3 behind Jack Kramer and Roger Federer, in his greatest male tennis players of all time list in his autobiography ‘Game, Sedge and Match’.
Tennis – 1976 – WTC Hilton Head Men’s Singles Finals Highlights – Rod Laver Vs Bjorn Borg
Many experts disagree with Kramer’s assessment of Laver……for example, Dan Maskell, John Barrett, Butch Buchholz, Cliff Drysdale, Joe McCauley, Ted Schroeder and Tony Trabert all rank Laver as the best of all time. Schroeder has been quoted by Alan Trengove as saying, “You take all the criteria – longevity, playing on grass and clay, amateur, professional, his behaviour, his appearance – in all criteria, Laver’s the best player of all time.” Trabert said in January 2008, “I still maintain that Rod Laver is the best player who ever played the game because he’s done something no one has ever done in the 120 or 140-year history of our sport: he won the Grand Slam as an amateur and he won the Grand Slam as a pro. If someone in some other sport held a world record no one else had, you would say that person was the best in that sport. So in my view, you’ve got to say Laver is the best player of all time.” Similarly, the tennis author Peter Bodo wrote in May 2008, “Give him credit? Shoot, the only real issue is whether the GOAT [Greatest of All Time] argument is a debate at all, given that posting those two Slams puts Laver in a league of his own.” Other experts cite the fact that during his amateur, touring professional and Open Era careers, Laver won a record 184 singles titles…..plus, he also holds the record for most titles won in a single year during the amateur era (22 in 1962)…..also during the touring pro era (19 in 1967)…..and during the Open Era (18 in 1969). After turning professional in 1963, Laver won the U.S. Pro Tennis Championships 5 times and the Wembley Pro Championship 4 times from 1964 to 1967. In 1967, Laver won a “Professional Grand Slam” by winning all four of the major professional tournaments…..the US Pro Championships…..the French Pro Championship …..the Wembley Pro Championships…..and the Wimbledon Pro.
Tennis – 1977 – World Invitational Tennis Classic Men’s Singles Finals Highlights – AUS Rod Laver Vs. SWE Bjorn Borg
Tennis – 1977 – World Invitational Tennis Classic Men’s Singles Semi-Finals Highlights – AUS Rod Laver Vs. AUS John Newcome – As Laver Owns Newcombe for 15 Minutes
In 1983, Fred Perry ranked the greatest male players of all time…..and put them in to two categories, before World War 2 and after…..as Perry ranked Laver # 1 in the post-World War 2 list. Laver came out on top in various experts polls for the best of all time. In 1986…..when the US magazine Inside Tennis polled 37 experts…..which resulted in a computerized tournament…..as Laver ranked 1st on this list ahead of John McEnroe, Don Budge, Kramer, Björn Borg, Gonzales, Tilden, Jimmy Connors, Fred Perry, and Lew Hoad. In a poll by the Associated Press in 2000, Laver was voted “The Male Tennis Player of the Century”, ahead of Pete Sampras, Tilden, Borg, Budge, McEnroe and Hoad (tied), Rosewall and Roy Emerson (tied), and Kramer. In an article in Tennis Week in 2007, the tennis historian Raymond Lee statistically analyzed the all-time best players…..when Laver topped his list ahead of Tilden and Borg (tied), Roger Federer, Gonzales, Rosewall, Budge, Ivan Lendl, Connors, Sampras, McEnroe, and Kramer. In 2009 it was written that Rod Laver “is considered by most folks who saw him play and many who’ve heard of his accomplishments, to be as great a tennis player that ever lived—current players included.”. In July 2017, tennis player Roger Federer called Rod Laver the greatest of all-time. In 1989, Bud Collins wrote, “I remain unconvinced that there ever was a better player than Rod Laver”. Thirteen years later, however, as editor of the “Total Tennis, The Ultimate Tennis Encyclopedia”, Collins was more guarded…..when he wrote that Laver would “be known as possibly the greatest player ever”…..but also said that Gonzales was “probably as good as anyone who ever played the game, if not better”…..and called Tilden “perhaps the greatest player of them all”. In an August 2006 article for MSNBC, Collins ranked Laver as one of the 5 top men’s tennis stars of all time, along with Tilden, Gonzales, Borg, and Sampras……and he pointed to Tilden’s “phenomenal .938 winning percentage”, and said “If I had to choose someone to play for my life it would be Pancho Gonzalez”……while praising Borg’s uncanny transition from the French Open to Wimbledon…..and citing Sampras’s “assault on the citadels of the past”…..and called Laver “in my eyes, the greatest player ever”.
Tennis – 1956 To 1979 – A Dunlop Sports Production Special – “Rod Laver: For The Love of the Game”
In 1973, the ATP’s computer rankings were established. Laver attained his highest ranking on that computer of World # 3 in 1974. Laver’s highest year-end ranking by the ATP was World # 4 in 1974. Laver semi-retired from the main professional tennis tour in 1975…..while still being ranked in the top 10. In terms of yearly prize money won, Laver was the leader from 1964 until 1971. The number of tournament singles titles that Laver won during his career varies depending on the source…..as the ATP credits Laver with 72 Open Era titles…..while “Total Tennis: The Ultimate Tennis Encyclopedia” (edited by Bud Collins), give him 47 or 54 titles during the Open Era……while Collins credits him with 184 titles in amateur, professional, and open competition, without listing them in detail.
Tennis – 1956 To 1979 – An ATP Tour Special – “Rod Laver: Uncovered” – ATP World Tour Uncovered Presented by Rio Talks to Rod Laver About His Career and Australian Tennis
Laver’s eleven Grand Slam singles titles currently place him tied with Borg for 6th place on the all-time list. Among his contemporaries, only Emerson won more Grand Slam singles titles during his career (12 to Laver’s 11), though more recently Federer, Nadal, Sampras, and Djokovic have surpassed this number…..plus, Laver also won 8 Major doubles titles. Laver is the only player to have twice won all four Grand Slam singles tournaments during the same calendar year…..while winning the Australian Open…..US Open…..and Wimbledon. Because none of the Majors were played on hardcourts in Laver’s era, he never won a Grand Slam tournament on that surface. The tennis landscape today is different…..as half of the year’s Majors are played on hardcourts. Only 6 players have won Major titles on clay, grass and hardcourts…..including Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic…..with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic being the only players in history to have simultaneously held Grand Slam tournament titles on the 3 surfaces.
Tennis – 1969 – US Open Special – “50 Moments That Mattered: Rod Laver Wins His Second Grand Slam in 1969”
Previous observations change substantially if we also consider professional grand slam majors…..which were played on two different surfaces in the 1963-67 period (grass and wood/parquet)…..and whereby Laver, like Rosewall, excelled. Furthermore, the ATP Performance Zone website lists his (partial) career win/loss percentage on hardcourt as .813…..on carpet as .766…..on grass as .827……and on clay as .764.
Tennis – 2018 – A Raz Ols Production Special – “Rod Laver: Top 10 Best Points Ever”
Laver was unable to compete in the Grand Slam tournaments during his professional career between 1963 and 1968…..and it is argued he would likely have won more titles had he been able to do so. Sports columnist Malcolm Knox of the Sydney Morning Herald assesses the effect of Laver’s ban on competing in Grand Slams….. when he states “..if grand slams are taken as the benchmark, consider this. Laver won 11 of the 16 grand slam titles he contested in his prime. The pro tour put him out of 20 grand slams from age 23 to 28”. Based on this he puts Laver and Rosewall in “a class of two”.
Tennis – 2020 – US Open Tennis Championships Special – “An Interview With Rod Laver”
In 2000, the center court at Melbourne Park…..which today hosts the Australian Open, was named the Rod Laver Arena in his honor. In 2016, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia. The hall at the Rockhampton Tennis Association’s Victoria Park precinct in Wandal, where Laver competed until the age of 14, was named the Rod Laver Hall upon its completion in December 1963 in recognition of his Grand Slam win the previous year.
Tennis – 2018 – An Australian Open Special – “Rod Laver Enters Rod Laver Arena for the 2018 Australian Open Match”
Tennis – 2013 – Australian Open TV Special – “A Legendary Warm-Up: Roger Federer & Rod Laver At The Australian Open in Rod Laver Arena”
In 1969, Laver was awarded the ABC Sportsman of the Year Award and the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1981. He was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985…..and then upgraded to a Legend of Australian Sport in 2002. He is also an Australian Living Treasure. In 1998, Laver received the Philippe Chatrier Award (the ITF’s highest accolade) for his contributions to tennis…..and in 2000, Centre Court at the National Tennis Centre in Melbourne was renamed Rod Laver Arena. Laver was named as a Queensland Great in June 2005. In 2009, he was inducted into the Queensland Sport Hall of Fame. Also in 2009, as part of the Q150 celebrations, Laver was named one of the Q150 Icons of Queensland.
Tennis – Mini Documentary – 2018 – A Laver Cup Production Special – “The Legacy of Rod Laver” – With Bud Collins
Bronze busts of Laver and Margaret Court by sculptor Barbara McLean were unveiled at Melbourne Park in 1993 upon their induction into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame. Another bronze bust of Laver, also by McLean, was installed on the banks of the Fitzroy River in Rockhampton’s city center…..which was unveiled by Laver and Rockhampton City Council deputy mayor Dell Bunt on 7 December 2002. There was some concern raised by the local community when the bust was removed in 2016 during the riverbank redevelopment. However, the bust was re-installed upon the completion of the redevelopment which was officially opened in 2018, with the recreational precinct on the low bank being named Rod Laver Plaza. A bronze statue of Laver by sculptor Lis Johnson was unveiled at Melbourne Park prior to the 2017 Australian Open.
Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
1970 Queen’s Birthday Honors – “For service to Tennis”
Australian Sports Medal
30 August 2000 – “Possibly the greatest player ever. The only player to capture two “Grand Slams””
Companion of the Order of Australia (AC)
2016 Australia Day Honors – “For eminent service to tennis as a player, representative and mentor, at the national and international level, and as a role model for young sportsmen and women”
On 27 July 1998, Laver suffered a stroke while being interviewed by ESPN-TV in the United States for their SportsCentury 20th Century sports retrospective series…..when he was hospitalized for a month…..and suffered from memory plus speech difficulties after the stroke…..but recovered over the course of the following year. In 1966, Laver married Mary Benson in San Rafael, California…..who was a divorcee with three children. Together, they had a son named Rick. The family lived at various locations in California including Rancho Mirage, Corona del Mar, a ranch near Santa Barbara and Carlsbad. Mary Laver died in November 2012 at the age of 84 at their home in Carlsbad. Laver resides in Carlsbad, California, and attended San Diego Chargers games on occasion. On October 1, 2017, he was inducted into the Southern California Tennis Hall of Fame.
Tennis – 2019- An Australian Open Special – “Rod Laver’s Lap of Honor – As Rocket Attends All 4 Grand Slam Tournaments To Receive Replica Trophies of Each”
In wrapping up this post about the life and times of the Rockhampton Rocket, Rod Laver…..as the Australian tennis legend sits astride the amateur, professional and Open Era…..while winning his 1st title in March 1957 and his last 18-years later. In the pre-computer ranking era, Rod Laver was widely recognized as THE pre-eminent male player of the decade of the 1960’s. But his importance in tennis stretches far beyond his own achievements…..for Rod Laver was the epitome of the modern player turned entrepreneur…..who was also a sportsman that knew the importance of playing hard but fair. One day, when he is no longer with us, and whenever his records are broken, Laver’s legacy…..which is one of innovation, ambition and hunger for success, will live on for generations to come. Some years ago a well respected tennis commentator was asked to name his best player…..and his reply was if playing for the world ,Pancho…..if playing for the Universe, Hoad (which is not far wrong, because anybody who could beat Laver 13 straight times is very,very special indeed). It is quite easy to imagine with 6 extra years of Open competition at his peak, Lavers Open record would be unreachable. With all the debate over who is the greatest, so many overlook Laver simply because of their ignorance over his dominance on the pro tour during his “wilderness years” between calendar Grand Slams. His win/loss stats suggest that he likely would have won about 20 Slams had the authorities allowed it. Rod Laver is held in the same esteem as Don Bradman in Australia…..and is quite possibly the country’s most admired athlete of all time…..as the epitome of sportsmanship and a gentleman…..evidenced by him being seen at the slams every year…..when Federer, Nadal and Djoker would all be chasing his 20 plus grand slam titles if he had been allowed to play grand slams between 63 and 67. The magic one-grip play of Rocket allowed this wonderful history making champion effortlessly move and flick the ball around from both wings…..while having a beautiful volley game……perfect, beautiful and classic tennis. In my opinion, it is important for today’s and tomorrow’s tennis fans to know that with wooden rackets like Rocket played with his whole career, that the sweet spot was the size of a US quarter…..plus, to hit a ball with top spin was really, REALLY difficult…..cuz the fact remains that Rod Laver was a surgical genius with a Dunlop tennis racquet in his hands….when he reached the Wimbledon men’s singles final in 1959…..and lost to Olmedo…..albeit he was still competitive in his last Grand Slam finals in 1976…..a mere 17 years after his first GS final! This story of Rod Laver’s career takes me way back to a very different time…..when there may have been a lot of things wrong with the world…..but tennis wasn’t one of them….. and being a serious tennis fan meant that I was watching Rocket play the likes of The Great Aussies (Newcombe, Rosewall, Emerson, Stolle, et al) and The Brash Americans (Gonzales, Connors, McEnroe, Aggasi et al) was truly a blessing….cuz watching Rod Laver and his opponents made me love tennis….. and I still watch it today…. just not quite as much…..cuz back then was The Golden Age of Tennis and today just isn’t. Thank you Rod Laver!!!
Tennis – 2019 – Australian Open Championship Special -Channel 9 Wide World of Sports Live Interview – With Guest Rod Laver – Reminiscing with tennis legend Rod Laver