Born in: Rockhampton, Australia
Career: Professional Tennis Player
Rod Laver is a former tennis player from Australia. He was the World No.1 tennis player for seven consecutive years. He is also the only tennis player who has won Grand Slam singles title twice; first as an amateur in 1962 and then as a professional in 1969.
Rodney George Laver was born on August 9, 1938 in Rockhampton, Australia. His father Roy was a cattle rancher while his mother Melba Roffey was a tennis player. He was interested in the game of tennis since his childhood days. His mother was a tennis player herself, which meant that he had begun to play the game when he was very small.
It is very interesting to note that every home the family lived in had a tennis court on the premises. Laver was a young boy when he left school to pursue tennis. Subsequently, he started training under Charlie Hollis in Queensland and later under the Australian Davis Cup team captain Harry Hopman. He was the one who gave Laver the nickname 'Rocket'.
As an amateur player, Laver was somewhat flashy. But inspite of being of a slightly short stature, he developed a very good serve and volley style. His serves were very aggressive as was his stroke-play. He had a very good technique; his stroke play was based on some quick shoulder turns, huge swings and some exquisite timing. This combination of speed and strength earned him the nickname 'Rocket'.
After leaving school, he started his training under Charlie Hollis in Queensland and later under the Davis Cup team captain Harry Hopman. Laver won the U.S junior championship in the year 1956 and the Australian junior championship in 1957. During the year 1962, Laver became the second male player after Don Budge who won all four Grand Slam singles title in the same year and won an additional 17 titles as well.
After Laver successfully completed the Grand Slam in the year 1962, he turned a professional tennis player. He established himself as one of the leading players. He also went on to win the U.S. Pro Championships five times, including four in a row, starting with the 1966 tournament. During the early part of 1963, Laver was beaten by Roswell and Hoad. While Hoad won 8 matches against Laver, Rosewall won 11 out of the 13 he played against Laver. But, by the end of the year, Laver succeeded in climbing to the No.2 professional position; just behind Rosewall.
During 1964, Laver and Rosewall both went on to win seven titles, but Laver defeated Rosewall 12 times out of the 15 times they faced each other. Laver won two important titles in the same year as well, the U.S. Pro Championship and the Wembley Pro Championship. In 1966, he became the World No.1 professional player, winning 15 titles and 13 of the 18 matches he played against Rosewall.
In the next year, Laver went on to win an impressive 15 events, including the U.S Pro Championships, the Wembley Pro Championship and the French Pro Championship. It was in the year 1968 that the open era began. It was the time when professional players were given chance to compete in Grand Slam events. In 1968, Laver became Wimbledon's first open era champion, after he beat American Arthur Ashe in a semifinal match. He won the tournament by beating Tony Roche in the final, in straight sets.
In 1969, Laver won all four Grand Slam tournaments in the same year for the second time in a row. He won 18 out of 32 singles tournaments he entered and compiled a 106-16 win-loss record. He went on to set a record of 31 consecutive match victories at Wimbledon between the years 1961 and 1970. His winning streak lasted till the year 1980 when it was broken by Bjorn Borg. Laver's toughest match was the 90-game semifinal against Roche at the Australian Open in the hot, sultry conditions. His various other opponents at the Australian Open included players like Roy Emerson, Fred Stolle and Andres Gimeno.
In 1970, Laver won 13 titles and US $201,453 in prize money, which included the 'Tennis Championship Classic' and five other events; namely - Sydney Dunlop Open Championship, Philadelphia Championship, Wembley Championship, Los Angeles Championship and the South African Open Championship. He successfully defended his title at the 'Tennis Championship Classic' during 1971, winning 13 consecutive matches against some of toughest opponents. His prize money for the Championship was US $ 160,000.
During 1971 and 1972, Laver finished as the leader in the WCT points table. However, his participation in the tournaments stopped at the beginning of 1972 because of his back and knee injury. He came back in the year 1973 and went on to win seven tournaments and also participated in the final of the Davis Cup. Later, the next year he won six of the thirteen tournaments that he played and ended the year as the World No.4. It was the year 1975 when he set a record for WCT tournaments by winning four titles and 23 matches, consecutively.
The press, especially the Daily Telegraph ranked Laver as the World No.1 in 1961 and 1962 (as an amateur) and in 1963 and 1969 (as a professional). Laver was introduced into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1981. He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1970. In the year 1978, Rod Laver retired from Tennis.
In 1964, Laver met his future wife, Mary, at a fellow tennis giant Jack Kramer's country club in Los Angeles. They later got married in the year 1966.
In July of 1998, Laver was taping an interview for ESPN at a Los Angeles hotel when he suddenly had a major stroke. As a result, he spent 13 days in intensive care unit. He began physical therapy two weeks after the stroke, and had to relearn how to speak, walk, write, and even dress himself. But slowly, he regained use of the right side of his body. Laver left the hospital after seven weeks, and within a couple more weeks he was working lightly at the golf course using a club as his support.
Subsequently, he began to familiarize himself with tennis again, assisted by local professional player Tommy Tucker. During May 1999, Laver's recovery was thorough enough to allow him to present Andre Agassi with the trophy for his victory in the French Open.
Grand Slam Titles
- 1959 - Australian Doubles; Wimbledon Mixed Doubles
- 1960 - Australian Singles; Australian Doubles; Wimbledon Mixed Doubles
- 1961 - Wimbledon Singles; Australian Doubles; French Doubles; French Mixed Doubles
- 1962 - Australian Singles; French Singles; Wimbledon Singles; U.S. Singles
- 1968 - Wimbledon Singles
- 1969 - Australian Open Singles; French Open Singles; Wimbledon Singles; U.S. Open Singles; Australian Open Doubles
- 1971 - Wimbledon Doubles