Tennis Legacies: Rod Laver

Laver Cup

STARNBERG, June 6, 2022 (Guest Post)

We currently live in one of the most exciting eras of tennis – but before Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic there were the greats like Roy Emerson and Rod Laver. 

Nadal is on the verge of cementing his record as one of the greatest of all time – you can find the best tennis odds on this and more here. 

Laver is one of the most successful Australian tennis players in history. While the playing styles are very different today, there is more money in the sport, the players train more intensely – Laver still holds many of the sport’s records.

Laver played a large chunk of his career before the beginning of the Open Era. Before the Open Era, only amateur players were allowed to play in the big tournaments. So, many of Laver’s victories came before he went professional. 

Much of Laver’s career overlapped with Margaret Court, who is the other legendary figure of Australian tennis. 

Today, we are going to look at the life and career of this amazing player. 

Total Majors Wins 

Laver holds the record for most career title wins with 198 wins. 

He is the only player ever two do 2 Grand Slams (all four major tournaments one in a single year). He did this in 1962 and 1969. 

Australian Open – 

Singles – 1960, 1962, 1969

Doubles – 1959, 1960, 1961, 1969

French Open – 

Singles – 1962, 1969 

Doubles – 1961 

Mixed Doubles – 1961 

Wimbledon – 

Singles – 1961, 1962, 1968, 1969

Doubles – 1971 

Mixed Doubles – 1959, 1960 

US Open – 

Singles – 1962, 1969 

Davis Cup – 

1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1973 

Early Life And Amateur Career (1957-1962)

Rod Laver was born in Rockhampton, Queensland on 9 August 1938. His parents were farmers. 

After his tennis career took off, Laver moved to California. It was here that he met his wife, Mary who he married at the age of 27. Mary had three children from another marriage, this caused quite a scandal but Laver still insisted on marrying her. Their wedding was attended by many famous tennis players of the time. The couple was together until Mary passed away in 2012. 

Laver left school early to pursue his tennis career. In 1957, he won the Junior US Open and Junior Wimbledon. 

In 1959, he made it to all three finals at Wimbledon (Singles, Doubles, and Mixed Doubles), he won the Mixed Doubles tournament that year. He was unseeded in every category. His semi-final in the Singles lasted 87 games. He ended up losing the final to Alex Olmedo. 

In 1960, Laver won his first major tournament at the Australian Open. The next year, we won Wimbledon for the first time – he won in straight sets and the game lasted 53 minutes. 

The next year, Laver won all four major tournaments in the year, as well as winning 18 other titles around the world. Notably, he won the Wimbledon final in 52 minutes (this is still the shortest Wimbledon final of all time). 

That year, the Australian Davis Cup team won the title for the fourth year in a row. After that they would have to wait another 11 years for the next win – Laver was there to help them do it. 

Pro-Era (Pre Open Era) 1963-1968 

After turning Pro in 1963, Laver was banned from playing in the opens for 5 years until the Open Era began. 

However, he joined the Pro circuit and continued to enjoy success. 

He won the Pro U.S Tennis Competition 5 times, 4 of these times were consecutive between 1966 and 1970. 

It was during this period of his career that Laver’s rivalry with Ken Roswell was established. The pair often played each other in finals – their relationship was very similar to the early Federer-Nadal relationship. 

In his final two years before the Open Era, Laver won 16 (1967) and 18 (1968) tournaments. In 1968, he won the four most important titles in Pro tennis (the Wembly Pro, the US Pro, the French Pro, and the first Wimbledon Pro). 

Pro-Era (Open Era) 1969-1976

In1968, the Open Era began. Professional players were allowed to take part in the major tournaments again. This change was the beginning of tennis becoming a fully professional sport. 

In 1969, Laver shocked the world by winning a Grand Slam for the second time. He is the only player to have won it twice, he is one of only two players to win a Grand Slam, and he is the only player to do it since the start of the Open Era. 

The other Grand Slam player was Don Budge. Budge was an American player and achieved this in 1938. 

That year, Laver entered 32 Singles tournaments and won 18 of them – this is an Open Era record still.  

Between 1970 and 1972, Laver took a step back from the major tournaments, but still took part in many matches on the circuit and remained the world number 1. 

In 1970, Laver won all 5 of the Rich Tennis Tournament events – Sydney Dunlop Open, Philadelphia, Wembley, Los Angeles, and South African Open – this competition laid the groundwork for what would eventually become the ATP masters tournament. 

In his 8 years playing in the Open Era, Laver won 73 Singles titles and 34 Doubles titles. Despite turning 30 before the Open Era began. 

He retired from tennis in 1976.