Articles, Blog

Ken Rosewall

November 4, 2019


Kenneth Robert Rosewall AM, MBE is a former
world top-ranking amateur and professional tennis player from Australia. He won a record
25 tennis Majors including 8 Grand Slam singles titles and before the Open Era a record 15
Pro Slam titles and a record 35 Major finals overall. He won the Pro Grand Slam in 1963.
Rosewall won 9 slams in doubles with a career double grand slam. He is considered to be
one of the top male tennis players of all time. He had a renowned backhand and enjoyed
a long career at the highest levels from the early 1950s to the early 1970s. He was one
of the two best male players for about nine years and was the World No. 1 player for a
number of years in the early 1960s. He was ranked among the top 20 players, amateur or
professional, every year from 1952 through 1977. Rosewall is the only player to have
simultaneously held Pro Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces. At the 1971 Australian
Open he became the first male player during the open era to win a Grand Slam tournament
without dropping a set. Rosewall was born in Sydney into a family
that played tennis and owned tennis courts. A natural left-hander, he was taught by his
father to play right-handed. Perhaps as a result of this unorthodox training, he developed
a powerful and effective backhand but never had anything more than an accurate but relatively
soft serve. He was 1.70 m tall and weighed 67 kg and was ironically nicknamed “Muscles”
by his fellow-players because of his lack of them. He was, however, fast, agile, and
tireless, with a deadly volley. His sliced backhand was his strongest shot, and, along
with the very different backhand of former player Don Budge, has generally been considered
one of the best, if not the best, backhands yet seen.
The father of Brett and Glenn Rosewall, and grandfather of five, Rosewall now lives in
northern Sydney. Career
Amateur career: 1950 through 1956 At the age of 15 and still a junior player,
Rosewall reached the semifinals of the 1950 New South Wales Metropolitan Championships,
where he was defeated by the world-class adult player Ken McGregor. The following year, he
won his first men’s tournament in Manly. In 1952, still only 17, Rosewall reached the
quarterfinals of the U.S. Championships, upsetting the top-seeded Vic Seixas in the fourth round
3–6, 6–2, 7–5, 5–7, 6–3 before losing to Gardnar Mulloy in five sets. In his end-of-year
rankings, the British tennis expert Lance Tingay ranked Rosewall and Lew Hoad, his equally
youthful doubles partner, jointly as the tenth best amateur players in the world.
Rosewall was only 18 years old when he won the singles titles at the Australian Championships,
the French Championships, and the Pacific Southwest Championships in 1953. He was the
top seed at Wimbledon but lost a quarterfinal match to Kurt Nielsen. Rosewall then reached
the semifinals at the U.S. Championships, where he was defeated by Tony Trabert 7–5,
6–3, 6–3. Rosewall lost again to Trabert in the Challenge Round of the Davis Cup in
Melbourne, Australia 6–3, 6–4, 6–4. Rosewall, however, won the fifth and deciding
rubber of that tie, defeating Seixas 6–2, 2–6, 6–3, 6–4. At the end of the year,
Tingay placed Trabert first and Rosewall second in his annual amateur rankings.
In 1954, Rosewall defeated Trabert in a five-set semifinal at Wimbledon but lost the final
to Jaroslav Drobný 13–11, 4–6, 6–2, 9–7.
Rosewall won the singles title at the Australian Championships for the second time in 1955,
defeating Hoad in the final 9–7, 6–4, 6–4. At the U.S. Championships, Trabert
defeated Rosewall in the final 9–7, 6–3, 6–3.
In 1956, Rosewall and Hoad captured all the Grand Slam men’s doubles titles except at
the French Championships, from which Rosewall was absent. For several years in their youthful
careers, Rosewall and Hoad were known as “The Gold-dust Twins.” In singles, Rosewall lost
to Hoad in the final of two Grand Slam tournaments. At the Australian Championships, Hoad defeated
Rosewall 6–4, 3–6, 6–4, 7–5 and at Wimbledon, Hoad won 6–2, 4–6, 7–5, 6–4.
Rosewall, however, prevented Hoad from winning the Grand Slam when Rosewall won their final
at the U.S. Championships 4–6, 6–2, 6–3, 6–3.
During his amateur career, Rosewall helped Australia win three Davis Cup Challenge Rounds.
Rosewall won 15 of the 17 Davis Cup singles rubbers he played those years, including the
last 14 in a row. Professional career: 1957 through March 1968 Promoter and former tennis great Jack Kramer
tried unsuccessfully to sign the “Whiz Kids” to professional contracts in late 1955. But
one year later, Rosewall accepted Kramer’s offer. Rosewall, during the Challenge Round
of the Davis Cup, tried to convince his partner Hoad to do the same, but he rejected the proposition.
1957 Rosewall played his first professional match
on 14 January 1957, at Kooyong Stadium in Melbourne against the reigning king of professional
tennis, Pancho Gonzales. Rosewall explained later that there was a huge gap between the
amateur level and the professional level. In their series of head-to-head matches in
Australia and the U.S., Gonzales won 50 matches to Rosewall’s 26. During this period, Rosewall
also entered two tournaments, the Australian Pro at Sydney in February and the U.S. Pro
at Cleveland, Ohio in April. He was respectively defeated in straight-sets by Frank Sedgman
and Pancho Segura. In September, Rosewall won the Wembley title,
beating Segura in the final. This was a significant victory for Rosewall because, of the top professional
players, only Sedgman and Tony Trabert did not play. At the end of the year, Rosewall
won an Australian tour featuring Lew Hoad, Sedgman, and Segura.
Rosewall’s record in early 1957 confirmed the difference of level between the best professionals
and the best amateurs at the time. After World War II, many of the best amateurs failed in
the professional ranks. Other talented and hard-working players succeeded, after a few
months or a year, to win important professional events, including Jack Kramer, Segura, Gonzales,
Sedgman, Trabert, Hoad, Andrés Gimeno, Rod Laver, and Rosewall.
1958 In 1958, Rosewall had the opportunity to show
that he was still one of the best players on clay. The previous year, no French Professional
Championships had been held. This tournament returned in 1958, and Rosewall beat Jack Kramer,
Frank Sedgman, and an injured Lew Hoad in successive matches to claim the title.
Rosewall was the runner-up at the Forest Hills Pro and tied for second in the Masters Round
Robin Pro in Los Angeles. Those tournaments were among the most important of the year.
1959 For the first time since he turned professional,
Rosewall had a favourable 6–4 win-loss record against Pancho Gonzales for the year. Rosewall
won both editions of the Queensland Pro Championships in Brisbane, defeating Tony Trabert in the
January final 6–2, 4–6, 3–6, 7–5, 6–1 and Gonzales in the December final 1–6,
7–5, 8–6, 8–6. 1960 The following year Rosewall was incorporated
in a new World Pro tour, from January to May, featuring Gonzales, Segura and new recruit
Alejandro “Alex” Olmedo. This tour was perhaps the peak of Gonzales’s entire career. The
finals standings were: 1) Gonzales 49 matches won – 8 lost, 2) Rosewall 32–25, 3) Segura
22–28, 4) Olmedo 11–44. Rosewall was therefore far behind Gonzales on this tour, the American
having won almost all their direct confrontations. Halfway through the North American part of
the tour the standings were Gonzales 23–1 and Rosewall 11–13.
Just after Gonzales played and won a minor tournament on 16 May 1960 he decided to retire.
In the absence of Gonzales, Rosewall clearly became the leader, winning six tournaments
including the two greatest tournaments of the year, the French Pro at Roland Garros
and Wembley Pro. Hoad was finalist in Paris and also won four tournaments making him second
to Rosewall. Measured to current standards Gonzales would
not have been ranked number one because he had only played four and a half months in
1960: he wouldn’t have accumulated enough “Race points” to be the first but in 50’s
or 60’s standards he was, for many the number one. At the time Hoad considered Gonzales
the best and Rosewall didn’t consider himself as the pro king but others thought that Rosewall’s
successes in the biggest tournaments made him the number one in the world. Robert Geist,
in DER GRÖSSTE MEISTER: Die denkwürdige Karriere des australischen Tennisspielers
Kenneth Robert Rosewall compromises by ranking them equal.
1961 After ten years of World touring, Rosewall
decided to take several long holidays in order to spend time with his family and he didn’t
enter any competition in the first half of 1961. He trained his long-time friend Hoad
when the pros toured in Australia where Gonzales, back to the courts after a seven and a half-month
retirement, won another World tour featuring Hoad, Olmedo, Gimeno and the two new recruits
MacKay and Buchholz. In the summer Rosewall returned to the circuit and won the two biggest
events tradition): the French Pro at Roland Garros and Wembley Pro. At Roland Garros the
Australian captured the title by beating Gonzales in the final, 2–6, 6–4, 6–3, 8–6,
and at Wembley he defeated Hoad in the final, Gonzales’s winner in the semifinals.
After having won on clay and on wood Rosewall ended the season by winning on grass at the
New South Wales Championships, Sydney, cementing his status as the best all-court player that
year. Robert Roy of L’Équipe, Kléber Haedens and
Philippe Chatrier of Tennis de France, Michel Sutter, Christian Boussus, Peter Rowley, Robert
Geist, Tony Trabert, John Newcombe, Rod Laver and also the New York Times and World Tennis
magazine considered Rosewall as the new no. 1 in the world
1962 In 1962 Rosewall completely dominated the
pro circuit; not only did he retain his Wembley and Roland Garros crowns, still the two biggest
events by far in 1962, but he also won five of the next six biggest tournaments. He thus
captured seven of the eight biggest events that year, the only one he lost was Zurich
where he was defeated in the semifinals by Segura who in his turn left the title to Hoad.
Rosewall also won two small tournaments in New Zealand and one more, the Australian TV
Series. It seems that Rosewall lost only 8 matches
in 1962 : Hoad twice, Gimeno, Ayala, Buchholz, Segura, Anderson and Robert Haillet.
1963 In an Australasian tour played on grass Rosewall
defeated Laver 11 matches to 2. A US tour followed with Rosewall and Laver, Gimeno,
Ayala and two Americans: Butch Buchholz and Barry MacKay. In the first phase of this tour,
lasting two and a half months, each player faced each other about eight times. Rosewall
ended first, Buchholz, Gimeno, MacKay and Ayala). In this round-robin phase Rosewall
beat Laver in the first 5 meetings, ensuring thus a 13-match winning streak and Laver won
the last 3. Then a second and final phase of the tour opposed the first and the second
of the first phase to determine the final winner met the fourth). In 18 matches Rosewall
beat Laver 14 times to conquer the US tour first place. In mid-May the tournament season
started. In those occasions Rosewall only beat Laver 4–3 and won 5 tournaments, but
in particular he won the 3 greatest tournaments of the year 1963: chronologically the U.S.
Pro at Forest Hills on grass where he defeated Laver 6–4 6–2 6–2, the French Pro at
Coubertin on wood where his victim in the final was again Laver who later praised his
conqueror: “I played the finest tennis I believe I’ve ever produced, and he beat me”, The Wembley
Pro on wood. In those tournaments Rosewall won 3 times while Laver reached 2 finals and
1 quarterfinal, “Rocket” becoming thus the second player in the world. Rosewall then
beat Laver 34 matches to 12. The fact that Rosewall also won the major events clearly
indicates that he was the number one in 1963 but also that the best pros were almost certainly
the best players in the world during the previous years.
1964 In 1964 Rosewall won one main tournament:
the French Pro over Laver on wood. At the end of the South African tour, Rosewall also
beat Laver 6–4 6–1 6–4 in a Challenge Match considered by some as a World Championship
match, held in Ellis Park, Johannesburg. In the official pro points rankings taking into
account 19 pro tournaments, Rosewall ended #1 in 1964 with 78 points beating #2 Laver
and #3 Gonzales. Nevertheless that ranking a) brushed aside at least 10 tournaments because
McCauley has traced at least 29 pro tournaments played by the touring pros and several short
tours and b) granted each tournament the same points and then was unfair to the big events
where Laver was globally superior to Rosewall. The majority of tennis witnesses agreed this
points rankings for they considered Rosewall the number one in 1964. Rod Laver himself
after his triumph over Rosewall at Wembley 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. I
may have beaten him more often than he has beaten me this year but he has won the biggest
tournaments except here. I’ve lost to other people but Ken hasn’t.”.
Laver has made a great season and could too claim the top rank. “Rocket” has captured
two very great tournaments, a) the U.S. Pro over Rosewall and Gonzales and b) Wembley
pro over Rosewall in one of their best match ever. Laver was equal to Rosewall in big direct
confrontations, 2 all. Rosewall has the edge over Laver if we consider
their clashes against their greatest rival, Gonzales : that year Rosewall has beaten
Gonzales 11 times out of 14 while Laver was beaten by Gonzales 8 times out of 13. But
Laver won one more tournament than Rosewall and above all Rocket was clearly superior
to Rosewall in minor direct confrontations, defeating Rosewall 13 times out of 15 making
thus a 1964 Laver-Rosewall win-loss record of 15–4. So the pros leadership began to
change. 1965
Next year until mid-September Rosewall and Laver were quite equal, the latter winning
more tournaments including the US Pro Indoors at New York City and the Masters Pro at Los
Angeles but Rosewall struck two great blows during the summer of 1965 by winning very
easily the U.S. Pro on the Longwood C.C grass courts crushing Gonzales, 6–3 6–2 6–4,
and Laver, 6–4 6–3 6–3, in the last rounds and again Laver, 6–3 6–2 6–4,
in the French Pro on the fast wooden courts at Coubertin. But from Wembley to the end
of the year, Laver became irresistible and Rosewall had to recognise Laver’s supremacy.
1966 1966 was the year of the greatest rivalry
between the two Australians who dominated tennis. They shared all the titles and the
finals of the five greatest tournaments. Rosewall won the Madison Square Garden and his cherished
French Pro tournaments over Laver, the latter capturing Forest Hills Pro, the U.S. Pro and
Wembley Pro with Rosewall finalist each time. Of the main tournaments contested by the troupe,
Laver won 9, Rosewall 8 and Gimeno 3. If we include lesser tournaments Laver won 15, Rosewall
9 and Gimeno 6. In head-to-head matches between Rosewall and Laver, both player won 7 each.
Rosewall was then the clear undisputed vice-king of the courts.
1967 Rosewall’s true decline began in 1967 when
many players defeated several times Sydney’s Little Master. Not only did Laver—almost
invincible on fast courts and at that time the undisputed professional tennis king—reach
the apogee of his career, but Gimeno threatened Rosewall’s second place. The 20 main tournaments
of the year where shared by a) Laver, ten titles including the 5 biggest ones, all played
on fast courts, Newport R.R., Johannesburg Ellis Park, Coubertin Pro in April, b) Rosewall,
six titles, c) Gimeno, three titles and d) Stolle, one tournament. Including lesser tournaments
Laver’s supremacy was even more obvious: 1) Laver 18 tournaments plus two small tours,
2) Rosewall 7 tournaments, 3) Stolle 4 tournaments and 4) Gimeno 3 tournaments. In head-to-head
matches Rosewall trailed Laver 5–8 and was equal to Gimeno 7–7.
Before 1967 Gimeno always trailed Rosewall in direct confrontations but that year they
split their matches. Rosewall defeated Gimeno in Los Angeles, Madison Square Garden, St
Louis, Newport, Johannesburg, Durban and Wembley whereas Gimeno won in Cincinnati, U.S. Pro,
East London, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, Marseille, French Pro. Having won more tournaments
than Gimeno, Rosewall deserved nevertheless the second place behind Laver, the latter
being for the first year the #1 by far after the 1964–1966 close rivalry between the
two Australians. Forbidden to contest the greatest traditional
events, Davis Cup and Grand Slams, during nearly eleven and a half years from 1957 to
30 March 1968, Rosewall reached his best level during this period, in particular from 1960
to 1966, by winning at least 62 tournaments and 7 small tours.
Open-closed career: April 1968 through July 1972
1968 In 1968 there were many different sorts of
players: amateur players, dependent on their national
and international federations, allowed to play the amateur events and also the open
events but couldn’t receive official prize money
registered players, also dependent on their national and international federations, eligible
to play the Davis Cup and forbidden to play pro events as an amateur, but authorised to
take prize money in the open events contrary to an amateur
professionals under contract with NTL who had to first play NTL tournaments
professionals under contract with WCT who had first to play WCT tournaments. At the
beginning of the open era Dave Dixon, WCT boss, didn’t allow his players to enter tournaments
where NTL players were present: there was no WCT player at the two first open tournaments,
Bournemouth and Roland Garros 1968, while all the NTL players were present. The first
tournament where NTL and WCT players competed against each other, was the U.S. Pro, held
at Longwood in June 1968 freelance professionals. In 1968 there were a) an amateur circuit including
the Davis Cup and the Australian Championships, b) two pro circuits: the “World Championship
of Tennis” circuit and the “National Tennis League” circuit which met on four tournaments,
and c) an open circuit. Many events were still reserved to the amateur
players between 1968 and 1972. Two tournaments were at the top in 1968: Wimbledon,
and the US Open, played on grass, where all the best competed. The third position can
be claimed by the Roland Garros Open, being the First Grand Slam tournament, but with
a lesser field, missing several of the best clay court players.
Next probably came the first Pacific Southwest Open in Los Angeles with all the best players
present. Other notable tournaments that year were the
Queen’s Club tournament and the greatest pro tournaments where all the NTL and WCT pros
could compete as the U.S. Pro, the French Pro, the Jack Kramer Tournament of Champions
at Wembley in November and perhaps the Madison Square Garden Pro in December with the four
best pros of each organisation. In this context Rosewall played almost all
NTL pro tournaments in 1968, the four “NTL-WCT” tournaments and some open tournaments. He
entered his first “open” tournament at 33 years 5 months and 19 days at Bournemouth
on clay and successively defeated Gimeno and Laver. At Roland Garros, the first Grand Slam
tournament of the Open Era, Rosewall confirmed his status of probably the best claycourt
player in the world by defeating Laver in the final 6–3, 6–3, 6–1. Bad defeats
followed against some of the upcoming 1967 amateur players but his end of the year was
better. He reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open, was finalist to Laver at the Pacific
Southwest Open, defeating the new U.S. Open winner, Arthur Ashe, 6–3 6–2 and in November
captured the Wembley Pro tournament over WCT player, John Newcombe. At age 34 Rosewall
was still ranked No. 3 in the world behind Laver and Ashe according to Lance Tingay and
Bud Collins. 1969
His true decline, having begun in 1967, was confirmed in 1969. Rosewall was no longer
the best claycourt player because Laver had stolen his crown in the final of Roland Garros
and moreover the Rosewall won only three tournaments that year and was ranked No. by Collins and
Tingay. Having won at age 35 almost all the great
events except for Wimbledon, this tournament became Rosewall’s priority in the seventies.
The obvious reason it had eluded him was that for ten years he had been unable, due to the
rules that had excluded him because of his professional status, to enter the competition
at a time when he was at his best—and particularly between 1961 and 1965 when he was probably
the best grasscourt player in the world. Knowing he could reach the last rounds of
the French tournament and then be too tired to play well at Wimbledon, Rosewall decided
not to play Roland Garros any more in the seventies in order to be in optimal condition
for Wimbledon. 1970
Being an NTL player at the beginning of 1970 he didn’t play the Australian Open held at
the White City Stadium in Sydney in January because NTL boss, George McCall, and his players
thought that the prize money was too low for a Grand Slam tournament. In March, a tournament,
sponsored by Dunlop, was organised at the same site, with a much denser field because
of better prize-money and a better date. The same class players as in the Australian Open
were present and in addition not only the NTL pros participated but even some independent
pros, such as Ilie Năstase, who usually did not make the trip to Australia. Many considered
this tournament as the unofficial Australian Open with Laver dominating Rosewall in five
sets. After a depleted Roland Garros without the WCT players, all the best players met
again at Wimbledon. This time a rested Rosewall reached the final and took the young Newcombe,
his 9 and a half-year-old junior, to 5 sets but ultimately succumbed: 5–7, 6–3, 6–2,
3–6, 6–1. Two months later at the U.S. Open, one of the two 1970 Grand Slams with
all the best players, Rosewall took revenge in their semifinal match in three straight
sets before overcoming Tony Roche in the final: 2–6, 6–4, 7–6, 6–3. To fight against the WCT and NTL promoters,
who controlled their own players and did not allow them to compete where they wanted, Kramer
invented in December 1969, the Grand Prix circuit open to all players. The first Grand
Prix circuit was held in 1970 and comprised 20 tournaments from Bournemouth in April to
Stockholm in December. These tournaments gave points according to their categories and the
players’ performances with the top six ranked players invited to a 6-man tournament called
the Masters. All the amateurs and independent pros fully invested themselves in this circuit
while the contract pros firstly played their circuit and eventually played in some Grand
Prix tournaments. Rosewall and Laver succeeded well in both circuits. The final Grand Prix
ranking was 1) Cliff Richey, 2) Arthur Ashe, 3) Ken Rosewall. Having qualified for the
Masters Rosewall was again third behind winner Stan Smith and his 1970 nemesis Laver.
After his 1967–1969 steady decline, 1970 saw a rejuvenated Rosewall who was just one
set short of winning the Wimbledon and U.S. Open double.
1970 was a year where no player dominated the circuit and different arguments were given
to designate the World Champion. Some, among them Newcombe and the panel of journalists
which made the 1971 WCT draw, considered Laver the best player because he won most tournaments,
made most prize money and had a dominantly positive head-to-head record against both
Rosewall and Newcombe. But Laver failed at Wimbledon and the U.S Open, the two big tournaments,
losing each time in the round of 16. Other tennis pundits, as Joe McCauley in World
Tennis or Lance Tingay in his annual rankings, ranked Newcombe first because he won the most
prestigious tournament, Wimbledon with Rosewall second in both rankings, Laver respectively
third and fourth and Roche respectively fourth and third.
But considering that Wimbledon and the U.S. Open were the two big events of 1970 Newcombe
and Rosewall were the choices for the number one player in the world. If we consider the
fifth set lost by Rosewall against Newcombe at Wimbledon, Newcombe is No. 1, but many
statisticians favor Rosewall in their two Grand Slam tournaments clashes
each player won one match but Newcombe won the most prestigious title, while Rosewall
won more sets. Rosewall ended third in the Grand Prix circuit
and Newcombe seventh and didn’t qualify for the Masters where only the first six were
admitted. Rosewall finished third in the Masters. In the other tournaments with the best fields
both players were even: Rosewall was runner-up at Dunlop and semi-finalist at Wembley and
Newcombe was runner-up at Los Angeles and semi-finalist at Philadelphia.
In the Pro circuit including the First Annual Tennis Champions Classic and the WCT circuit,
Rosewall had a better record than Newcombe. In Tennis Champions Classic, a succession
of challenge matches, Newcombe played and lost his two matches against the veteran Gonzales
and Rosewall while Rosewall ended second, winning four matches and losing two. In the
WCT circuit Rosewall won two tournaments and Newcombe one.
In all the circuits Rosewall won six tournaments and Newcombe four out of 24.
In head-to-head matches Rosewall beat Newcombe five times out of six.
Rosewall earned $140,455 while Newcombe made $78,251.
Judith Elian of the French sports paper L’Équipe, approved these statistics by ranking Rosewall
as the number one player ahead of Newcombe and the panel of experts for the ‘Martini
and Rosso’ Cup also had Rosewall first, narrowly over Laver.
Meanwhile in his book Robert Geist ranked the three Australians equal number ones.
1971 After his runner-up finishes at Sydney and
Wimbledon and his victory at the US Open in 1970, Rosewall continued his good performances
in 1971 in the great grass court tournaments. One year after the first Dunlop Open was held
in Sydney, Rosewall was back in Sydney in March, this time for the Australian Open held
on the White City Courts. For once, this tournament deserved the “Grand Slam tournament” label.
During the 14 first editions of the open tournament, only the 1969 and the 1971 editions had a
strong field with many, but not all, of the best players. Because it was sponsored by
Dunlop in 1971, all the World Championship Tennis players entered and so on) and some
independent pros also played. Nevertheless, Stan Smith, Cliff Richey, Clark Graebner,
and the not-yet-good-on-grass players Ilie Năstase and Jan Kodeš were missing. Rosewall
won the tournament, his second consecutive Grand Slam win, without losing a single set
and defeated Roy Emerson and Okker before beating Ashe in the final 6–1, 7–5, 6–3.
Rosewall and most other WCT players did not play the French Open; yet, Rosewall still
tried to reach his seventies goal by winning Wimbledon. In the quarterfinals, Rosewall
needed about four hours to defeat Richey 6–8, 5–7, 6–4, 9–7, 7–5 whereas Newcombe
quickly defeated Colin Dibley 6–1, 6–2, 6–3. In the semifinals, the older Rosewall
was no match for the fitter Newcombe and lost 6–1, 6–1, 6–3. Later in the summer,
Rosewall and some other WCT players did not play the US Open because of the growing conflict
between the International Lawn Tennis Federation and the WCT. His children’s illnesses was
an additional reason for Rosewall not playing this tournament.
As a contract pro, Rosewall was not allowed to play the Davis Cup and thus concentrated
mainly on the WCT circuit organised similarly to the Grand Prix circuit which was the equivalent
for the independent pros: 20 tournaments, each giving the same points amount. The top
eight players in ranking WCT points were invited to the WCT Finals, an 8-man tournament, equivalent
of the Grand Prix Masters for the WCT players, played in November in Houston and Dallas,
USA. When the WCT players were off they could play tournaments on the other pro circuit,
managed by the ILTF, the Grand Prix circuit rather reserved in 1971 to the “independent
pros”. Some tournaments such as Berkeley, which had a stronger field than the US Open,
were held by both organisations. But the war between “The officials” and WCT climaxed in
a ban by the ILTF beginning on 1 January 1972, of the WCT players from the Grand Prix circuit.
Rosewall ended third on the 1971 WCT circuit behind Laver and Okker and qualified for the
WCT Finals. He won the title, taking his revenge over Newcombe, who had beaten Rosewall at
Wimbledon, in the quarters, defeating Okker in the semis and beating Laver 6–4 1–6
7–6 7–6 in the final in what was considered at the time as the best match, with their
1970 Sydney final, between the two rivals since their 1968 French Open final.
As a WCT player Rosewall played few Grand Prix tournaments but he had earned enough
points to play the Grand Prix Masters held about ten days after his WCT Finals. He refused
the invitation as he was very tired after such a long season and took his holidays at
the end of the year. Newcombe was in an identical situation and acted the same and both players
came back at the same tournament, the 1972 Australian Open.
In 1971 Rosewall won 8 tournaments and 78.4% of his matches and in direct confrontations
trailed Newcombe 1–3, Laver 2–3 but dominated Smith 1–0. He did not play Kodeš that year.
Collins, Elian ranked Rosewall third after Newcombe and/or Smith. Tingay ranked Rosewall
4th, Rino Tommasi 1st, and the Martini-Rossi award was given jointly to Smith and Newcombe.
Geist ranked Rosewall co-No. 1 tied with Newcombe and Smith. That year, as in 1970, there was
no clear undisputed World No. 1. 1972
1972 was a true return to separate circuits because all traditional ILTF events held from
January to July were forbidden to the WCT players. As ever this included the Davis Cup
but also Roland Garros and Wimbledon. The 1972 Australian Open organizers used a trick
to avoid the ILTF’s ban of the WCT players. They held the tournament from 27 December
1971, four days before the ILTF’s ban could be applied, to 3 January 1972. Thus all contract
and, of course, independent pros could have played but few were interested because the
tournament was held during Christmas and New Year’s Day. In moving the dates from March
to December–January they almost killed the tournament which happily strengthened since
1983. A fragile agreement in the spring of 1972 let the WCT players come back to the
traditional circuit in August. The U.S. Open, won by Ilie Năstase, was the greatest event
of the year as only in this tournament were all the best players present with the exception
of Tony Roche who suffered from a tennis elbow for most of the 1971–1973 period. Later
that year two other tournaments had good fields with WCT and independent pros: the Pacific
Southwest Open at Los Angeles and, to a lesser extent, Stockholm both won by Stan Smith.
In many 1972 rankings there were 6 or 7 WCT players in the world top 10) so the WCT Finals
held in May at Dallas were considered as one of the greatest events after the U.S. Open.
In what is considered one of the two best matches played in 1972, the other being the
Wimbledon final, and the best Rosewall-Laver match of the open era Rosewall won his last
major title of his long career: 4–6 6–0 6–3 6–7 7–6..
Because of the ILTF’s ban once again Rosewall could not enter Wimbledon.
True open career: August 1972 through 1980 1972
From August 1972 players could enter almost all the tournaments they wanted and the real
open era began Rosewall won 7 tournaments in 1972, including
the very depleted Australian Open, when he becomes the oldest ever grand slam male single
Champion, and was ranked, by Judith Elian or Tingay or McCauley, #3 behind Smith and
Ilie Năstase. He lost in the second round of the 1972 U.S. Open against Mark Cox
1973 For Rosewall the beginning of 1973 was identical
to the second half of 1972: a desert. He recorded possibly his worst defeat in his whole career
at the 1973 Australian Open when seeded first he was defeated by German Karl Meiler in his
first match: 2–6, 3–6, 2–6. Between May 1972 and April 1973 Rosewall captured
only two minor titles, Tokyo WCT and Brisbane where the only Top 20 player was himself.
If 1967 has been the first year of a relative decline with however many highlights, 1973
has been the real start of Rosewall’s true decline : admittedly he was still one of
the best players but not one fighting for the first place.
Rosewall did not play Wimbledon that year as the edition was boycotted by the ATP players.
His best performances in 1973 were firstly his semifinal at the U.S. Open and secondly
his 3rd place at the WCT Finals. He also won at Houston WCT, Cleveland WCT, Charlotte WCT,
Osaka and Tokyo. He was still ranked in the top 10. Tommasi ranked Rosewall 4, Tingay
6, ATP 6, Collins 5, and McCauley 7. 1974
1974 was the first year since 1952 that Rosewall did not win a single tournament. However,
he entered nine tournaments and reached three finals including Wimbledon and Forest Hills.
This was his last Wimbledon final, at the age of 39. Despite the strong support of the
crowd, who were eager to see him finally claim a Wimbledon title, he lost to the 18 years
younger Jimmy Connors. Due to the two last strong performances he was ranked between
second and the seventh place by many tennis journalists. He ranked only 8th in the ATP
rankings because he played too few tournaments knowing that he succumbed to the charms of
the World Team Tennis “organisation”. Rosewall coached the Pittsburgh Triangles team in 1974.
1975 He still stayed in the Top 10 or the Top 15
in 1975 winning 5 tournaments and his two singles in Davis Cup against New Zealand.
Rosewall made his last attempt at Wimbledon, at over 40, and as in his first Wimbledon
Open he lost in the same round and against the same player.
1976 In 1976 Rosewall quit the Top 10 but stayed
in the Top 20 for he won 3 tournaments Brisbane, Jackson WCT and Hong-Kong.
1977–1982 1977 was Rosewall’s last year in the Top 20,
which means he was one of the best players for 26 years. He won his last tournaments
in Hong Kong and Tokyo at the age of 43. Rosewall played in the 1977 Sydney Indoor Tournament.
Approaching his 43rd birthday he beat the No. 3 in the world Vitas Gerulaitis 7–6
6–4 and put in a credible performance losing to Jimmy Connors 7–5 6–4 6–2 in the
final. The following year he lost in the semi finals at 44 years of age. Afterwards, he
gradually retired. In October 1980 at the Melbourne indoor tournament, at nearly 46
years of age, Rosewall defeated American Butch Walts, ranked World No. 49, in the first round
before losing to Paul McNamee. Rosewall made a very brief comeback at 47 years of age in
a non-ATP tournament, the New South Wales Hardcourt Championships in Grafton in February,
where he reached the final, losing to Brett Edwards 6–4, 6–2.
Rivalries Gonzales and Laver are the two players that
Rosewall most often met. His meetings with Laver are better documented and detailed than
those with Gonzales. Except the first year and the last year they played, the statistics
of their meetings show a strong domination by Laver; but they are biased before when
Rosewall was the better of the two Australians in 1963. In the Open Era a match score of
23–9 in favour of Laver can be documented, overall a score of 79–63. Including tournaments and one-night stands,
Rosewall and Gonzales played at least 182 matches, all of them as professionals, with
some results from the barnstorming pro tours lost or badly recorded. A match score of 107–75
in favor of Gonzales can be documented. Career statistics and records Grand Slam tournaments
Singles : 8 titles, 8 runners-up Pro-Slam tournaments
* Singles : 15 titles, 4 runners-up * other events
Records All Time records
Open Era Records These records were attained in Open Era of
tennis. Notes
An observation to make is that the draw of Pro majors was significantly smaller than
the traditional tournaments of Grand Slam; usually they only had 16 or even less professional
players. Though they were the top 16 ranked players in the world at the time, this meant
only 4 rounds of play instead of the modern 6 or 7 rounds of play.
Miscellaneous comments In his 1979 autobiography, Kramer writes that
“Rosewall was a backcourt player when he came into the pros, but he learned very quickly
how to play the net. Eventually, for that matter, he became a master of it, as much
out of physical preservation as for any other reason. I guarantee you that Kenny wouldn’t
have lasted into his forties as a world-class player if he hadn’t learned to serve and volley.”
Kramer includes the Australian in his list of the 21 greatest players of all time.
During his long playing career he remained virtually injury-free, something that helped
him to still win tournaments at the age of 43 and remain ranked in the top 15 in the
world. Although he was a finalist 4 times at Wimbledon, it was the one major tournament
that eluded him. Rosewall was a finalist at the 1974 U.S. Open
at 39 years 310 days old, making him the oldest player to participate in two Grand Slam finals
in the same year, before that, in 1972 Rosewall won the Australian Open Final at age 37 and
2 months making him the oldest player ever to win a Grand Slam male Singles title.
In 1995 Gonzales said of him: “He became better as he got older, more of a complete player.
With the exception of me and Frank Sedgman, he could handle everybody else. Just the way
he played, he got under Hoad’s skin, but he had a forehand weakness and a serve weakness.”
In 182 matches against Pancho Gonzales he won 75 and lost 107. In 70 matches against
Lew Hoad he won 45 and lost 25. Rosewall was also known as being extremely
careful about his spending, like a number of other Australian players of the time. The
Australians themselves characterised this as having “short arms and deep pockets.” Kramer
writes that an Australian radio reporter once asked Pancho Segura what his single biggest
thrill in tennis had been. “‘The night Frank Sedgman bought dinner”, Segoo replied.
Honours In the Queen’s Birthday Honours of 1971, he
was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire. In the Australia Day Honours
of 1979, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia.
Rosewall was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island,
in 1980. In 1985 he was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
He is an Australian Living Treasure. See also Tennis male players statistics
Tennis records of All Time – Men’s Singles Tennis records of the Open Era – Men’s Singles
Further reading Rosewall, Ken; Rowley, Peter T.. Ken Rosewall:
Twenty Years at the Top. London: Cassell. ISBN 0-304-29735-6. 
References The Game, My 40 Years in Tennis, Jack Kramer
with Frank Deford External links
Ken Rosewall at the International Tennis Hall of Fame
Ken Rosewall at the International Tennis Federation Ken Rosewall at the Davis Cup

2 Comments

  • Reply Joe K October 21, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    Robotic…biographies..
    A legend like Rosewall.deserves.a better documentary presentation.

  • Reply Doug Beaton March 6, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    Agree. Rosewall deserves a better documentary. The real Rosewall was something to watch. I saw him play seniors when he was around 53. He was incredible, very smooth and quick around the court with impeccable timing and accuracy. He didn't have the fastest serve, but it was extremely accurate. His backhand was like point and shoot. He won the tournament easily.

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