Rod Laver a Legend in Tennis History

Throughout the history of tennis, few players have had the impact that Rod Laver has had. A true icon of the sport, Laver is the only player in history to have won two calendar-year Grand Slams, in 1962 and 1969. He won a total of 11 Grand Slam singles titles, a record, and his career spanned four decades. His influence on the game of tennis is undeniable, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. Rod Laver was an Australian-born tennis champion who rose to international stardom in the 1960s and 1970s. He won numerous singles and doubles titles during his career and was instrumental in popularising the game of tennis around the world. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1981 and is still remembered for his tremendous skill, passion, and enthusiasm for the game.

Early Life and Career

Rodney George Laver was born on 9 August 1938, in Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia. He was introduced to tennis at the age of 11 when his mother took him to local tennis courts. Laver was a very promising junior player, winning Junior Wimbledon in 1956, the Junior French Championships in 1957, and the Australian Open Junior title in 1958. Laver turned professional in 1959, winning his first tournament in Australia, and made his breakthrough in 1961. That year, he won three tournaments and reached the Wimbledon final, where he lost in five sets to Ken Rosewall. Laver became the world’s top-ranked player in 1962, a title he would hold for a record 237 consecutive weeks. That year, he won the first of his three US Open titles, the first of his two Wimbledon titles, and the first of his two Australian Open titles. In 1963, Laver won Wimbledon for the second time, defeating Rosewall in the final, and captured the U.S. Open for the first of two consecutive years. He also won the Davis Cup with the Australian team that year. Laver continued to excel in the next few years, winning more major titles and finishing as the year-end world number one in 1966, 1967, and 1968.

Grand Slam Titles

Laver won 11 Grand Slam tournament titles during his career. He is the only player to have won the Australian Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon in a single calendar year, a feat he accomplished in 1962 and 1969, and shares the record for most Australian Open titles in a career with Roger Federer. Laver won his first Grand Slam singles title in 1962, at the age of 24, by winning the Australian Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon in the same calendar year. Only two other players have won the three tournaments in a single year, Rod Carew in 1972, and Roger Federer in 2009. Laver remains the only person to have achieved this feat on a wooden racquet. Laver’s Wimbledon win in 1962 made him only the second person at the time to win the three Slams in a single year, after Don Budge in 1938. Budge was one of Laver’s tennis heroes, and Laver stated that he was “almost sick with excitement” when he passed Budge in the locker room at Wimbledon after his victory. Although Laver did not repeat this “Golden Slam” feat in 1969, he remains the only player to have won the calendar-year Grand Slam on two occasions.

International Fame

In 1962, Laver became the first tennis player to earn more than $100,000 in a single season. He continued to rise in popularity during the following years, as he remained undefeated from 1963 until 1967. During that period, he lost only three times, to Emerson once and Rosewall twice. In 1968, Laver ended his streak of 5 years without a loss by losing to Emerson in their first meeting in four years. This marked the only time the two great players met in the final of a Grand Slam tournament. Laver was known for his relaxed, confident demeanor on the court, joking with opponents and spectators and often appearing unruffled by his opponents’ strong efforts to beat him. He was also known for his unusual but highly effective “Laver Twist” service motion. This service technique allowed him to hit a great deal of topspin, a type of spin that causes the ball to bounce at a high angle after it hits the court surface. This spin made it very difficult for his opponents to return the ball.

Retirement and Legacy

Laver’s career was at its peak in the late 1960s, when he won all four major titles in the same year – a feat known as the “Impossible Slam”. He fulfilled that dream in 1969, completing the Grand Slam by winning the French Open for the third time, the Wimbledon title for the second time, and the US Open for the third time. He also won the Australian Open for the third time in a row and finished the year as the year-end world number one for the sixth and final time in his career. Laver retired from professional tennis in 1971 at the age of 33. He was still at the top of his game, but he said he was tired of the travel and wanted to focus on his tennis teaching business. He continued to play in some exhibition matches, including a notable match against Bjorn Borg in 1980, which was organized to raise money for Australian tennis. Laver was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1981.

International Tennis Hall of Fame Induction

This tennis great was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991. Laver was named one of the “Australian Living Treasures” in 2005 and was the first tennis player to be given this honor. Laver has also been awarded four decorations by the Australian government: a Medal of the Order of Australia in 1981, a Centenary Medal in 2001, an Australian Sports Medal in 2003, and a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2010. The Australian Open named one of the court surfaces after Laver in 2000, and the ITF presents the Laver Cup, a team event that debuted in 2017. Laver also has his tennis center, the Laver Tennis Centre, in his hometown of Rockhampton.

Rod Laver Arena

In 2015, the tennis center was expanded and renamed in honor of Laver. A new indoor tennis center features six courts, including the Laver Arena, an exhibition court named the Show Court, and a new indoor training facility. The expansion and renovation brought the center’s investment to over $13 million, most of which was provided by the State Government through its Tourism Infrastructure Fund. The center is not only a symbol of Laver’s legacy, but it also provides a great resource for the community. Laver and his family have been very involved in the design of the new center, providing input on the architectural design and color scheme. Laver said that he and his family are honored that the center has been named after them, and they are excited to see it completed. He added that he hopes the center will inspire young people to pick up a racquet and enjoy the game of tennis.