From Rod Laver‘s book The education of a tennis player:

“No matter how many times I played the French Open, it was still startling to come into Stade Roland Garros. You walked down through a tunnel. It was so dark that you were practically feeling your way, and then suddenly you were in the arena with 12000 people surrounding you, responding excitedly to your appearance. Maybe it’s like being the girl who pops out of a cake at a stag party.

From the minute we began, I couldn’t miss. Usually I was the one on the string as Kenny played me like a yo-yo. Not this time. I had perfect control, and everything I hit was going so deep that Kenny didn’t have much chanceto do anything but chase and scramble. I could get to the net all the time, and i was moving quickly either way to cut off his passing shots. I don’t know of any match I ever enjoyed more because I just kept getting better, and the points rolled in.

I never took Rosewall for granted. He never got his due. I thought about it before the match. He’d won this title in 1953, at the time I was deciding tennis would be my career. I was fifteen. Fifteen years later, he won it again. In 1971, he won the Australian title that he first won eighteen years earlier. In 1974, at the age of 39, he reached the final of both Wimbledon and the US Open, losing both to Jimmy Connors. He even won a pro title at age 43 in 1977. There are no comparable feats in tennis history.
I wondered if, having won the French for the first time in 1962, I’d even be playing it in 1977. How many times would Kenny have won it if he hadn’t turned pro, or if open tennis had come sooner?

Kenny and I have brought the very best out of each other, but the day of the 1969 French Open final was not one for sentimentality. 12000 people wanted to see us do it again. After leading 3-1 in the first, I fell behind 3-4 as he won three games in a brisk streak. I held for 4-4 and broke him to take the first consequential step;

The first set was mine at 6-4 and my confidence was soaring. If I couldn’t keep my shots near his baseline, I was in trouble with Kenny because he took anything short with his backhand, ramed it into a corner while he dashed to the net. He may not have been a heavy hitter, but when he got position at the net his volleys were crisp and well angled.

But my groundstrokes were working so well and landing so deeply that he was having trouble getting to the position he liked. He couldn’t swoop in on the short balls simply because I wasn’t offering him that many. I kept him pinned behind the baseline and you can’t hit an approach from back there. Sometimes he tried, but he had too far to go to reach the net, and I was passing him.

My volleys were charmed, and I spent most of the points finishing off points with them. My deep groundstrokes kept me at the net, and Kenny away.
Straight sets in a French final? I couldn’t quite believe it when I completed the 6-4 6-3 6-4 victory. Monetarily it meant $7000.

From Rod Laver’s book The education of a tennis player

Three of the Grand Slam tournaments are held in English-speaking countries, and an Australian gets along all right. The fourth is on alien ground – Parisian clay. The first time I saw Paris, in 1956, I had a few phrases ready in my atrocious French, so that I could eat and get to my hotel room. Bob Mark, who was my doubles partner, and I got taken for a few elaborate rides by the cab drivers, and we had trouble with the money, our pockets stuffed with francs that didn’t mean much. This was when the exchange rate was 350 to the dollar. The French seem less sympathetic to foreigners than other people, and the masterpieces of French cooking don’t do much for me, since I’m a typical Aussie, a steak-and-eggs man. You don’t need Maxim’s to fix that for you.

So Paris, as such, isn’t one of my favorite places, but I look forward to it because the French Championships is the tournament I enjoy the most from the standpoint of emotional involvement. I love to watch matches in Paris, grim struggles on that slow clay, beauties for the spectators.

When an Australian is playing, the rest of the Aussies show up for moral support because you know, if the opponent is European, and especially if he’s French, the gallery will be very anti-Australian.
That’s Europe. The crowds make more noise, they take it to heart, they cheer and boo. My introduction to Roland Garros, the tennis complex in the Bois de Boulogne, was a shaky experience in 1956. Bob Mark and I were playing a Davis Cup style junior match against a French team of Christian Viron and Mustapha Belkodja.
In the doubles, the crowd went all out for their countrymen, hissing us and even throwing some stones. They weren’t angry at us, but they didn’t leave any doubt about their sentiments. They really psyched us out, but you get used to that in Paris and Rome and Barcelona and Mexico City where the national pride seems to ride with every shot. When you realize this, the French tournament becomes great fun.

Enjoy this 4-part Rolex documentary retracing Wimbledon’s history from Suzanne Lenglen to Rod Laver to Roger Federer. A must-see for every tennis fan.

Part 1 (1877-1939): the foundations of Wimbledon

Suzanne Lenglen, designer Ted Tinling, Gussie Moran, Bill Tilden, Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet, René Lacoste, Don Budge, Helen Wills, Fred Perry

Part 2 (1945-1977): a brand new era

Virginia Wade, Jack Kramer, Maureen Connolly, Althea Gibson, Ann Jones, Louise Brough, Harry Hopman, Ken McGregor, Rod Laver, Frank Sedgman, Cliff Drysdale, WCT, Handsome Eight, Ken Rosewall, Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong, Billie Jean King

Part 3 (1978-1999): the Golden Era

Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Martina Navatilova, Steffi Graf, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi

Part 4 (2000-2011): Sampras, Federer, Venus and Serena

Pete Sampras, Pat Rafter, Roger Federer, Goran Ivanisevic, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, John Isner, Nicolas Mahut

Wimbledon Centre Court

All Wimbledon 2012 posts are tagged Wimbledon and are listed up below:

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club:

Wimbledon guided tour – part 1
Wimbledon guided tour – part 2
Wimbledon Centre Court roof
Court 3 : a new Show Court at Wimbledon
Waiting in the Queue to Wimbledon
Wimbledon Museum: The Queue exhibition
The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum: Player Memorabilia

Fashion and gear:

Caroline Wozniacki adidas outfit for Wimbledon 2012
Rafael Nadal Nike oufit
Roger Federer Nike oufit
Maria Sharapova Nike dress
Serena Williams Nike dress
Petra Kvitova Nike oufit
Li Na Nike oufit
adidas players outfits: Ivanovic, Kirilenko, Murray and Tsonga
Kim Clijsters Fila Collection

Marketing

Wimbledon 2012 Sponsorship Activation
Evian launches the ball hunt for fans to win tickets to Wimbledon

A trip down memory lane:

Wimbledon Trivia
Wimbledon past champions: stats and records
Wimbledon ‘s biggest upsets
Rod Laver – John Newcombe Wimbledon 1969
Bjorn Borg – Ilie Nastase Wimbledon 1976
Virginia Wade, Britain’s last Wimbledon champion
1981: First Wimbledon title for McEnroe
1982: Jimmy Connors defeats John McEnroe
1984: John McEnroe defeats Jimmy Connors
Wimbledon 1991: the first Middle Sunday
1992: first Grand Slam for Andre Agassi
1993: Pete Sampras defeats Jim Courier
2000 Wimbledon SF: Pat Rafter defeats Andre Agassi
2000 Wimbledon Final: Pete Sampras defeats Pat Rafter
2001 Wimbledon 4th round: Federer defeats Sampras
The Spirit of Wimbledon: a 4-part documentary by Rolex retracing Wimbledon history

Recap and analysis:

The biggest upset in tennis history: Rosol defeats Rafael Nadal

Polls:

Who will win Wimbledon 2012?

Aussie Youngsters

Every year, hundreds of players who gather Down Under agree the atmosphere at the Australian Open defines the tournament. However, in recent times the home crowd has had little to put their fanatical support behind.

The Woodies of Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde have provided some doubles pleasantries but since Chris O’Neil claimed the women’s title in 1978, the closest they’ve come to a home singles champion is Kim Clijsters’ triumph last year as the Belgian’s ‘Aussie Kim’ nickname finally meant more than just her dating past with Lleyton Hewitt.

Hewitt almost ended the barren spell for a nation which has produced legendary names such as Rod Laver and Margaret Court in 2005. Marat Safin claimed the title from a set down and no one has come close since. That could be set to change though.

Sam Stosur became the first Australian Grand Slam winner since Hewitt at Wimbledon in 2002 when she claimed the US Open crown four months ago. At 27, she has less time to make more history but encouraging signs have emerged indicating the next generation of Aussie talent can succeed where Hewitt couldn’t.

For a start, the current Wimbledon junior champions are both Australians. Luke Saville and Ashleigh Barty can boast the grass court event amongst the highlights of promising junior careers. Saville reached the final of the Australian Open juniors last year and was joined by several compatriots at the top of the junior world rankings including Andrew Harris, Andrew Whittington and Nick Kyrgios. Meanwhile the girls, including Barty, won the 2011 Junior Davis Cup.

Barty has even begun to make a mark on the pro circuit at just 15 years of age. The Queensland native last month won herself a place in the main draw of the Australian Open senior tournament after beating established players including a former top 50 name in Casey Dellacqua during the wildcard play-offs. Her focus and attitude are better than some players twice her age and being equipped with the talent to match makes her a strong contender for future stardom.

Australia can also pin their hopes on a crop of youngsters who add depth if not future tour champions. Olivia Rogowska and Isabella Holland are both 20 and pushing for the WTA’s top 100 while James Duckworth and Ben Mitchell are 19 and sit just outside the ATP top 200.

Clearly interest is still alive in the sport, which is always a positive but with the rapid decline of Hewitt, it’s left a hole as to who could challenge for the Melbourne title on the men’s tour. Another top 10 player is perhaps needed to push the next generation forward. Matthew Ebden isn’t too old to enjoy some top level tennis after a successful 2011 where he finished the year inside the top 100 but the main prospect is Bernard Tomic.

The 19-year-old is the youngest man in the top 100 and has already cemented a place in the top 50. With a Wimbledon quarter-final berth under his belt too, he could be challenging for the title on his favourite surface very soon.

Like Barty, he has the right frame of mind to use his big serve and excellent movement to make something of himself. However, there are questions concerning his attitude. Australia’s Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter has spoken out about Tomic’s work ethic while he’s also been involved in some controversial incidents in the past.

What stands Tomic out from the rest of the up and coming players on the tour is his love of a big stage. The more that’s riding on a match, the more he thrives. That intrepidity has seen him record victories over Robin Soderling, Tomas Berdych and Stansislas Wawrinka so far but it’s also had a negative impact. When he’s played lesser known opponents his effort levels have waned, although without that casual approach he might not be where he is today.

Things have started looking good for him in 2012 though. A 6-1, 6-2 demolition of Tatsuma Ito en route to a semi-final berth at the Brisbane International shows he can cope with players below and above his ranking. His relationship with the press has also improved. Whereas before he showed very little personality, he now cracks the odd joke and embraces his home fans.

Whether that will continue outside of Australia is yet to be known but right now, he can be seen as a huge threat in the Australian Open draw. With more experience Tomic could win majors and is the ray of light for the next generation of Aussies; both players and fans.

By Lewis Davies