ira and Rod Laver

ira and Rod Laver

Just spent four days at the annual ATP tennis Hall of Fame tournament in Newport, Rhode Island. Been going for over five years and love the grass matches, hitting on a court myself, seeing the tennis greats. Always check out the history documented in the Hall of Fame, of which I am a member. Who could believe I became such an enthusiast for a sport.

There are many tennis celebrities there each year whom I have come to recognize, hear their stories at some luncheons, talk to occasionally–it’s usually just chit chat…but I like it for sure. This year I heard or saw Stan Smith, Rod Laver, Martina Hingus, Owen Davidson, Todd Martin, Pam Shriver, Bud Collins, Vic Seixas, Rosie Casals.

I always see fans asking the greats to pose with them, while a friend takes a picture. Not me. I even laugh at the superficiality of it all. But this year it was different. I was in my seat watching a match, when I realized that Rod Laver was three feet away. After hesitating a few minutes, I asked a friend to photograph us and bothered this titan of tennis to pose with me. He graciously rose slowly from his seat with some apparent effort and smiled for the camera. I am proud to document my closeness to his history.

Rod may be the greatest tennis player in the game. He is an Australian who holds the record for most singles titles won in the history of tennis, with 200 career titles. He was ranked World No. 1 for seven consecutive years. He is the only tennis player, male or female, to have twice won the Grand Slam (all four major singles titles in the same year), winning in 1962 and 1969. He is the only male player to have won “The Grand Slam” during the open era. He also won the Pro Grand Slam in 1967. He is the only player in tennis history (man or woman) to have won 3 combined calendar year Grand Slams (won all available majors). Laver won a total of 19 Major singles titles, including 11 Grand Slams and 8 Pro Slams. He also won a total of 9 Major doubles titles including 6 Grand Slam men’s doubles and 3 Grand Slam mixed doubles. He holds the all-time male records of 22 singles titles in a season (1962) and 7 consecutive years (1964-70) winning at least 10 singles titles per season. In addition to this he won 9 Championship Series titles (1970–75).

In terms of yearly prize money won, Laver was the leader from 1964 until 1971. Wikipedia shows that he won a total of $1,565,413. Today’s tennis leaders enjoy the benefits of TV money, increased popularity and higher tournament ticket prices. The five top male players these days have earned between $20 and 78 MILLION dollars, and they are still competing. A few times this weekend, one of the old timers mentioned how he received a handshake as his prize, or $100 for winning a tournament or even $10,000 for a Grand Slam win…these days the top prize for a Grand Slam like Wimbledon is $2,400,000! How the times have changed.