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Rod Laver returns to Longwood Cricket Club

Rod Laver at Longwood

There’s a metallurgic link between Rod Laver and the Longwood Cricket Club.

The Australian legend’s five US Pro Tennis Championships trophies, won in 1964, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969, were earned on the lawns of the storied club, located in the leafy Boston suburb of Chestnut Hill, Mass. And when the 26-inch-high, 31-pound sterling-silver Laver Cup was created in 2017, his 1967 trophy was melted into its molten makeup.

“You could say that Rod’s trophy is part of the DNA of the genesis of the Laver Cup, which is really exciting, said Tony Godsick, who helped found the annual Team Europe vs. Team World competition and is agent to tennis superstars Roger Federer and Coco Gauff.

With the Laver Cup coming to TD Garden this week, Laver, 83, had an opportunity to return to Longwood on Tuesday to commemorate his titles.

“I loved the atmosphere here at the club,” he said. “There were usually 4,000 or 5,000 people out there enjoying the tennis. We always had great players competing. For me, it was one of the great locations to play the game.”

Laver had already won the first of his record two calendar-year Grand Slams when he captured his 1964 trophy at the US Pro, as the tournament became known. That year, the Queensland native dispatched Butch Buchholz and countryman Ken Rosewall en route to the title match, where he defeated Pancho Gonzalez on a drizzly, overcast afternoon, 4-6 6-3 7-5 6-4.

“I remember playing Gonzalez. I ended up putting spikes on,” laughed Laver.

“It was just gorgeous tennis,” recalled former umpire Dick Land, who oversaw the match.

“He was always composed and full of energy. He always had the next stroke — that was his edge.”

The lefthander would take the trophy again in 1966, defeating his rival Rosewall in an epic five-set final, 6-4 4-6 6-2 8-10 6-3. His 1967 trophy came via a 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-5 win over Spaniard Andrés Gimeno.

The US Pro Championships trophy
The US Pro Championships trophy won by Rod Laver five times. Photo: Ben Solomon

In all, Laver would reach the U.S. Pro singles final eight years in a row between 1963 and 1970. He also claimed three consecutive doubles titles between 1969 and 1971.

 “He sort of played like a little boy playing with a toy,” lifelong Longwood member Paul Sullivan recently recalled. “He would be so absorbed in playing with the toy that nothing bothered him. He just let everything fly.”

The Longwood Cricket Club, founded in 1877, is also known as the birthplace of the Davis Cup, a competition near and dear to Laver’s heart.

The first tie took place there in 1900, when the US faced Great Britain, then playing under the British Isles flag. Laver was part of the Harry Hopman-captained Australian team that topped India in the 1959 Davis Cup Inter-Zonal Final at Longwood, going 2-0 in singles.

Laver’s history at Longwood has now come full circle, with his 1967 trophy incorporated into his namesake Laver Cup.

“It’s the feeling that it’s continuing on,” said Laver. “The Laver Cup trophy is one that I’m proud of. It’s a great event.”

Rod Laver at Longwood
Molten metal from part of Rod Laver’s New England Merchant Bank Trophy from the 1967 US Pro Tennis Championships has been incorporated into the Laver Cup. Photo: Ben Solomon

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