Laver was known for his speed and thunderous left arm, which earned him the nickname “Rocket”. He soared above the sport both as an amateur and a professional.
He grew up playing on a court rolled on his family’s cattle farm in outback Queensland.
As a small boy he built his game around his gifts of speed and power, honing them with relentless determination and passion.
At 15 he came under the eye of Australia’s legendary Davis Cup Captain Harry Hopman who suggested he leave school and move to Brisbane to concentrate on tennis.
Within three years (1956) he was in the Davis Cup team. His first Grand Slam singles title came in 1960.
Laver was aggressive. He used his power and accuracy to pin opponents into corners of the court and his speed to come to net and finish them off.
He once said he wasn’t a great orator, preferring to let his racquet do the talking – it spoke beautifully delivering with thundering volume.
Although his curling, left arm topspin was created on grass courts, he won in all conditions and surfaces.
In 1962 he won the Grand Slam – four majors in one year – plus the Italian and German titles.
Australia won the Davis Cup on Laver’s home courts in Brisbane defeating Mexico 5-0. He won both his singles matches and the doubles with Roy Emerson.
He did all this while working to make ends meet and cover his expenses, so the following season Laver turned professional and in doing so disqualified himself from the Grand Slam tournaments.
For five seasons, while in his prime, he played exhibition matches on the fledgling professional tennis circuit.
Starting in 1966 he won 19 consecutive tournaments on the US professional circuit.
In 1968 professional players were allowed back into the traditional fold in what was the start of the open era.
Laver took up where he had left off, winning an astonishing second Grand Slam in 1969.
In doing so he etched his legend but also acted as a bridge between the eras.
In 1971 he became the first player to pass one million dollars in prizemoney proving to other players that they could and should earn a good living as entertainers.
Anyone who saw Rocket Rod Laver play will remember his power, speed and accuracy.
They also saw a humble man who knew the work required for greatness and the respect and love that needed to be shown to opponents and the sport itself.
It remains an eternal spring of inspiration for future generations.Back to top
The next point – that’s all you must think about.
The time your game is most vulnerable is when you’re ahead, never let up.
When you’ve got your man down, rub him out.
When you have the opportunity you strike.
Roger Federer certainly is my claim to be the best of all time – if there is such a thing. With Rafael Nadal not far behind.
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I like to let my racquet do the talking.