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Rod Laver - An Aussie Upbringing

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Rodney George Laver was the product of a tennis family. The third of four children, Laver was born on August 9, 1938, in Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia. His father,

Rod Laver

Roy, a cattle rancher, was one of 13 children, all tennis players. When Roy went looking for a wife, he found Melba Roffey, another tennis player, at a tournament in the Queensland town of Dingo. Married, the couple had a tennis court next to every house they ever lived in, and it was not untypical for the father to cook dinner while his wife was outside playing tennis with the kids. Melba and Roy played singles and mixed doubles in every tournament they could in and around Rockhampton, winning them all, and soon their four children were following in their footsteps, winning in a variety of age categories. Rod Laver began challenging his older brothers when he was six, using a hand-me-down racquet with a sawed-down handle to fit him. When he was thirteen, Laver, small for his age, took on his brother Bob in the junior final of the Central Queensland championship. As the match was an all-Laver event, it was held on the Laver's court, and Rod—barely able to see over the net—narrowly lost to his older brother.

Shortly thereafter, Laver was selected for inclusion at a tennis camp sponsored by a Brisbane newspaper. At the camp his play won the attention of the legendary Harry Hopman, "and the lid was nailed on his future," as Rex Lardner wrote in a Sports Illustrated profile of Laver. Hopman, captain of Australia's Davis Cup team for many years and an influential player/coach who developed a number of Australian players, took the young Laver under his wing and began refining his left-handed game. It was Hopman who dubbed Laver "Rocket," and not because of his speed but because of the youngster's grit, determination, and work ethic. It was soon apparent to this genius of Australian tennis that the teenager he was working with had more talent than all the other Australian players of his day. At 15, Laver, suffering from jaundice, missed two months of school and feeling left behind in his studies decided to stop his formal education and work at his tennis. His father agreed with the decision, and with Hopman's help the boy got a job with a sporting goods firm in Brisbane, "the kind of job that pays a tennis player whether he is there to punch a time clock or not," remarked Lardner. Three years later, Laver stormed onto the American tennis scene when he won the United States junior championship.

Chronology

1938 Born August 9 in Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia, to Roy Stanley and Melba Laver
1944 From the age of six Laver begins competing against his older brothers in tennis matches
1951 Loses to his older brother Bon in the Central Queensland junior final
1953 Quits school to devote full time to tennis, coached by Harry
1956 Wins the U.S. junior championship
1957 Serves in the Australian Army
1958 Upsets American Barry MacKay in the second round of Queen's Club Tournament and gains international notice
1959 Playing with the Australian Davis Cup team, Laver helps to beat the United States
1959 Loses in the finals of the U.S. singles championship at Forest Hills
1960 Wins his first Australian singles title
1961 Wins his first Wimbledon singles title, but loses at Forest Hills in the finals
1961 Offered $33,000 to join Jack Kramer's pro tour, but refuses
1962 Scores his first Grand Slam, winning the singles championships in Australia, France, England, and the United States, the first tennis player to do so since America's Don Budge in 1938
1962 Turns professional, signing a three-year, $110,000 contract, and is thus barred for the next five years from participation in amateur championships
1964 Wins U.S. Pro singles title
1966-70 Wins 19 consecutive titles in the U.S. Pro circuit
1968 With advent of Open era in tennis, Laver resumes play in Grand Slam tournaments, winning Wimbledon in a final lasting less than an hour
1969 Wins his second Grand Slam, a record no other tennis player has equaled
1971 Earns a record $292,000, boosting his overall tennis earnings to over a million, the highest of any tennis player
1972 Plays in finals of first World Championship of Tennis
1973 Allowed to play Davis Cup again, helping Australia to win the cup away from the United States
1976 Signs with World Team Tennis and named Rookie of the Year at age 38
1978 Retires from tennis
1981 Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame
1999 Suffers a stroke and has to re-learn how to play tennis
2000 Center court at Australia's Melbourne Park, home of the Australian Open, is named Rod Laver Court in his honor
Rod Laver - Chronology [next]

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