An Aussie Upbringing
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,
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.
Famous Sports StarsTennisRod Laver - An Aussie Upbringing, Chronology, Amateur Years, Lead Up To First Grand Slam, Related Biography: Tennis Player/coach Harry Hopman - CONTACT INFORMATION, SELECTED WRITINGS BY LAVER: