Childhood & Early Life
Rodney George Laver was born to Roy and his wife Melba, in Rockhampton, a city in Queensland, Australia, on August 9, 1938. Roy worked as a butcher, and the family consisted of four children.
The boy was a talented tennis player at a very young age, and quit school to learn the game. He received his training from the legendary tennis player, Harry Hopman, in Queensland. In 1957, Laver had won both the ‘Australian’ and the ‘US Junior’ championships.
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In 1959, Rodney competed in the finals of 'Wimbledon', and emerged triumphant at the mixed doubles game, where he teamed up with American counterpart Darlene Hard. However, he could not win the singles final, where he was defeated by Peruvian player, Alex Olmedo.
The following year, he participated in the 'Australian Championships', winning the five-set final match against Australian player Neale Fraser. In 1961, he took part in the 'Wimbledon', and won the singles title for the first time.
In 1962, Laver won seventeen tennis matches, along with four Grand Slam tournaments. This feat was earlier achieved by American former professional player, Donnie Budge.
The most memorable of these tournaments were the 'Italian', 'French' and 'German' Championships. He won the 'French Championships' with a lot of difficulty, against Australian Roy Emerson. At the 'Wimbledon' and the 'US Championships', the same year, he played exceptionally well, losing very few matches.
In December, 1962, Rod won the 'Davis Cup', as a part of the Australian team. This established him as a professional world tennis player, like Lew Hoad, Pancho Gonzales, Ken Rosewall and Andrés Gimeno.
From 1963-70, this skilled player was victorious at the 'U.S. Pro Tennis Championships' on five occasions. In the beginning of the same period, he established himself as the no. 2 player in world.
In 1964, Rodney won tournaments like the 'Wembley Championships', where he beat friend Rosewall, and the 'US Pro', defeating Pancho Gonzales.
The next year, Laver moved up to the position of no. 1 in the world rankings, after having seen victory at seventeen tennis championships.
The following year he won sixteen championships, and in 1967, he tasted victory again, with nineteen tournament wins to his name. These wins included 'US Pro Championships', the 'Wembley Pro', the 'Wimbledon', and the 'French Pro'. In the 'Wimbledon' final, he defeated fellow Australian Rosewall by 6–2, 6–2, 12–10.
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In 1968, the earlier rule that a professional tennis player could not compete in amateur tournaments, was lifted, and the 'Open Era' began. According to the 'Open Era', all players were going to be allowed to take part in any tournament of their choice, thus making tennis their full-fledged career.
The same year, he took part in 'Grand Slam' matches, becoming the first person to win the 'Open Era' championship at the 'Wimbledon'. Rodney won a straight set against Australian player Tony Roche in the final.
In 1968, he won prestigious tournaments like 'US Professional Championships', played on grass courts, and the 'French Pro Championships' on clay courts, thus bagging the world no. 1 spot.
The following year, in 1969, Laver played several tournaments, winning all the four Grand Slam championships. He also won the 'South African Open', 'Philadelphia US Pro Indoor', 'US Professional Championships', and the 'Wembley British Indoor'. He was thus victorious in 106 matches out of the 132 he played.
During the same period, Rod signed contracts with the tours 'National Tennis League' ('NTL'), and 'World Championship Tennis' ('WCT'). Owing to this, he participated in only five 'Grand Slam' championships in two years.
In 1973, he won several championships, including the 'Davis Cup'. The following year, he won only six championships, and his world ranking dropped to No. 4. Three years later, he signed a contract with the 'World Team Tennis', a tennis league.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1966, this famous tennis player got married to Mary Shelby Peterson, a divorcee with three children from her previous marriage. The marriage that took place in California was attended by other tennis players including Ken Rosewall, Barry MacKay, Mal Anderson, and Lew Hoad.
The couple had a son, and they lived in various residences in California.
Several tributes have been paid to this famous Australian tennis player, including the 'Rod Laver Arena' in Melbourne Park, which is named after him.
In 2000, he featured on a postage stamp issued by the Australia post, along with colleague, Margaret Court.