Success Story, by Lew Hoad

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by newmark401, Jun 30, 2013.

  1. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Written shortly after he won the singles title at Wimbledon in 1956, this piece provides an insight into the early life and lawn tennis career of the great Australian Lew Hoad (1934-1994).

    Success Story

    By Lew Hoad, from the "Dunlop Lawn Tennis Annual and Almanack" (1957)

    “I began hitting a tennis ball around when I was nine years old. My mother gave me a racket for a birthday present to keep me from playing in the streets, and although the present was more like a string bag than a racket, I had a lot of fun with it.

    “In the beginning I had no choice but to play up against the backyard fence as only very occasionally could I find anyone to join with me on the public court which was adjacent to our house. My height was only a little over four feet and I found things most difficult. A year later I entered a few junior tournaments with no success – in fact I was always beaten in the first round and could do nothing against Ken Rosewall who defeated me more than once 6-0, 6-0. This discouraged and when I was eleven I decided to give tennis up and stick to other games which at the time seemed to suit me better.

    “For four years I scarcely touched a racket and concentrated instead on football, cricket and table tennis, and I reached the final of the Australian Junior Table Tennis Championships when 14. But I returned to lawn tennis a year later and soon found myself making encouraging progress. In the same year I was chosen with Ken Rosewall to represent New South Wales in the Senior Inter-State Competition and this provided both of us with our first trip to Melbourne.

    “My play began to attract attention and I was offered a job in the Dunlop Sports Company, first in the office and then in the stringing department. I was allowed a couple of afternoons off a week for practice and I started to take things more seriously – visiting the gymnasium regularly and practising at every opportunity.

    “In 1951 and when I was 16 I won the Australian Junior Championships, beating Ken for the first time. I joined up with Ken to play doubles and we remained unbeaten together in junior tennis. My confidence improved after my championships victory and in the same year I won all the junior state singles titles.

    “Things seemed to move fast. At 17 I won the Australian Hard Court Championships and this was largely responsible for my being chosen on the Australian team for Wimbledon. Going overseas was my first big thrill, and although my singles performances were not impressive, I reached the doubles semi-final with Ken at Wimbledon, and in the French and American Championships.

    “The following year, in 1953, we were again selected on the team for overseas, but I lost to Vic Seixas in every major event. However, Ken and I were able to add the Wimbledon and French doubles titles to the Australian doubles which we had won a few months previously in Melbourne. We were both 18 years old.

    “The following summer at home I won the Queensland, New South Wales, Victorian and South Australian Championships, but was called up a week before the Australian to do my national service. My biggest thrill that summer was, of course, getting on the Davis Cup team for the Challenge Round against the Americans in Melbourne. I played the opening match against Seixas and won in straight sets, but this was overshadowed by my three-hour battle with Tony Trabert on the third day when I won by 7-5 in the fifth. Ken’s victory over Vic gave us the title by 3-2 and so we retained the Cup which everybody thought we were bound to lose when Frank Sedgman and Ken McGregor turned ‘pro’. The moment I beat Trabert I looked up at my parents who had done so much to encourage and who had travelled 600 miles to see the match – they too were thrilled.

    “During national service I played only once and that was in an international against South Africa when Her Majesty The Queen was present. My form was understandably poor but it continued to be poor when I got back into civilian life. I went overseas again in 1954 but could do nothing right. I was lethargic, moody and fed up – so much so that I thought seriously of packing up. My parents and friends encouraged me to persevere and I tried all I could, but was unable to win a match in the [Davis Cup Challenge Round of 1954].

    “In 1954 I made my fourth trip with the team overseas in an effort to regain the Davis Cup from the Americans. Just before Wimbledon I married Jenny [Staley] whom I had been taking out for three years, but I was unable to win the singles as a wedding present. Budge Patty beat me in the quarter-finals, but I had a consolation prize in winning the doubles with Rex Hartwig.

    “I now realized that I would have to settle down and concentrate and so when I went from Wimbledon to America I trained hard and was able to help in regaining the Davis Cup by 5-0. I also think I was helped by the fact that I had just stopped growing and was feeling in wonderful physical condition. I returned home with a new outlook. I had, above all, increased interest and confidence and I won all the state singles championships together with the Australian Championships.

    “In 1956 I received permission to go overseas on an independent trip with my wife and I was more than excited at the thought of being able to map out my own programme and see the places that we had always wanted to see. I found myself playing well and winning all the important events – in Egypt, Italy and France. The big question was whether I could keep up and achieve my biggest ambition – to be Champion of Wimbledon.

    “I feel I was fortunate. I reached the final to meet Ken and had the closest of struggles – but I won. I shook hands then looked up to see Jenny was in tears. I then thought how happy my parents would be to realise that I had achieved what they always believed I could do – to become the world's top ranking player.
    -----
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2013
    #1
  2. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    #2
  3. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Was Hoad's peak the ultimate?

    Some think so.
     
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  4. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    If only there were videos. His absolute peak is atleast the greatest out of anyone from the 50's an 60's, although I think rating a one match level isn't fair to someone like Gonzeles who was #1 so long with a sustained peak level which was also very high.

    Peak level of the dominant figures in tennis from around then I'd say;

    1) Hoad
    2) Gonzales/Laver (possible nod to Gonzales
    4) Rosewall
     
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  5. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    There should be more videos in archives.

    I have a 22-minute selection from the 1956 Wimbledon final, and the BBC has lots of things, including the 1957 final, 1957 semifinal (a great match against Davidson), the 1967 Wimbledon Pro against Gonzales.

    Kramer would not allow the cameras on the late 1950's pro tours, for fear of hurting the live gate.
    Trabert allowed television for the 1963 series against Laver, and the 1963 Kooyong match, won by Hoad at 6-3 in the fifth set, was preserved by Australian Broadcasting Company.
     
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  6. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    Unfortunately I have no way to access these videos. Nothing would please me more. I'd especially like to see the 1967 Wimbledon Pro against Gonzales.
     
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  7. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

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    The same thing happened in professional football (soccer) with this "oh, football on TV will harm attendances etc." when Match of the Day started on the BBC in August 1964. That argument was a load of nonsense. Sports on TV helps its popularity and will cause gates to rise. Easier to say that with hindsight, I suppose.

    As for Lew Hoad's peak possibly being the ultimate, that seems to be Hoad's greatest claim to fame. Ellsworth Vines has a similar claim. Regarding Hoad's win over Gonzales in the 1967 Wimbledon Pro, isn't that match supposed to be in the BBC archives somewhere, or did it fall victim to the BBC purges of old TV shows between 1972 and 1977?
     
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  8. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    I contacted BBC in 1976 and was assured that it was still in storage.
    I would imagine that it still is.
     
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  9. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    The footage is of no value in storage :(
     
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  10. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Yea! They should issue it on a cleaned-up DVD, and make some money.

    I'll pay.
     
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  11. joe sch

    joe sch Hall of Fame

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    I agree also ...

    I wonder how many true tennis fans and historians would be willing to pay $19.99 for such a DVD ? I sure would.
    Maybe even if 1000 still $20K is peanuts to the BBC and unfortunately not worth the effort :(

    Any boarders have a connection to someone at the BBC that could get the story ?

    I believe this match would sure help us all get a better idea of GOATpp "peak performance"
     
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  12. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    joe sch, Hoad was far from his peak in 1967. He lost to Rosewall 2-6,2-6, in SFs.

    I would like to have the 1959 Forest Hills match where Hoad outclassed Pancho G.
     
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  13. joe sch

    joe sch Hall of Fame

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    True and Pancho was also about 1 decade from his peak form where he dominated the world for almost 1 decade and was number 1 in the world. In any event, Id be happy to watch any Hoad vs Gonzales match, even if its in 1967.
    The 1959 match would be awesome to watch since Pancho won the US Pro every year from 1953 to 1961, except for 1960.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2013
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  14. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    The 1967 match despite both Hoad and Gonzales being far from their peak years was said to be an incredible contest. Perhaps the best of the tournament.
     
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  15. Xavier G

    Xavier G Semi-Pro

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    Lew Hoad just fell one match short of completing the Grand Slam in 1956, losing the US final to his great friend and rival Kenny Rosewall. How much more he would be referenced if he had achieved that feat.
    A great name in tennis history. A shame he seemed to be affected by injury. Peak level v consistency over many years? How do we compare Hoad to other greats? Did Lew's peak last for long enough to place him at the very top?
     
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  16. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    His peak years were 1956 to 1960, yet he is most remembered for his Davis Cup meetings with Trabert in 1953, 1954, 1955, which attracted 10 million+ television audiences in 1955, plus Vice-President Nixon to present the trophy in front of a national audience.
    These events put tennis on the map for a mass audience.

    His achievements from 1956 to 1960 are roughly equivalent to such names as Budge, Borg, McEnroe, Becker, and other greats who had a relatively short run.
    If you include Hoad's occasional great showings from 1953 to 1964 (his last overall tour victory against a field consisting of Laver, Rosewall, and Anderson) he has about 11 years of greatness.

    Hoad's two absolute peak years were 1958 and 1959, in which he was the leading money winner both years, and won the world tournament championships in both years. Considering the strength of the field in those years, this gives a good claim to the all-time number one.

    On the two championship tours of 1959, his overall win rate was 70% (76 wins, 33 losses), comparable to the percentages for Kramer and Gonzales in their tour victories.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2013
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  17. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Laver, obviously, agrees and puts him up there.
     
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  18. Xavier G

    Xavier G Semi-Pro

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    Thanks, Dan, that's great information. I think I'm right in saying you rate Lew Hoad very highly. The Davis Cup was a major thing back in the 50's, I believe.
     
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  19. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    Xavier G, You are right that Dan rates Hoad very highly. But it's too high. Dan cannot convince anybody that Lew is the all-time greatest regarding achievements but arguably yet regarding highest level. It's interesting that both Laver and Rosewall rank Hoad at first place regarding playing strength (Laver ranks him 1 among the pre open era players).

    Unfortunately Hoad was not very consistent and did not reach his best form too often (often handicapped by his back illness).
     
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  20. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    joe sch, There is maybe a misunderstanding. I wrote about the 1959 Forest Hills Pro which is not the US Pro that year. The latter was held at Cleveland and won by Gonzalez while the F.H.Pro (Tournament of Champions) was won by Hoad.
     
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  21. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    Hoad was consistent during his peak period, 1956 to 1960, in spite of his back trouble.

    In 1958 and 1959 he was the leading money-winner on the pro tour, played 120+ matches in 1958, and 150+ matches in 1959. His tournament record was the best of the pros.
    In 1959, he was the only player who played a complete season on the pro events.

    His back injury was quiescent from June, 1957 to almost March, 1958, and after a layoff from September to December 1958, he was sound again until the late stages of the pro tour in April, 1959.
     
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  22. Xavier G

    Xavier G Semi-Pro

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    So both Rosewall and Laver rated him at number 1 back then in playing strength? Interesting indeed. Thanks for the input, BobbyOne.
     
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  23. Xavier G

    Xavier G Semi-Pro

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    Once again, good info, Dan. Interesting to hear comparisons between Hoad and Gonzales and the pro tour back then.
     
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  24. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Talent wise, I am positively sure the greatest ever foursome is that of Rod,Ken,Lew and Pancho, provided all fit.
     
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  25. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    Xavier G, Laver and Rosewall made their lists rather recently which is a few years ago.
     
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  26. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    kiki, I only can agree.
     
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  27. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    Which means that they were not caught up in momentary hype, but had time to reflect on many years of experience.

    In 1962, Rosewall made a similar appraisal;
    "I would have to rate Gonzales a notch above Hoad, although when the latter is "on", he is the greatest of all time."
    This was at a time when Hoad's game had already declined.

    In 1969, Gonzales claimed that Hoad was "the best and toughest player of all, when he wanted to be."
    And in 1995, he told Anderson of N.Y. Times that "Hoad was such a strong son-of-a-*****...if he wanted to win, you couldn't beat him."

    But in 1958 and 1959, Hoad's consistency equalled anyone on the tour, despite missing four months of play in 1958 due to injury.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2013
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  28. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

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    It's clear that Gonzales and Sedgman were the best 2 players of 1958.
     
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  29. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    Hoad was the number one money-winner that year, which is the Gold Standard of excellence (excuse the pun).
    Not even close, really. Gonzales won about $91,000 in 1958, Hoad won almost $200,000.

    Plus, he won the world tournament championship on points. His record against Gonzales in the five tournaments was 3 to 1.

    Overall, the best year.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2013
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  30. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    Dan the money worshipper...
     
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  31. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

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    Hoad had a load of money in 1958 simply for being the recently turned professional player challenging Gonzales on the big pro tour. Kramer always had a policy of paying challengers far more than Gonzales (who was locked into a long-term contract), particularly the recently turned professional player. Gonzales won that big tour against Hoad by 51-36, and proceeded to win the big professional tournaments with the US Pro in Cleveland (an epic win over Hoad in the final) and with the Tournament of Champions at Forest Hills.

    Sedgman managed to beat Gonzales in winning the Wembley Pro, and did the same in the big tournament in Australia.
     
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  32. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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  33. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    It was pay for play, although Hoad received more money for each of his wins than Gonzales did. There was no guarantee payment made, because Hoad won far more than the $125,000 guarantee.
    Hoad also led the money list OFF the two-man challenge tour, where he received the same per win as Gonzales. This was true in both 1958 and 1959.
    In 1958 and 1959 there was a bonus money pool for year-long results, with Hoad finishing first, as he had in 1958.

    The U.S. Pro and Wembley were not included in the world tournament championship series because they were outside Kramer's management.

    Sedgman won Wembley in 1958, but Wembley was not part of the championship tour, unlike Roland Garros, Forest Hills, Kooyong, Sydney (where Sedgman beat Gonzales), or L.A.
    Sedgman won the first Kooyong event in the1959/60 season, beating Gonzales in the final.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2013
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  34. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    #34
  35. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Ouch! Such damning criticism.

    A profound insult. How could you?
     
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  36. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    #36
  37. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    The 1959 world tournament championship consisted of 14 events, including Forest Hills, Roland Garros, Kooyong (twice), Sydney (twice), L.A.
    The field of players was the strongest ever assembled.
    Hoad won 6 tournaments, Gonzales won 4, Rosewall won 2, Sedgman won 1, Trabert won 1.
     
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  38. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    The biggest tournaments of 1958 were Forest Hills, Roland Garros, and Kooyong.
    Hoad defeated Gonzales in all three events.
     
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  39. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

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    The Eastern bloc collapse is one of the darkest moments in world history. Still, the dreams of the capitalists about "the end of history" have been reduced to ashes since then.

    You are no socialist, believe me.

    Gonzales won the Tournament of Champions at Forest Hills in 1958.
     
    #39
  40. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    hoodjem, It's because I'm neither a Capitalist nor a Communist. Somewhere between them...
     
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  41. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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  42. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    ????????????????
    I don't even know what to say about that.
     
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  43. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    NLBwell, I hope that the extreme capitalism will vanish as the communism has vanished.

    It's time for a more human society where no single man or woman or child must die from hunger...
     
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  44. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    To repeat, Hoad defeated Gonzales in the three biggest tournaments of 1958, as follows:

    Kooyong
    7-5, 5-7, 6-4
    This was the deciding match.

    Forest Hills
    13-15, 6-3, 6-4

    Roland Garros
    5-7, 13-11, 6-4, 6-4

    Hoad finished first in the bonus money pool for the world tournament championship.
     
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  45. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Having been in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland last month, I do wonder what the people of the former eastern bloc countries would say to this.









    (I wish some bright economist would design an economic system more fair than capitalism and less repressive than communism.)
     
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  46. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

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    To repeat, Gonzales won the 1958 Tournament of Champions at Forest Hills, which was the biggest tournament of 1958 at that venue. Gonzales also won the US Pro at Cleveland, and most importantly of all, beat Hoad on their big world pro tour by 51-36.
     
    #46
  47. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    In the marquee match at Forest Hills, the most important tournament of 1958, Hoad defeated Gonzales 13-15, 6-3, 6-4.
    At Roland Garros, the second most important tournament of 1958, Hoad defeated Gonzales 5-7, 13-11, 6-4, 6-4.
    At Kooyong, the third most important tournament of 1958, Hoad defeated Gonzales 7-5, 5-7, 6-4.
    At season's end, Hoad won first place in the annual bonus money pool based on tournament play.

    Hoad won more money than Gonzales in their two-man tour, unlike Gonzales' other two-man wins.
    After Gonzales led 5 to 4 in the series, Hoad won an 80-game match at Kooyong and went on a 15 to 3 streak to lead the series 19 to 8 going into the Pallm Springs match, where his back gave out.
    Gonzales told Kramer before the Palm Springs match that he had given up hope of winning the series against Hoad.

    What does this tell you?
     
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  48. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

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    That you are obsessed with elevating Hoad at any cost?

    I've already explained why Hoad was heavily paid in 1958. He was the player who had recently turned professional and was challenging the best professional player, Gonzales, on the big world pro tour. Kramer always paid the newly turned pro a load more cash on the big tour than what he paid Gonzales, as Gonzales was locked into a long-term contract on obviously poor terms for such a dominant champion.
     
    #48
  49. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    Yes, but Hoad did not collect on his $125,000 guarantee, unlike the other rookie pros, because he won more money than Gonzales. Hoad's earnings came from WINNINGS, not from the guarantee.
    In his rookie year Hoad won almost $200,000 on the season, as opposed to Gonzales' $91,000.
    Is that understandable?

    I guess Gonzales, Rosewall, and Laver must be obsessed with Hoad, too, given some of their comments about him, following your logic.
     
    #49
  50. Dan Lobb

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    I understand that the facts as I see them do not always support the standard hype which surrounds the commercial tours.
     
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