Originally Posted by Carlo Giovanni Colussi
When you read World of Tennis' 73 (about the 1972 season) or Rowley's biography of Ken "Twenty Years at the Top" it isn't surprising : these were his last major victories : the last times that he was, on a short period, the best player in the world. When he won the 1970 US Open he said at the time it was his biggest win ever. So when he won the 1972 WCT Finals he was so delighted to play so well at such an old age because he thought he wasn't able to reach such a level again : it was his very last major victory.
Newcombe has thought of retiring twice in his career :
- in early 1972 after suffering from many early losses since the 1971 USO (where he injured his knee in the doubles final). He told it to two Aussie mates who laughed at him saying he was something like a sissy so Newk changed his mind and when he won the 1972 WCT Las Vegas tourney he was mentally back in the game.
- after the 1973 boycotted Wimby this time his wife was the ear and she replied to Newk to think it twice. After some talking he was again motivated to really come back and decided to become the world #1 after the 1974 WCT finals. Before he wanted to win the 1973 US Open and Davis Cup. With a little luck Newcombe won the US Open : in the final Kodes was burnt. Both players had played the semis the day before but Newk had a 3-set win from Rosewall while Kodes had played after the Aussies and his match against Smith has ended around midnight. The Czech should have been granted the second set but the linesman made a very bad wrong call in the tie-breaker : Stan's shot was wrong by numerous inches though he was credited the sudden-death set point, in fact Kodes deserved a straight-set victory and not a 5-set win. So a few hours later he played his final against Newk completely out of form nevertheless he extended Newk to 5 sets.
And in the Davis Cup Laver was the great man of the team helping very much Newcombe to hold the trophy in the end.
In the 1974 WCT circuit Newcombe finished #1 ahead of Nastase and the Australian also won the WCT play-offs against Borg.
So if we consider the "July 1973 - June 1974" period
Newcombe won something like 9 tournaments including the 73 USO, the 74 WCT Finals and the 74 ATP tournament (in Tucson), he also beat Kodes, Smith and Gorman in Davis Cup (but lost to Hrebec) and he reached the semis of the 73 Masters : he was clearly the best player in the world if we consider this 12-month span and was thus rightly ATP #1 on June 3, 1974 : the 74 WCT finals held early in May 1974 were a sort of conclusion of his come-back. Later in the summer of 1974 he suffered from a let-down (2 big losses to old dinosaur Kenny at Wimby and the USO) which announced his future retirement. Originally he didn't want to play the 1974-1975 AO but when Connors has officially announced his intention to retain his Australian title, Newk decided to train very hard for the last time of his career and on Jan. 1, 1975, John beat Connors the world #1 then.
Just a few additional notes. While Newcombe did train hard for the 1975 Australian when he heard Connors was entered, he did not have a great deal of time to train. So he was not in nearly the shape that he should have been in. Also the five set match in the semi with Tony Roche took a lot out of Newcombe. It was truly amazing that he won the tournament over Connors in the final. Newcombe admitted that if Connors won the fourth set that Connors would have been in great position to win the match considering Newcombe's poor shape.
As I have written in the past, I was at the 1973 US Open for a number of the matches. Newcombe was in superb form during the tournament as evidenced by his straight set win over Connors earlier. Connors played superbly but was still beaten in straight sets in what was actually a very close match. Whether Kodes would have beaten Newcombe (which he has shown he was capable of) if he won the Smith match easily is debatable because I feel Newcombe is the type of big match player who can raise his game if his opponent was playing well. Bad calls were a part of tennis then (and now of course) and who knows, perhaps Kodes had the benefit of some bad calls against Smith. The old Aussis philosophy of letting the calls stand as the linesmen calls them to me works well because the player shouldn't keep thinking of the bad call you had in the past. What is done is done. Of course tell players like Ilie Nastase that.