Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by bonga77, Feb 6, 2010.
After having the greatest year in the history of tennis, Laver never won a slam.
Many of the most important events werent the slams back then with rival tours and the big money exhibitions that were giving out more than the slams, the Aussie and to some degree French Open status, etc..... He didnt even play many slams he might have won. Though he did play 4 the next 2 years in 1970 and 1971 and his results in those were not good it turned out, which was kind of strange as his results on tour and vs the top guys in general were very strong still at that point.
Rosewall reached multipel slam finals after 69 but Laver didnt reach even a slam final. very strange.
I've always thought for Laver it was psychological after 1969.
Do you think it was lack of hunger having already achieved everything or it was something else?
Some of the Slams, due to the tour Laver was in, were barred to him eg the 1970 Australian and the 1971 French. Those two tournaments it was obvious that he could have won.
Evidence - He won the Dunlop event in Sydney a month after the 1970 Australian Open, a tournament that was best of 5 sets and had a better field than that the Australian Open (and had most of the quality players from the Australian Open in it).
In the 1971 French Open example, he easily beat the guy who was the 1970 & 1971 French Champion ,on clay at the Italian Open, just before the French Open started.
Rod Laver had a very surprising loss at 1970 Wimbledon to Roger Taylor in the fourth round. He was never his old dominant self in the slams again after that, and early open era tennis politics got in the way as well.
Still, Laver's results elsewhere were still very good in the early 1970s. Rather odd that his slam performances at the time didn't reflect that.
Very, very simple answer. Not psychological (he was still the top player on the WCT tour) and no conspiracy. The primary reason, which was obvious to everyone who knew him or his family and is probably touched on in his book, is that is that he didn't want to be away from his wife and children any more than necessary. Unlike Rosewall and others, he had a very young family and had only been married a few years. He felt that his wife had sacrificed enough to get him to the Grand Slam and he owed her the same courtesy. That meant cutting right back on playing the majors and staying as close to home as possible. Simple enough.
Some men are just thoroughly decent and Laver was one of them. End of story.
I'm not buying this at all. Laver played loaded schedules for years after 1969, constantly travelling. He couldn't spare two weeks for a major? Nah.
The psychological stuff is true, at least in part - Laver struggled big-time with his serving for quite a while in the 70s. Something that suddenly struck him, I don't know for what reason.
The stuff about him being barred from some majors is also true.
You're correct Cyborg. I will quote from Laver's book "The Education of a Tennis Player" I had no thought of another Grand Slam in 1970, simply because our pro group (Lamar Hunt's World Championship Tennis, which took over the MacCall-Podesta operation) did not enter the Australian or French Opens. The deal wasn't right.
So I would gather from this that Laver stayed true to his pro group and didn't or couldn't entered the first two majors.
Laver at 32 went for the money, when he had all the titles. He played too much since 1968/69, which cost him a certain physical and more a mental freshness, to prepare properly for the Slams. Newcombe for instance, focussed for Wimbledon 1970/71 with a special 4 weeks of preparation.
Laver's 1970 Wimbledon loss to Taylor was maybe his weakest hour, he played horrible. Afterwards he was sort of relieved to finally lose at Wim, where he was unbeaten since 10 years. The expectations to always win, had got to him. Technically, his serve got weaker in the 70s resulting in double-faults, and the other guys saw more chances. After the 1971 season, he reduced hs schedule, played only a half season of tennis and skipped Wimbledon and most majors. He concentrated on tennis ranches, a new big business factor in the tennis boom years, which he run together with Emerson.
Maybe my definition of psychological is too broad:
"He felt that his wife had sacrificed enough to get him to the Grand Slam and he owed her the same courtesy."
"I had no thought of another Grand Slam in 1970"
"cost him a certain physical and more a mental freshness,"
"relieved to finally lose at Wim, where he was unbeaten since 10 years"
I would call all of these factors psychological.
I believe that the motivation to do what it takes to win just one slam was not there, after (because of contract deals) he could not win the calendar Grand Slam (because he could not enter the Australian Open).
In other words, after you've won all four in one year, can you really get yourself motivated to worry about just one?
(Also by 1970 Laver was supremely focused on making money? I believe that the emphasis on the greater significance of the slams that we have today was not quite so all-consuming in 1970 as it is now. Did the slams offer the highest purses of the time?)
Laver turned 31 in 1969. I think the overwhelming majority of slam winners are younger than that.
I'm back after a long absence... Happy to see that topics are still very interesting around here
I'm with Cyborg and urban here.
I think the main factors are
1) Money : playing, among others, the almost forgotten Champion's Classic proved and 'offer he couldn't refuse', and who are we to judge? Tennis players did not have a lifetime of endorsements, commenting gigs and sometimes talk-shows ahead of them as they have today...
2)History: people who were watching tennis in these days might correct me, but I feel there was less talk about history, all-time greatness, etc. Few people cared about Tilden or Doherty in the 70s, so Laver being the absolute king of his era, that might have taken away some motivation to crush records at Wimbledon or the US Open. Even if Federer is no tennis history expert (he might be, for a player, actually), there is a sense that he'll always have another feat from the past to beat, that is more prevalent in the press.
3)Context: the early Open era was a revolution that blew away a lot of tennis's conventional wisdom... This was probably the time were the Majors were the least...major! Even if others went for Newcombe or Rosewall, in late 1970, the Times of London clearly named Laver the world's top player, despite mediocre Slam results. After his 1973 Dallas success, Stan Smith stated he felt for the first time like he had surpassed the Rocket...though he had won 2 majors + a Masters crown in the past 3 years, and Laver had lost at every occasion...
So it is likely that Laver was simply adjusting to the criteria of his time. If the journalists and fans had endlessly discussed about his decline after his Wimbledon loss, as they would today, he might have prepared a lot better for the next edition...
Have a nice evening,
Probably everyone was right. It's most likely all these factors but wouldn't it have been great if Laver worked hard to tried for two Grand Slams in a row. I know he lost at Wimbledon but I wonder if he would have lost if he prepared for it heavily. Perhaps he did and lost anyway.
Nice post Andres.
Oh well, back to reality: "earth to Andres, earth to Andres?"
for those having trouble imagining a world where majors didn't matter that much. think of a time when the biggest thing in men's tennis was the davis cup.
Laver already won the Grand Slam in 1962. He had to wait till open tennis arrived to repeat the Grand Slam in 1969. Who knows how many he could have won in between. In 1974 he, at 36 was still ranked number 4. Nobody else has achieved this.
I'm currently reading Mr. Nastase. It's evident that the real money in tennis didn't start until after Laver's prime. Really, the real money didn't start until after Nastase's prime. Anyway, Nastase relates several stories about playing in tournaments and having to fly overnight on his day off from say New York to Los Angeles to play World Team Tennis, then having to fly back that night to play the next day in the tournament.
On another occasion, Nastase was playing in Houston and had to fly to South Carolina to play the Pepsi Grand Slam and then back to Houston the next day to finish the other tournament. Nastase relates that he routinely played 25 - 35 tournaments a year. The one thing he does mention is his steadfast devotion to Davis Cup.
The pros back then were trying to maximize their income. When money began to come into the sport, the guys who lived day to day as pros before were intent on making as good a living as they could. I really don't think the majors meant as much to them. Nastase said that he made more money and was in more demand after his best days were behind him. I can only think that Rod Laver enjoyed the same delimma.
The whole major count thing didn't become important until Pete Sampras approached it. Or, the "Career Slam" wasn't important until Agassi achieved it. Or, the clay court win streak that Nadal set, nobody gave Vilas a title when he did it, and nobody gave Borg one when he did it. So, if you look at it in that perspective, for 30 - 40 years of Open tennis, nobody really made big deals out of these type accomplishments. It's only been of late when the money was obscene and the marketing of the ITF and ATP/WTA to increase their exposure came into play.
As to Laver, he played in the WITC event most every year it was held. In some of the interviews, it was pretty clear that he hadn't been playing at all, but the first prize was $50,000, so they definitely had his attention. Borg too played it, I wonder how much it would take to get the top 4 men and top 4 women today, or if there is enough money in the world...
My personal opinion is that the pros back then were more intereted in making a living and bankrolling as much cash as they could. They knew their tennis careers wouldn't go on forever and were like the folks who grew up in the Great Depression when it came to money.
Some excellent points here.
Today's media and public are far more focused on total number of slams than they were back in 1970.
After all (and I've said this before), how many persons were calling Emmo "the GOAT" back in 1970 because he had the highest total number of slams?
That's why the stuff about the majors, while important is perhaps bit overrated. What's more impressive, winning 5 top tier tournaments that aren't majors but have the best field or one major? I would think the former.
Federer has under 70 tournament victories in his career. Somehow I think accomplishments like Connors and Lendl being in the 140's plus a number of majors should count for something. It amazes me that in the Open Era, virtually every top number one has been called the GOAT by many at one point or another except for Lendl. I think it had a lot to do with the fact Lendl was not liked by the media.
If we add the 9 professional majors that Laver won between 1964 and 1967 to the 6 he won as an amateur and the 5 he won in the open era, then Laver has 20 slams. Laver also achieved the professional grand slam in 1967.
To be honest, I'm surprised that the professional slams are not counted towards a player's slam total when a player turned professional before the start of the open era.
Many tennis historian do count it. Rosewall would be the leader with 23.
Yes, I think Laver's pro majors should be tallied to his record...but what about his Grand Slams before 1963?? He didn't have to play the three best players in the world, and that certainly made a difference because he was dominated by all three in '63. His amateur Slams are almost comparable to what Brian Teacher and Johan Kriek did. Sure, there were a couple of really good players in the draw (like Newcombe for Laver and Vilas, Tanner, and Lendl for Teacher/Kriek) but they didn't have to face the best in world at the time (Rosewall, Hoad, Gonzalez / Borg, McEnroe, Connors). Does Teacher ever get legitimate credit for his win? Laver's wins are more credible as displayed by his wins in the pro and Open era, but I don't think his amateur Slams should be given the same weight as his other majors IMO.
Yeah, but this isn't supported by the advent of Open tennis. When Open tennis hit, the top "amateurs" of the day were in the QF's and above. For instance, in the 1968 Wimbledon, Arthur Ashe lost to his idol Rod Laver in the semis, Dennis Ralston made the QF's to lose against Laver, Gonzalez lost in the 2nd round.
In the US Open Arthur Ashe defeated Tom Okker. Both these guys were amateurs prior to. John Newcombe was an amateur and the last amateur to win Wimbledon in 1967. He did well as a pro.
IMO, Laver's 1962 Slam may not have had the depth his 1969 Slam did but to say it's not legit just isn't right. The top players in the amateur ranks held their own with the pros when they combined.
Agree with Rabbit. While the open era Grand Slam of 1969 certainly counts more than the 1962 version, the draws Laver had to play in 1962 had depth. For his Wim win in 1962 Laver had to play people like Pierre Darmon, Whitney Reed, who were major finalists or US Nr.1, and Manuel Santana, and Neale Fraser (two Wim winners). Mulligan in the final was easy, he was better on clay (several Italian Champs wins), and had a match point vs. Laver at RG in 1962 in the quarters.
List of 1970's Majors Laver couldn't compete in
A lot of people talk about the Majors in the 60's that Laver couldn't compete in and therefore missed out on Grand Slam events then. But can we compile a list of those majors of which he was barred in the first 1/2 of the 1970's (and couldn't compete due to political, contract or other reasons?) eg Australian Open 1970 and the French Open 1970 & 1971. And of those events which ones was he a possible contender for the title. (I think he had a strong chance of winning all three of the above titles).
I don't know about that. I can speak to the barring though. Again from Ilie Nastase, the pros had a choice to make. They could either play WTT or two of the majors, the Oz and the French. Nastase was the defending champion and chose to take the WTT deal because it was more lucrative financially. I'm quite sure Laver did the same thing. There was some real resentment from the players against the ITF back then because the ITF tried to keep the players as amateurs.
Laver signed to play WCT. He did so knowing that Lamar Hunt ran his tour in competition with the ITF. That meant that Laver was contractually obligated to play WCT and could not play majors. Laver & Rosewall both chose WCT because the money was better. Nastase signed with them as well. After a period, Hunt signed an agreement with the ITF which allowed "his" players to compete.
And again, the commitment to Davis Cup is evident as the most important to the players as Nastase missed both WCT commitments and the Alan King Classic (one of the highest paying at the time) to play Davis Cup. So it is clear that the priorities of the pros at the dawn of professional tennis were vastly different than those of the last 20 years.
Yeah, the one time I saw Nastase play was a WTT match in Fresno, CA in 1976 or something like that; he had flown in directly from Rumania, where he'd played a Davis Cup tie the day before. He played part of a set, was pretty obviously a mess, and was replaced. It was still great seeing him play, though, and he still signed autographs for starry-eyed fans like me after the match was over.
It's always been obvious to me that the pros of Laver's day didn't have the luxury of being able to focus on preparing for the majors; they had to play wherever the money was best. Think about how long it took Laver to make his first million - and I'm sure that, at the time, he wouldn't have thought twice about sacrificing a chance at more major titles in exchange for bigger paydays. He knew what he needed to do to attain a comfortable life for him and his family, and that's what he (and lots of other guys) did. How many majors would he have won had things been different? Several, without a doubt. But I do also think that, after that second Slam, he lost the burning desire to win in those big events (or maybe it just didn't make financial sense for him to spend too much time preparing for an event that didn't pay as well as the CBS Tennis Classic or something like that). It has always amazed me, though, that, as good as he still was in the early Seventies, he didn't catch fire for a few days and win another Wimbledon or US Open.
You too? I saw Nastase play here in 1977, the match was here because Chris Evert has a niece living here. He played Buch Bucholtz in singles. I would have gotten an autograph, but Nastase was so incensed after the match was over he was still ranting and raving about something leaving the building. I managed to get down on the floor and yelled "Hey, Ilie!". As if by magic, he stopped in mid-sentence, looked at me, smiled and said "Hello...." and then went right back to ranting.... That was Nastase to me...
And that's why, as crazy as Nastase could be, I love watching him in action, aside from his beautiful game of course. Great story Rabbit.
Yes, let's do this list. It would be very useful.
Who knows this stuff?
(Wasn't it Jan Kodes who won the 1970 and 1971 FO, who Laver beat handily [7-5, 6-3, 6-3] in Rome in 1971 on clay? Wasn't this just a few weeks before the FO? So hypothetically Laver might have won the FO in 1971. Who else was barred and therefore could not play who also might have beaten Kodes?)
Federer's 62 tournament titles include 16 majors, 16 Masters titles and 4 year end championships. Most tennis analysts consider his achievements to be more remarkable than those of either Connors or Lendl.
The structure of today's game encourages players to be far more focused on winning big events than on piling up victories in Mickey Mouse tournaments. As such, you can't use number of tournaments won to compare players across generations.
Well I think the lead up tournaments is more due to a concerted effort between the WTA/ATP and ITF to "play nice" with each other. The effort is from a combined need for both to maximize earnings rather than competing with one another. I think the pros themselves suffer from a monopoly of sorts. The WCT was great for the pros who signed.
With regard to Connors and Lendl, sadly they fall into the category as any other sports legend. Time dimishes their achievements. I think that Connors and Lendl were extraordinary champions in their own rights and contributed far more to the game than today's players. Connors is almost single handedly responsible for the tennis boom of the 70s (well he and Evert) IMO. No other pro until Borg/McEnroe drew the attention and ratings that Connors did. And, for all the talk of his brashness, in his early career, he was a consummate professional when playing singles. His singleminded purpose was winning a match as one-sided as he could.
I think pros of the first twenty years of Open tennis had way more to deal with. Their schedules were predicated on need, not achievement and they didn't have agents or entourages. The travel they endured was more hectic and last minute.
Tennis is still a relatively new professional sport and IMO still experiencing growing pains.
Indeed. Laver also won the Sydney Dunlop Open in 1970 that took place 2 months after the Aussie. It was explicitly considered in the media as the 'unofficial' Australian major (strangely the 1st Australian Open in history in 1969 was not a success financially, so the organizers couldn't offer the same prize money the next year, hence the absence of the top pros; the Dunlop was a WCT event, so no financial issues...). Laver beat Ashe, the Australian Open winner in the final.
He couldn't take part in Roland Garros from 1970 to 1972. Afterwards, only WTT players were banned from 1974 on. But in 1973, though Laver was allowed to play he declined to go, which shows that his commitment to RG or the Australian in the 70s would have been patchy at best even if he could take part every time.
In 1972 and 1973 he wasn't in Wimbledon, the 1st time around because of the professionals' ban, the 2nd time because of the famous boycott.
He was at the Australian in 1971, but that was the last good field of the 70s there and in the following years Laver did not make the trip, though I think there was no ban or limitation of any sort.
Laver defeating Rosewall, Gimeno, Hoad and Gonzalez doesn't qualify as Mickey Mouse. Or Rosewall or the others doing the same is pretty good I would say. Laver also win a ton of top tier Open Tournaments that didn't include top level tournaments like the 1970 Sydney Dunlop in which he defeated Rosewall in the final.
I am not necessarily writing that Connors or Lendl should be rated ahead of Federer but I am writing that their great achievements in tournaments and their great consistency should count for something. Majors, while exceptionally important is not the end all in evaluating players and that is all I am writing.
Mats Wilander won three majors in 1988 but didn't win many other tournaments. Is that superior to McEnroe's year in 1984 in which McEnroe won two majors but he won virtually everything else?
Sounds like if he'd been allowed to compete that Laver would have won the AO of 1970 and the FO of 1971. But he wasn't.
At which tournament did Laver beat Rosewall in the final at White City "1970 SYDNEY LAVER 3-6, 6-2, 3-6 6-2, 6-3" ?
Was this the Dunlop?
"Being an NTL player at the beginning of 1970 Rosewall didn't play the Australian Open held at the White City courts at Sydney in January because NTL boss McCall and his players thought that the prize money was too low for a Grand Slam tournament. In March, a tournament, sponsored by Dunlop, was organized at the same site, with a much denser field because of better prize-money and a better date. The same class players as in the Australian Open were present and in addition not only the NTL pros participated but even some independent pros, such as Ilie Năstase, who usually did not make the trip to Australia. Many considered this tournament as the unofficial Australian Open with Laver dominating Rosewall in five sets."
That's the one. Check my link to Krosero's highlights of this great match.
More good reasons.
Unless I am completely misconstruing, Roger Taylor beat Ashe in the quarters of the Sydney Dunlop: 6-3, 8-6, 6-4.
Laver beat Rosewall in the finals: 3-6 6-2 3-6 6-2 6-3.
And I would agree the field looks better than at the AO of 1970. I believe that the Dunlop deserves to be the "Australian slam" of 1970.
I read somewhere the 1971 French Open was really open to WCT players, but only Ashe has decided to play there, which was one of the causes of the ILTF ban on WCT pros in the first part of 1972.
Laver won in Rome in 1971 a few weeks before, but he was probably injured during the French Open that year.
Can somebody confirm this?
Yes this is correct, sorry I got the results all mixed up, I realize I actually thought of the 1971 Aussie final where Rosewall beat Ashe....
I don't think, that Laver was injured for RG 1971. He had back problems at the Chicago WCT event in March 1971 however, when he was rushed to a hospital with a stiff back and couldn't continue. The WCT tournament series with 20 32 men events across all surfaces, all (ecept AO)outside of the majors, was very challenging. The week after winning Rome on clay, Laver had to play Teheran on hard court, 2 weeks later Bristol on grass and so on. Laver and Rosewall skipped RG and Forest Hills in 1971 to focus on that WCT series; they had a good contract with Lamar Hunt and were glad to support this first really solid and well financed tournament series.
To the the tournament wins of Laver, Rosewall or Connors. I often pointed to the Super Nine tournaments or equivalents in the early open era. Connors did win much more than Mickey Mouse events. I must make an exact count of equivalents, based on the ITF or ATP sides, to give exact numbers, but from my memory, he must have won at least some 25 Super Nine equivalents. His wins at South African, Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas, Wembley, Las Vegas in the 70s and early 80s had certainly Super Nine status. Conversely he skipped not only many RG and AO, but also the Masters Cup often in his prime years in the mid 70s.
I'm really sorry that it doesn't mesh with what you want to believe but that's just bad luck. You blokes put way too much emphasis on the whole psychology angle. That might be true for some nationalities and temperaments but when you're dealing with an Aussie like Laver it's just a waste of time.
What I wrote is based on growing up with the Lavers - Rod, Bob, Brian, Ian and - and getting the story pretty much from the horse's mouth. That's good enough for me, sorry it isn't for you.
If you knew the Lavers, I'm happy to believe your version of events. And the fact that Laver was, and is, a truly decent man is undeniable; having met him several times and played with him twice, he's as unassuming and modest as you could want. It still kills me that, at one event, he actually came up to me on his own, stuck out his hand, and said, "Hi, I'm Rod Laver." As if I didn't know...and, hopefully, he couldn't tell I was trembling inside, standing there chatting with my all-time tennis hero. We just stood there and talked, like two buddies waiting for a court to open up. It was amazing.
laver and slams in the 70s
laver played wimbledon '70 and us open '70. he played aussie '71 and wimbledon '71. He was barred from playing aussie '70 and french '70 because of his ntl contract. He withdrew from french and us opens in'71 citing mental tiredness. Other wct players played both events, although most top wct players did not played the french. In '72 laver was barred from the french and wimbledon due to his wct contract. He did not enter the aussie in '72 but did play the us open, where a back injury limited his effectiveness and forced him to curtail his schedule for the rest of '72. In '73 laver skipped the aussie, withdrew from the french due to his back problem, missed wimbedon due to his back and the atp boycott, but did play the us open. In '74 laver played no slams as he cut back his schedule to concentrate on his tennis camps.
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