Dinny Pails

Tennis World Mourns Jack Kramer Loss

The tennis world mourns the death of Jack Kramer, who passed away at age 88 Saturday night in California. Bud Collins, the Hall of Fame journalist and television personality, summarizes the incredible tennis career of one of the game’s all-time greats in his book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, excerpted below.

Jack Kramer

The impact of John Albert “Jake” Kramer on tennis has been fourfold: as great player, exceptional promoter, thoughtful inno­vator and astute television commentator.

Kramer, born Aug. 1, 1921, in Las Vegas, Nev., grew up in the Los Angeles area. He achieved international notice in 1939 as a teenager when he was selected to play doubles, alongside Joe Hunt, for the U.S. in the Davis Cup finale against Australia. At 18, Kramer was the youngest to play in the Cup title round, although John Alexander of Australia lowered the record to 17 by play­ing in 1968.

Kramer and Hunt were the golden boys out of Southern Cali­fornia, their careers intertwined. Joe beat Jake, at Forest Hills in 1939, where they were both losing semifinalists the following year. Both were to go to sea during World War II, Jake in the Coast Guard, Joe in the Navy, and to receive leaves to play again in the U.S. Championships of 1943, where they collided in the final. Hunt won, barely, sprawling on the court with cramps as Kram­er’s last shot flew long. Kramer, who’d had a bout with food poi­soning, laughed later, “If I could’ve kept that ball in play I might have been a champ on a default.” Hunt was killed 17 months afterwards in a military plane crash.

Because of the war, Jake had to wait three years to return to Forest Hills. He then rose to prominence as a splendid cham­pion, so dominant that he was voted fifth on a list of all-time greats selected by a panel of expert tennis journalists in 1969. The powerful right-hander was the leading practitioner of the “big game,” rushing to the net constantly behind his serve, and frequently attacking on return of serve. His serve took oppo­nents off the court, setting them up for the volley, as did his crushing forehand.

A blistered racket hand probably decided his gruelling fourth-round defeat by cunning lefty Jaroslav Drobny, and pre­vented Jake from winning the first post-war Wimbledon. But he came back awesomely in 1947, the first to win in shorts, making short work of everybody. Whipping doubles partner Tom Brown in 48 minutes, 6-1, 6-.3, 6-2, he lost merely 37 games in seven matches, the most lopsided run to the championship.

Brown had been his 1946 U.S. final-round victim, 9-7, 6-3, 6-0, another one-sided excursion for Jake, a crew-cut blond whose goal was to reclaim the Davis Cup that he and Hunt failed to clinch in 1939. In December, he and good buddy Ted Schroeder—the U.S. doubles champs of 1940—were members of a highly-talented team that captain Walter Pate took to Austra­lia for the challenge round. Every man—those two plus Brown, Frank Parker, Gardnar Mulloy, Bill Talbert—thought he should play. Pate picked Ted and Jake to do it all, controversial until the pals paralyzed the favored Aussies on opening day. Schroeder overcame John Bromwich, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 0-6, 6-3 and Kramer nailed Dinny Pails, 8-6, 6-2, 9-7. Together, they grabbed the Cup by flatten­ing the team that had beaten Hunt and Kramer in ‘39: Bromwich and Adrian Quist, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.

The following summer, Jake and Ted repelled the Australian challenge for the Cup at Forest Hills. Then Kramer closed out his amateur career memorably by overhauling Parker in the U.S. final. He lost the first two sets, and was in danger of losing out on a lucrative professional contract as well as his champion­ship. Counterpunching, he won, 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-0, 6-3, and set off in pursuit of Bobby Riggs, the reigning pro champ. Kramer, who had lost only two matches in 1946, dropped but one (to Talbert) in 1947, winning eight of nine tournaments on 48-1, closing his amateur life with a 41-match rush, and 18 singles titles.

Kramer knocked Riggs off the summit by winning their odys­sey of one-nighters throughout the U.S., which was the test of professional supremacy of that day. Their opener was a phenom­enon: New York was buried by a blizzard that brought the city to a stop, yet 15,114 customers made it on foot to the old Madison Square Garden on Dec. 27, 1947, to watch Riggs win. But Bobby couldn’t keep it up. Kramer won the tour, 69-20, and stayed in action while Riggs took over as the promoter and signed Pan­cho Gonzalez to challenge Kramer. Nobody was up to Kramer then. He bruised the rookie Gonzalez 96-27 on the longest of the tours. Kramer made $85,000 against Riggs as his percentage, and $72,000 against Gonzalez.

In 1952, Kramer assumed the position of promoter himself, the boss of pro tennis, a role he would hold for over a decade, well past his playing days. Kramer’s last tour as a principal was against the first man he recruited, Frank Sedgman, the Aussie who was tops among amateurs. Kramer won, 54-41. An arthritic back led to his retirement as a player, but he kept the tour going, resurrecting one of his victims, Gonzalez, who became the strongman.

One of the shrewdest operators in tennis, Kramer was looked to for advice when the Open era began in 1968. He devised the Grand Prix for the men’s game, a series of tournaments lead­ing to a Masters Championship for the top eight finishers, and a bonus pool to be shared by more than a score of the leading players. The Grand Prix, incorporating the most attractive tourna­ments around the world, functioned from 1970 until 1990, when the ATP Tour took over the structure. In 1972, he was instrumental in forming the ATP (Association of Tennis Pros), the male play­ers’ union, and was its first executive director. His role as leader of the ATP’s principled boycott of Wimbledon in 1973 made him unpopular in Britain for a time. Nevertheless, it was a landmark act, assuring the players the right to control their own destiny after being in thrall to national associations until then. Later, he served on the Men’s International Professional Tennis Council, the worldwide governing board.

For more than 20 years, Kramer served as a perceptive ana­lyst on tennis telecasts in many countries, notably for the British Broadcasting Corporation at Wimbledon and for all the Ameri­can networks at Forest Hills, and at other events, second to none. He ranked in the U.S. Top 10 five times between 1940 and 1947, No. 1 in the U.S. and the world in 1946 and 1947. Kramer won the U.S. Pro title in 1948 over the defender, Riggs, 14-12, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, and the world pro title in 1949 over Riggs, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.

Kramer, winner of 13 U.S. singles and doubles titles, was named to the Hall of Fame in 1968. His son, Bob Kramer, con­tinues the family’s tennis interests as director of the Los Angeles ATP tourney.

MAJOR TITLES (10)—Wimbledon singles 1947: U.S. singles, 1946, 1947; Wimbledon doubles, 1946, 1947: U.S. doubles, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1947; U.S. mixed, 1941.

OTHER U.S.TITLES (6)—Indoor singles, 1947; Pro singles. 1948; Pro doubles, 1948, 1955, with Pancho Segura; Indoor doubles, 1947, with Bob Falkenburg; Clay Court doubles, 1941, with Ted Schroeder. DAVIS CUP—1939, 1946-47, 6-0 singles, 1-2 doubles.

SIN­GLES RECORD IN THE MAJORS—Wimbledon (10-1), U.S. (24-5)

Rod Laver Anniversary Is Next Tuesday, January 27

40th Anniversary of “The Rocket” Winning First Leg of 1969 Grand Slam

Significant anniversaries in the history of the Australian Open – including Tuesday’s 40th anniversary of Rod Laver’s Australian Open victory that was the first leg of his historic 1969 “Grand Slam” – are documented in the new book “On This Day In Tennis History.”

“On This Day In Tennis History” ($19.95, New Chapter Press, 528-pages, www.tennishistorybook.com) is the new tennis book written by Randy Walker, that is a calendar-like compilation of historical and unique anniversaries, events and happenings from the world of tennis through the years.

The 40th anniversary of Rod Laver’s win at the 1969 Australian Open comes on Tuesday, January 27. It was on that day that Laver defeated Spain’s Andres Gimeno, a newly announced inductee in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, by a 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 margin in the Australian Open final, played that year at the Milton Courts in Brisbane. Laver goes on to win an historic second Grand Slam by defeating winning the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open to sweep all four major titles in the same year.

“On This Day In Tennis History” is a fun and fact-filled, this compilation offers anniversaries, summaries, and anecdotes of events from the world of tennis for every day in the calendar year. Presented in a day-by-day format, the entries into this mini-encyclopedia include major tournament victory dates, summaries of the greatest matches ever played, trivia, and statistics as well as little-known and quirky happenings. Easy-to-use and packed with fascinating details, the book is the perfect companion for tennis and general sports fans alike and is an excellent gift idea. “On This Day In Tennis History” is available for purchase via on-line book retailers and in bookstores in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

Said Hall of Famer, two-time Australian Open champion and Outback Champions Series co-founder Jim Courier of the book, “On This Day In Tennis History is a fun read that chronicles some of the most important – and unusual – moments in the annals of tennis. Randy Walker is an excellent narrator of tennis history and has done an incredible job of researching and compiling this entertaining volume.” Said tennis historian Joel Drucker, author of Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, “An addictive feast that you can enjoy every possible way – dipping in for various morsels, devouring it day-by-day, or selectively finding essential ingredients. As a tennis writer, I will always keep this book at the head of my table.” Said Bill Mountford, former Director of Tennis of the USTA National Tennis Center, “On This Day In Tennis History is an easy and unique way to absorb the greatest – and most quirky – moments in tennis history. It’s best read a page a day!”

Other Australian Open interesting anniversaries over the course of the rest of the tournament are as follows:

January 25, 2003 – Serena Williams clinches “The Serena Slam” beating older sister Venus Williams 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-4 to win the Australian Open and complete her sweep of four consecutive major championships. Venus, ironically, is the final-round victim of Serena’s in all four of the major tournaments. Serena joins Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf as the only women to hold all four major tournament titles at the same time. “I never get choked up, but I’m really emotional right now,” says Serena in the post-match ceremony. “I’m really, really, really happy. I’d like to thank my mom and my dad for helping me.” The win for Serena places her ahead in her head-to-head series with Venus by a 5-4 margin. Says Venus of her younger sister, “I wish I could have been the winner, but of course you have a great champion in Serena and she has won all four Grand Slams, which is something I’d love to do one day.”

January 26, 1992 – Twenty-one-year-old Jim Courier defeats Stefan Edberg 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 to win his first Australian Open singles title, putting him in position to become the first American man to rank No. 1 since John McEnroe in 1985. Courier becomes the first American man to win the Australian Open in 10 years and celebrates his win by running out of the stadium and jumping into the nearby Yarra River, one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Says Courier of the river’s condition, “It was really dirty.” Courier assumes the No. 1 ranking on Feb. 10.

January 27, 1970 – Playing in a drizzle and swirling wind on the grass courts of White City in Sydney, Arthur Ashe wins the Australian Open men’s singles title, defeating Australian Dick Crealy 6-4, 9-7, 6-2. The singles title is Ashe’s second at a major tournament – to go with his 1968 triumph at the U.S. Open. Margaret Court needs only 40 minutes to win the Australian Open women’s title for a ninth time, defeating Kerry Melville 6-3, 6-1 in the women’s singles final.

January, 27, 2008 – Novak Djokovic outlasts unseeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (2) to win the men’s singles title at the Australian Open – his first major singles title. Seeded No. 3, the 20-year-old Djokovic becomes the first man from Serbia to a major singles title. Djokovic snaps a streak of 11 straight major championships won by either world No. 1 Roger Federer or No. 2 Rafael Nadal. Tsonga, ranked No. 38, was attempting to become the first Frenchman in 80 years (Jean Borotra in 1928) to win the Australian men’s singles championship.

January 28, 1946 – John Bromwich wins the men’s singles title at the Australian Championships – the first major championships held in the post World War II era, defeating 19-year-old fellow Australian Dinny Pails 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in the final.

January 28, 1989 – Steffi Graf wins her second Australian Open singles title, defeating Helena Sukova 6-4, 6-4 in the women’s singles final. “It wasn’t easy today,” says Graf, who doesn’t lose a set in the tournament. “I found it really hard to get into my rhythm. Helena was hitting some good shots and when somebody serves like that, it’s hard to win.” The 19-year-old Graf shrugs off talk of a second-consecutive Grand Slam after claiming her fifth straight major singles title, saying “I had an incredible year last year and I’ve started awfully well this year, but I’m not going to get myself in trouble and say it’s going to happen again.”

January 28, 2007 – Roger Federer wins his 10th major singles title, defeating Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Australian Open. Federer becomes only the fourth man in the Open era to win a major title without the loss of a set – the last being Bjorn Borg at Roland Garros in 1980. The championship match is umpired by Frenchwoman Sandra De Jenken – the first time in tennis history a woman umpired a men’s Grand Slam singles final.

January 29, 1938 – Don Budge defeats Australian John Bromwich 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 to win the Australian Championships at Memorial Drive in Adelaide, Australia. The title marks the first leg of Budge’s eventual “Grand Slam” sweep of all four major championships.

January 29, 1955 – Ken Rosewall hands Tony Trabert what turns out to be his only singles loss in a major championship for the 1955 calendar year, defeating the American 8-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals of the Australian Championships in Adelaide, Australia. Trabert goes on to win the French Championships, Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships to complete one of the most successful seasons in the history of tennis. Rosewall wins the title two days later on January 31, defeating fellow Australian Lew Hoad 9-7, 6-4, 6-4

January 29, 1968 – Billie Jean King of the United States and Bill Bowrey of Australian win the final “amateur” major championships at the Australian Championships – King beating Margaret Smith Court of Australia 6-1, 6-2 and Bowrey beating Juan Gisbert of Spain 5-7, 2-6, 9-7, 6-4 in the singles finals. The 1968 Australian Championships are the last major tournament to be played before the legislatures of tennis “open” the game to professionals in addition to the amateurs. King, who breaks Court’s service six times on the day in the windy conditions at the Kooyong Tennis Club in Melbourne, says after the match that she is planning to retire from the sport in the next 18 months to two years. “I do not want to go on playing much longer. I want to settle down,” says King, who never “settled down” playing up through 1983 and remaining active in tennis and women’s sports for decades.

January 29, 1989 – Ivan Lendl wins his first Australian Open singles title and his seventh career major singles title defeating fellow Czech Miloslav Mecir 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 in the men’s singles final. The win guarantees that Lendl will take back the world No. 1 ranking from Mats Wilander, the man who took it from him by winning the U.S. Open the previous September. In women’s doubles, the top-seeded team of Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver win their seventh Australian Open women’s doubles title with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Patty Fendick and Jill Hetherington. Shriver and Navratilova’s victory is their 20th major doubles title as a team.

January 29, 2006 – Roger Federer gets emotional, cries and hugs all-time great Rod Laver during the post-match ceremony following his 5-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2 win over upstart Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the final of the Australian Open. Federer has difficulty putting to words the emotions he feels during the post-match ceremony and sobs after receiving the trophy from Laver. “I hope you know how much this means to me,” he says as he wipes away tears. Federer becomes the first player to win three consecutive major tournaments since Pete Sampras wins at the 1994 Australian Open. The title is his seventh career major title, tying him with John McEnroe, John Newcombe and Mats Wilander.

January 30, 1967 – Roy Emerson wins the Australian men’s singles title for a fifth straight year, beating Arthur Ashe 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 in the title match played in Adelaide, Australia. Emerson needs only 75 minutes to beat Ashe in front of a crowd of 6,000 for his 11th major singles title. The turning point of the match comes with the score knotted at 4-4 in the first set and Ashe serves three straight double faults to lose his serve, allowing Emerson to serve out the set and roll to the straight-sets win. Unknowingly at the time, as statisticians and media representatives were yet to keep track of stats and records, but Emerson’s title makes him the all-time men’s singles major championship winner, moving him past Bill Tilden, who won 10 major singles titles from 1920 to 1930. In the women’s singles final, Nancy Richey beats Lesley Turner 6-1, 6-4 to win her first major title,

January 30, 1994 – Pete Sampras wins his third consecutive major singles title, slamming 13 aces with speeds as fast as 126 mph in defeating first-time major finalist Todd Martin 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-4 at the Australian Open. The top-seeded Sampras becomes the first man in nearly 30 years to win Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open consecutively, joining Roy Emerson in 1964-65 and Don Budge in 1937-38. “He’s just too good and he really deserves what he’s succeeding at, because he’s really working his butt off,” Martin says of Sampras.

January 31, 1927 – Gerald Patterson of Australia hits 29 aces – against 29 double faults – in beating Jack Hawkes 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 18-16, 6-3 to win the men’s singles title at the Australian Championships in Melbourne.

January 31, 1993 – For the second consecutive year, Jim Courier defeats Stefan Edberg in the men’s singles final at the Australian Open. Courier wins his fourth – and ultimately becomes his last – major singles title, with a 6-2, 6-1, 2-6, 7-5 victory. Says Courier, “It’s always very special to win Grand Slams, and to come back and defend makes it twice as special.” The final is played in blistering heat, with on-court temperatures measuring 150 degrees. Says Edberg of the blistering conditions, “At one stage, you feel like death.”

February 1, 1960 – Rod Laver and Margaret Smith win their first career major singles titles at the Australian Championships in Brisbane. Laver stages an incredible two-sets-to-love comeback to defeat reigning U.S. champion Neale Fraser 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 8-6, 8-6 in 3 hours, 15 minutes. Laver, who goes on to win 11 major singles titles – including two Grand Slam sweeps in 1962 and 1969 – saves a match point at 4-5 in the fourth set. Following the match, Fraser collapses in the dressing room in cramps and fatigue. Margaret Smith – later Margaret Court – wins the first of her eventual 11 Australian singles titles at the age of 17, defeating fellow Australian teenager – 18-year-old Jan Lehane – by a 7-5, 6-2 margin. Court goes on to win a record 24 major singles titles.

February 1, 2004 – Roger Federer wins his first Australian Open crown, his second career major singles title and puts an exclamation point on taking over the world’s No. 1 ranking with a 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-2 win over Marat Safin in the men’s singles final at the Australian Open. “What a great start to the year for me, to win the Australian Open and become No. 1 in the world,” Federer says. “To fulfill my dreams, it really means very much to me.”

Walker is a writer, tennis historian and freelance publicist and sports marketer. A 12-year veteran of the U.S. Tennis Association’s Marketing and Communications Division, he served as the press officer for the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1997 to 2005 and for the U.S. Olympic tennis teams in 1996, 2000 and 2004. He also served as the long-time editor of the U.S. Open Record Book during his tenure at the USTA from 1993 to 2005.

More information on the book can be found at www.tennistomes.com as well as on facebook.com at www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1627089030&ref=name and on myspace.com.

New Chapter Press is also the publisher of The Bud Collins History of Tennis by Bud Collins, The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection by Rene Stauffer and Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli and the soon to be released title The Lennon Prophecy by Joe Niezgoda. Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press is an independent publisher of books and part of the Independent Publishers Group. More information can be found at www.newchapterpressmedia.com