Today in Sports History – Rod Laver at Wimbledon
On this day in 1962, Rod Laver beat Martin Mulligan at the 76th Wimbledon Men’s Tournament (6-2, 6-2, 6-1).
In September of the same year, Rod Laver defeated Roy Emerson in four sets to win the U.S. Open, and as a result, Laver became the first man to win the tennis “Grand Slam” since Don Budge in 1938.
Laver turned “pro” in 1963, which meant he could no longer compete in the Open championships. Weird, right? At the time, those tournaments were amateur-only. The rule changed in 1968, when Wimbledon and the other grand slam tournaments ended their amateur-only policy and allowed professionals to compete. This distinguished the before and after of the “Open Era” in tennis.
In 1969, Laver became the first male to win the Grand Slam twice. In his career, he won a total of 11 Grand Slam events plus 47 other singles tournaments. If the “Open Era” had existed from ’62-’68, I’m positive Laver would have more grand slam titles than any other player. As a result, many tennis analysts still consider Laver the best men’s tennis player in history.
Side note: He was the first tennis player to earn $1 million for his just his play (doesn’t include endorsements/sponsorships).
I know most people reading this would say Federer is the best ever, and I honestly don’t have enough knowledge about the game to “prove” that Laver was better than Federer. However, much of this ranking depends on tournament victories. Laver played much of his career in a time when there were limitations on who could compete in certain tournaments, and that factor alone plays a big role in my opinion of who’s the best. During that span of ineligibility, he captured the professional equivalent of Wimbledon, the Wembly Pro Championship (four times) and the U.S. Open, the U.S. Pro Championships (three times) as well as the French Pro Championship (one time).
I’ll leave this comparison to another article, maybe one after this weekend’s Wimbledon final, but I do want to say one thing: there’s no way that it can be said beyond the shadow of a doubt that Federer is greater than Laver, or vise versa.
The first time I ever heard of Rod Laver was in high school (2004), when I heard MF Doom drop a couple lines about the shoes Laver had inspired. Adidas began collaborating with Laver starting in 1970!
In “Meat Grinder“, from the Madivillany album- “The worst hated God who perpetrated odd favors/Demonstrated in the perforated Rod Lavers/… in all quad flavors, Lord save us.”
See, the Rod Laver has a special place in the heart of those who have always been drawn to the ‘underground’ culture (music specifically). I was ecstatic when I got my first pair from a local shop called Sneakerland, but too bad my mom threw it out once I outgrew the pair. *Sigh*
As Complex Magazine put it, “the Adidas Rod Laver is a true cult classic that has found life in collaborative project, musical verse, and even other sporting venture.”
Most of those hackey-sack kicking hippies that many of you see when walking around on your school campus … they’re probably wearing a pair of Rod Laver’s.