As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the US Open, we look back at the 50 champions who have left an indelible mark on this inimitable event.
He was called “Muscles," yet he stood only 5-foot-7 and weighed 145 pounds.
Regardless, in an age of giants of the game – Rod Laver, Lew Hoad, Pancho Gonzales, John Newcombe, Arthur Ashe – Ken Rosewall rightfully stood as tall as any of them during a Hall of Fame career that ran an astonishing three decades through the amateur, professional and Open eras.
At the age of 18, Rosewall won the first of eight Grand Slam singles titles at home at the Australian championships in 1953. He won his last 19 years later at the 1972 Australian Open.
In between, he won twice on the Forest Hills grass courts – in 1956 at the U.S. Nationals and again in 1970 at the US Open. Both times he beat fellow Australians.
In 1956, he defeated his longtime doubles partner Lew Hoad, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. In 1970, he beat Tony Roche, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-3, in a classic grass-court duel of serve and volley, returns, chips, lobs and precision passing shots.
Rosewall was a picture of grace and athleticism on the court. He was incredibly quick, agile and light on his feet. He was a complete player, as reflected in his ability to win on all court surfaces. The cornerstone of his game was possibly the best slice backhand in the game’s history. And mentored by the legendary Australian coach Harry Hopman, there was never any quit in him when he stepped on the court.
Rosewall was also an accomplished doubles player, claiming nine majors, including the 1956 U.S. Nationals and 1969 US Open crowns. His most frequent partner was Hoad. In 1953 and 1956, they won three of the four majors, coming up short of the Grand Slam at Forest Hills the first time and then at Roland Garros in 1956.
In 1953, Rosewall made his Davis Cup debut in the Challenge/Final round in a 3-2 win over the U.S. He went on to be a member of three more Davis Cup title teams and finished with a 17-2 career singles mark.
50 FACT: In a footnote to history, Rosewall beat Rod Laver in four sets to win the first Open tournament ever in Bournemouth, England, in April 1968. The first-place prize money at the event was $2,400.