Monday, June 24, 2024

Rocket Rod Laver honoured with day of tennis

Tennis Queensland has named Thursday, July 8 Rod Laver Day in honour of the all-time Queensland tennis great.

Sport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the 60th anniversary of Rod Laver’s first Wimbledon victory was marked by the Rod Laver Junior Championships held at the Queensland Tennis Centre yesterday.

“Rod Laver was born in Rockhampton, he was known on the international tennis circuit as ‘The Rockhampton Rocket’ and his first Wimbledon singles crown proved it,” Mr Hinchliffe said.

“At age 22 – when timber racquets were the on-court standard – Laver came up against Chuck McKinley in the final and trounced the American in straight sets in only 53 minutes.

The Rockhampton Rocket’s 1961 Wimbledon win remains one of the shortest men’s singles finals in the tournament’s history.

“Rocket Laver’s extraordinary career continues to inspire Queenslanders on the court, we’re seeing it at Wimbledon and at this week’s Rod Laver Junior Championships in Brisbane.”

Member for Rockhampton, Barry O’Rourke said the Central Queensland city was also honouring its favourite tennis son.

“Although The Rockhampton Rocket now lives in California, his trophies have been preserved by the Rockhampton Tennis Association with some of his mother Melba Roffey’s prizes, who was also a star player,” Mr O’Rourke said.

“The single clay court which ‘The Rockhampton Rocket’ honed his tennis skills on is still in Park Avenue, a legacy of his formative years in Central Queensland. 

“Central Queenslanders are reminded daily of The Rocket’s achievements with a brass bust of Laver on a limestone plinth on the Quay Street Esplanade, making everyday Rod Laver Day in Rockhampton.”

Member for Miller and Transport and Main Roads Minister, Mark Bailey said Rod Laver’s achievement in holding the world number one tennis ranking from 1964 to 1970 and winning a record 200 tournaments made him a true Queensland great.

“He’s won 11 Grand Slam singles titles and nine Grand Slam doubles. Rod is the only player in tennis history to win two calendar Grand Slams in singles – in 1962 and 1969, as only a Queenslander can,” Mr Bailey said.

“A Calendar Grand Slam involves winning the championships of Australia, France, Wimbledon and the United States in a calendar year.

The Rockhampton Rocket’s achievements and influence on up-and-coming players saw Rod included alongside Muhammad Ali, Pelé, Carl Lewis and Michael Jordan as one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century, a generation after retirement.

“And in 2021, Queensland’s dominance on the court continues with Ash Barty, Ajla Tomljanovic, John Millman and Sam Stosur named in the Australian Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020.”   

Tennis Queensland CEO, Mark Handley said Rod Laver Day was a day to celebrate the state’s incredible tennis history, its inspiring present and an exciting future.

“When you examine the records, there is no greater tennis player than Rod Laver. His 24-year career continues to inspire the current greats of our sport like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal who use Rod’s achievements as a measure of their own success,” Mr Handley said.

“In Queensland right now, we are experiencing another golden era with Ashleigh Barty at the top of women’s tennis and a Grand Slam title to her name whilst Ajla Tomjlanovic has just achieved a career best Grand Slam result.

“I am confident their success at Wimbledon this week will inspire the current players at the Rod Laver Junior Championships to greater results in the future.”

Speaking from his home in California, Rod said he was excited that people were still talking about years past. 

“And I am looking forward to seeing people play with wooden racquets again,” Rod said.

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