Lew Hoad

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Lewis Alan ("Lew") Hoad (November 23, 1934 - July 3, 1994) was a champion tennis player from Glebe, New South Wales, Australia. Known for his amiable nature and dominant play, Hoad was part of an especially successful era in Australian tennis. Hoad won numerous titles in both singles and doubles. For five straight years, beginning in 1952, he was ranked in the World Top Ten for amateurs, taking the No. 1 spot in 1956.

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Often referred to as the "Golden Boy" of tennis, blond, good-looking Hoad is considered one of the first tennis superstars.

Tennis career

Hoad's strength played an important part in his success, as he often drove for winners rather than rallying and waiting for the right opportunity. Although he assaulted his opponents, he also had the skill to win the French Championships on the slower clay court. Tennis champion Jack Kramer, who eventually signed Hoad to the professional circuit, wrote, "Hoad had the loosest game of any good kid I ever saw. There was absolutely no pattern to his game…. He was the only player I ever saw who could stand six or seven feet behind the baseline and snap the ball back hard, crosscourt. He'd try for winners off everything, off great serves, off tricky short balls, off low volleys. He hit hard overspin drives, and there was no way you could ever get him to temporize on important points."[1]

Australian players and fans remember his feats during the Davis Cup, and especially his victory in the 1953 finals versus the American Tony Trabert in Melbourne. His triumph took place on a rainy afternoon in his home country. The United States, leading 2-1 and on the brink of Cup victory, looked to come out on top, but Hoad won the first two sets. However, the veteran Trabert responded by capturing the next two, before Hoad hung on for a five set victory, 13-11, 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 7-5. Australia won the following day when Ken Rosewall beat Vic Seixas.

Australia lost the Davis Cup to the United States in 1954, but reclaimed the title in 1955, and successfully defended it in 1956. Hoad and teammate Rosewall were especially impressive in the 1955 final, as the Australians beat the Americans without the loss of a match, winning 5-0.

From the time they were young, upcoming teenagers and throughout their careers, compatriots Hoad and Rosewall were linked as Australia’s tennis twins. In 1953, the same year of his spectacular match against Trabert, Hoad partnered with Rosewall to win three of the four majors in doubles. A quest for a sweep of all four Slams was halted at the U.S. Championships, as they lost to unseeded Americans Straight Clark and Hal Burrows, 5-7, 14-12, 18-16, 9-7, in an upset. Despite missing out on a calendar-year Grand Slam, Hoad and Rosewall stand alongside the teams of Frank Sedgman-Ken McGregor (1951-52) and John Newcombe-Tony Roche (1967) as the only teams to win three of the four men’s doubles Slam titles.

Singles dominance

As a singles player, Hoad reached a period of dominance in 1956, when he seemed poised to capture the calendar-year Grand Slam in singles play. The likelihood of this achievement grew after Hoad posted a victory in the Wimbledon finals against Rosewall. He was heavily favored to win the fourth leg of the Slam at the U.S. Championships and then turn professional for a lucrative contract offered by Jack Kramer. But in the championship match at Forest Hills, Rosewall denied him the victory and ruined his Grand Slam chance, winning in four sets, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. Fresh from his victory, Rosewall—not Hoad—signed the professional contract and went on to spend the new year as the regular victim of Pancho Gonzales on the professional tour.

Even though he had lost, Hoad turned in a banner year in 1956 with 32 titles overall, including 15 singles titles out of 26 tournaments played and an incredible 95-11 win-loss record in singles. He also posted 17 doubles titles out of 23 tournaments and a 79-5 record. Because he had fallen short of the Grand Slam, he delayed his transition from amateur to professional tennis and pursued the Slam in 1957. The attempt proved short-lived as he lost in the semifinals of the first one, the Australian Championships, to his countryman Neale Fraser, 7-5, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. Another countryman, Neil Gibson, upended him at the French Championships, in the third round, by a score of 2-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Hoad salvaged his season by successfully defending his Wimbledon title, blasting his way through his matches with a combined loss of just one set. In the final he beat Ashley Cooper, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2. The victory prompted him to retire from amateur tennis. At a time when only amateur players were allowed to compete in the four national championships, Hoad finally accepted Kramer’s offer to play on the professional tour.

Professional career

The professional tour was dominated by Pancho Gonzales when Hoad joined as a rookie. Hoad won 18 of the first 27 matches, but Gonzales surged back to finally defeat Hoad by 51 matches to 36. Gonzales, whom some consider to be the greatest tennis player of all time, always maintained that Hoad was the toughest, most skillful adversary that he had ever faced. Gonzales once said of his former foe: "When Lew's game was at its peak nobody could touch him"[2]

Despite the enormous respect that Gonzales had for Hoad’s abilities, it was Gonzales who continued to lead the tour, besting Hoad in the U.S. Pro singles finals in successive years, 1958 and 1959. Ongoing back problems prevented Hoad from taking the top spot from Gonzales. Many believed that injuries prevented Hoad from realizing his full potential as a professional.

In 1973, Hoad posted his last notable showing as a player, partnering with Rob Maude in a loss to Arthur Ashe and Tom Okker, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, in the doubles finals of a South African tournament.

Personal life

Hoad married another Australian tennis player, Jenny Staley, who was a promising young tennis player who won the Victorian schoolgirl singles when she was thirteen. She was also a finalist in the 1954 Australian Championships in singles.

In retirement, Hoad moved to Fuengirola, Spain, near Málaga, where he and his wife operated a tennis resort for more than thirty years. There they entertained personal friends such as actors Sean Connery, Kirk Douglas, and Charlton Heston.

In his later years, Lew Hoad battled leukemia and subsequently developed a severely weakened condition. While waiting for a bone marrow donor, he died of a heart attack on July 3, 1994, at the age of 59.

Hoad co-wrote a book with Jack Pollard, titled The Lew Hoad Story. The book was published in 1958. In 2003, Pollard teamed up with his Hoad’s widow, Jenny, to write My Life With Lew.

Legacy

With his movie-star good looks, powerful physique, and outgoing personality, Hoad became a tennis icon in the 1950s. While he may be overshadowed in recent times by other tennis greats, he will always be remembered in Australia for his role as part of a classic era of Australian champions, including Ken Rosewall, Tony Roche, and Rod Laver, among others.

Created by Hoad and his wife Jenny, the Lew Hoads Campo De Tennis still operates in Mijas, Spain. The Lew Hoads facilities include 8 tennis courts.

Hoad was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1980.

Grand Slam wins

  • Singles titles (4):
    • 1956—Australian Championships (d. Ken Rosewall); French Championships (d. Sven Davidson); Wimbledon (d. Rosewall)
    • 1957—Wimbledon (d. Ashley Cooper)
  • Doubles titles (7):
    • 1953—Australian Championships, French Championships, Wimbledon (all with Rosewall)
    • 1955—Wimbledon (with Rex Hartwig)
    • 1956—Australian Championships, Wimbledon (with Rosewall)
    • 1957—Australian Championships (with Neale Fraser)
  • Mixed titles (1):
    • 1954—French Championships (with Maureen Connolly)

Notes

  1. Frank Deford, A Little Hanky-panky, But No Fixes, Sports Illustrated. Retrieved September 20, 2008.
  2. Tennis Fame, Lewis Alan Hoad "Lew," International Tennis Hall of Fame. Retrieved September 24, 2008.

References

  • Hoad, Jenny, and Jack Pollard. 2002. My Life with Lew. Pymble, N.S.W.: HarperSports. ISBN 0732270677.
  • Hoad, Lew, and Jack Pollard. 1958. My Game. London: Hodder and Stoughton. OCLC 18299484.
  • Hoad, Lew, and Jack Pollard. 1958. The Lew Hoad Story. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. OCLC 398749.
  • Hodgson, Larry, and Dudley Jones. 2001. Golden Boy: The Life and Times of Lew Hoad, a Tennis Legend. Denton, England: DSM. ISBN 0953651649.
  • Kramer, Jack, and Frank Deford. 1979. The Game: My 40 Years in Tennis. New York: Putnam. ISBN 0399123369.
  • Matthews, Bruce. "Tennis legend one of the best." The Advertiser/The Sunday Mail. July 5, 1994.

External links

All links retrieved February 27, 2014.

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