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The Age

MOMENTS IN TIME - Ken Rosewall's 1956 US Open victory

Author: Words: PAUL DAFFEY
Date: 26/08/2006
Words: 920
Source: AGE
          Publication: The Age
Section: Sport
Page: 10

The main question surrounding the men's draw in this year's US Open, which starts on Monday, is whether anyone can deny Roger Federer. Fifty years ago, before the US Open in 1956, it was asked whether anyone could beat Lew Hoad. The Australian went into the 1956 US championship needing to win the singles title to earn the rare honour of a grand slam, which is victory in the Australian, French, Wimbledon and US championship finals. Hoad duly won through to the final at New York's Forest Hills, where his opponent was a fellow 21-year-old from Sydney, Ken Rosewall, with whom he had won the US Open doubles final in Boston a fortnight earlier. Hoad was flamboyant, whereas Rosewall was steady. Hoad had beaten Rosewall in the Australian and Wimbledon singles finals in 1956 and was expected to overcome him again at Forest Hills.


Rosewall, who lives in Sydney, recently spoke to The Age on the eve of his departure for Newport, Rhode Island, the site of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, where he was to join the 85th birthday celebrations of tennis legend Jack Kramer. Rosewall recalled that Hoad was mozzed in the lead-up to the 1956 US Open by being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. "It was thought in the sports fraternity that that was a bad omen," said Rosewall, who was three weeks older than Hoad. During the recent interview, Rosewall wondered whether Hoad might have been nervous before their US Open final, because he was on the verge of becoming only the second player to win the grand slam, after Don Budge in 1938. But he never asked Hoad about it.


Rosewall liked playing at Forest Hills because, among other reasons, the grasscourts' low bounce suited his less-than-booming second serve. The final was held in windy conditions that should have suited both Hoad and Rosewall, who had played many times at Sydney's windy home of tennis, White City. After Hoad had won the first set in ominous fashion, Rosewall emerged to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. "With the conditions, I handled them just that little bit better," Rosewall said.


"It was one of Rosewall's finest displays and, according to prominent players like Donald Budge and experienced officials, one of the best finals ever. The vital difference between the pair was that Rosewall learned to use the wind to his advantage, while Hoad tried to combat it."

From The Age correspondent on Tuesday, September 11, 1956.


"Those who watched all four major titles said that Hoad played at least as well as he did in winning the other events, but that Rosewall was infinitely better than when he lost to Hoad in the Australian and Wimbledon championship finals. Rosewall explained the match this way: 'I realised I couldn't win by trying to beat the wind, so I decided to make it work for me. I concentrated on getting my first serve in and did not worry about its strength, because I knew the wind would swing it around and make it hard to return. Then I ran in to the net and cut short the returns'."

From The Age correspondent on Tuesday, September 11, 1956.


The most interesting aspect of that edition's back page is the equal weighting given to racing and football in grand final week. Both sports have six articles of roughly equal prominence. The main racing story outlines the threat of early Melbourne Cup favourite Ark Royal in the coming weekend's Craiglee Stakes; the four-year-old entire had run an impressive trial at Cranbourne the previous day. The main football story says Melbourne would learn at that night's training whether the leg injury of centre half-back Geoff McGivern would keep him out of the team to play Collingwood in the grand final that weekend. McGivern, who had played in the Demons' 1955 premiership team, went on to miss the 1956 triumph, while Ark Royal finished second behind Sailor's Guide in the Craiglee Stakes. Ark Royal then was one of three horses that famously dead-heated in the 1956 Hotham Handicap, alongside Pandie Sun and Fighting Force, but he did not start in the Melbourne Cup.


Cattle duffers completed one of the largest raids in Queensland history, with 800 head of cattle worth #20,000 stolen from a property in the state's central west. In Melbourne, the chief of Victoria Police's traffic branch, Superintendent R.H. Arnold, said cyclists would be the next target of a police blitz after their behaviour had been "terrible" during the previous weekend's blitz on motorcar drivers.


Rosewall went on to win eight grand slam singles titles (Australian 1953, '55, '71-72; French 1953, '68; US 1956, '70). He reached the Wimbledon final four times, the last one in 1974, when, at 39 years of age, he lost to 21-year-old Jimmy Connors. Hoad won four grand slam titles (Australian 1956; French 1956; Wimbledon 1956-57). He died in 1994 in Spain, where he ran a tennis ranch. Rosewall is planning to attend much of the US Open over the next fortnight. He said he was especially looking forward to seeing Andre Agassi play in his last grand slam tournament.

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