Rod Laver is a retired Australian tennis player, and arguably one of the two greatest to have ever lived - along with Roger Federer.
Laver won 11 Grand Slams, but his most glittering accomplishment is winning the Calendar Grand Slam in 1962 - and then repeating the feat in 1969. Laver is the only player in the Open Era to have won the Calendar Grand Slam, and also the only player in history to have done it twice.
Best finish at each of the four Grand Slams:
Australian Open: 3-time Champion (1960, 1962, 1969)
French Open: 2-time Champion (1962, 1969)
Wimbledon: 4-time Champion (1961, 1962, 1968, 1969)
US Open: 2-time Champion (1962, 1969)
Highest Ranking: No. 3
Style of play, strengths and weaknesses
Laver is possibly the only high-profile male player in tennis history who had a perfectly fluid game and absolutely no weaknesses. He could do pretty much everything on a tennis court: he could attack, defend, volley and patiently construct points with equal competence, and could change his strategy on a dime - often in the middle of a match.
Laver was an all-court player who used the full dimensions of the court to outplay his opponents. He hit his groundstrokes with plenty of topspin - which was uncommon in his time - but could also slice his backhand with vicious underspin. His running backhand is legendary, and he could smack it for a winner even when pulled well wide of the tramlines.
The Australian had a typical lefty serve that swung away from the right-hander's backhand, and he could win plenty of free points with it. He also had a very effective net game, and could serve-and-volley to perfection on the quick grass courts of Wimbledon.
Significant Rod Laver records
Laver has one of the most impressive CVs in the history of men's tennis. Here is a list of his most significant records:
- Only male player in the Open Era to have won the Calendar Grand Slam (1969)
- Only player in the history of tennis, male or female, to have won the Calendar Grand Slam twice (1962, 1969)
- Most titles won in a single year (1969): 18
- Most singles pro titles won (pre-Open Era): 70
- One of only two players (along with Ken Rosewall) to have won the Calendar Professional Grand Slam (1967)
- One of only two players (along with Roy Emerson) to have won each Grand Slam tournament twice
Laver was born in Rockhampton, Australia, the son of a cattleman (Roy Laver) and housewife (Melba Roffey). He was a precocious kid who made up for his lack of height and raw muscle by working harder than anyone in his age group.
Laver married Mary Benson in 1966, and the couple have a son together. They moved to the US in later years, and finally settled in Carlsbad - where Mary passed away in 2012 at the age of 84.
Laver will always have a special place in history, because it is unlikely that any player will ever match his achievements. Modern day greats like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have all desperately tried to win the four Majors in a single year, and have failed. It is staggering to imagine that not only did Laver do what they couldn't, but he could do it twice.
No player has ever dominated the field across generations and categories the way Laver did. He was the best player in the world as an amateur, as a pro, and also in the Open Era. He won Slams in his 20s as well as his 30s, and if he hadn't been barred from competing in the Grand Slams from 1963 to 1968 (because he turned pro during that period), his Slam tally might well have been higher than Federer's record number of 20.
The Australian's topspin-heavy groundstrokes were also the foundation stone for the evolution of the game into its current avatar. He could defeat opponents from the back of the court, and from the net, and his textbook technique on practically all shots is still used in many coaching manuals.
Laver's influence on the sport has been so great that several landmark venues and events have been named after him. In 2001 the Center Court at the Australian Open was renamed as 'Rod Laver Arena'. More recently, the multi-nation tournament being promoted by Roger Federer has been christened the 'Laver Cup'.
Laver was a genius on the court, and a gentleman off it. Rarely has such a complete champion been seen in the sport, and it's hardly a surprise that many current and past greats have cited Laver as their biggest source of inspiration.
Social media presence:
Rod Laver Twitter: @rodlaver