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US Open classic matches: Rod Laver vs Tony Roche US Open 1969 final

Davis
ANALYST
Feature
3.68K   //    05 Aug 2013, 23:41 IST
Australia Rod Laver, 1969 US Open

Australia Rod Laver in action vs USA Arthur Ashe during Men’s Semifinals at West Side Tennis Club

Video of match highlights when you scroll down.

The year was 1969 and in the month of September, the tennis world was buzzing with excitement because the US Open was in progress. The Open era had begun by then and tennis fans got to witness tennis players from around the world competing against each other for the coveted trophy.

The season saw Aussie legend Rod Laver dominating the tennis circuit once again.

Having won the other three Grand Slam tournaments earlier that year, he was in the hunt for the fourth and the final Grand Slam of the year, the US Open.

Another Grand Slam to his name would mean Laver winning ‘The Grand Slam’, a unique feat of winning all Grand Slam titles in a single year, a feat he had achieved once before the Open era. Having seen him achieved the feat before, his fans were expecting him to repeat it again.

After he defeated the then-defending champion Arthur Ashe in the semi final, the expectations grew even more.

Laver’s fellow Australian Tony Roche beat another Australian John Newcombe in the other semi final match to set up a clash with Laver at the final.

Laver, given his past accomplishments and the form he was in, was the crowd favourite, with everyone expecting him to win.

The crowd, however, was shocked when Laver lost the first set 7-9. It was then clear to everyone, including Laver himself, that it was not going to be easy to beat Roche and that he had to bring out the best in him to overcome his opponent and lift the title.

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Laver, being a true champion and a legend, did manage to bring out the best. The following set saw him returning to his dominant self and playing beautiful tennis; a sight the crowd wanted to behold.

Deadly serve-and-volley games, wide range of shots, powerful wrists with the capability to hit heavy top spin from both sides, excellent running shots and brilliant foot work, Laver had every single recipe in the tennis cookbook required to become a champion and on that day, he brought out all those skills on display winning the second set 6-1.

Tony Roche, being one of the top players of the time and ranked World No. 2 that year, was no ordinary player. But on that particular day starting from the second set, he seemed to have been totally outclassed by the brilliance of his opponent. He seemed to have no answer to Laver’s technique and eventually ran out of ideas. The Laver onslaught had begun.

Such was Laver’s dominance that the final scoreline read 7-9, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in Laver’s favour, entering his name in the record book for being the only player to have won ‘The Grand Slam’ twice.  The result once again asserted Laver’s dominance in men’s tennis during that time.

The match itself was not a classic since it was very much a one-sided encounter, but the entire tennis fraternity including Rod Laver himself and the tennis fans will not forget it because of the unique piece of history it created.

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