The winner of the World Championship Series was the pro champion from 1931-63. The series was the toughest test any top flight tennis player ever endured and usually contained many matches (sometimes over 100) across America (and later the rest of the world). If you won the series, you would receive your percentage for the tour and you would take on the next challenger the following year (or occasionally you might have a year off and play the next series the following year). If you lost, your earning potential was vastly reduced. Before the late 1950s, you had to play the handful of pro tournaments that existed, the main three of which were the British, U. S. and French pro championships (from 1940 to 1955 the French and British Pro were not often held). Earnings from tournaments were small compared to World Championship Series tours, though the pros all wanted to win the U. S., British and French Pro events to add these titles to their resume. Even though it harmed the gate and their own earnings by winning a World Championship Series tour by a wide margin, players still did it because the idea of throwing matches was alien to them. Even as far back as the late 1930s the pros held the edge over the amateurs. After the war the gap widened. Jack Kramer was the last rookie pro to win the World Championship Series in 1948. After that established pros Kramer, Pancho Gonzales and Ken Rosewall beat the newcomers every time, often by a wide margin. Once Rod Laver had turned pro at the end of 1962, the pros were vastly superior. The World Championship Series was abolished in 1963. From then on the pro champion was the man that won most tournaments each year. GRAND SLAM TENNIS ARCHIVE
1931 Bill Tilden v. Karel Kozeluh. Tilden won 63-13 (82.8%).
In 1930 Bill Tilden was the first Grand Slam champion to turn pro along with his friend former Wimbledon and U. S. finalist Frank Hunter. Bill Tilden (the promoter) and Karel Kozeluh opened on February 16, 1931, at Madison Square Garden with a crowd of over 13,800. Tilden’s decisive straight set victory that night sounded the note for the tour. Tilden's big serve and forehand drives proved too much for Kozeluh (who was a defensive player that liked to take the ball late). Tilden soon led 16-0 and then 25-1. In the end he won 63-13. Tilden said the tour grossed close to two hundred thousand dollars. In Tilden’s autobiography, he described the first World championship series tour against Kozeluh in 1931 by saying
“after my fifth consecutive victory against the Czech, Curley (Jack Curley, the booking agent employed by Tilden) was reduced to a state of squirming anxiety. I took the bull by the horns. “Jack”, I said, “just in case anyone might get any false ideas, let me tell you right now that if I can I’m going to beat Kozeluh in every match on this tour”. “Sure,” he said. “Sure, Bill. But it will ruin the gate!” “That’s OK by me,” I said. “We’ll ruin it. I’ll stand for no monkey business on this tour, and I’ll fire the first person who tries it. If we can’t pull ‘em in on honest results, pro tennis is dead.” .”
1932 Bill Tilden v. Hans Nusslein. Tilden won (scores unknown but Tilden won around two thirds of matches).
The following year Tilden took on young German Hans Nusslein. Tilden won by a comfortable margin (the final tally of matches is not known). Pro tennis was beginning to establish itself.
1933 Bill Tilden v. Hans Nusslein. Tilden won (scores unknown).
This was the first tour in which the participants were the same as the previous year. Because of this, the interest in the tour was less than it had been the previous year. Although scores are not known, Tilden won comfortably. Pro tennis needed a big new signing and at the end of 1933 it got it: Ellsworth Vines.
1934 H. Ellsworth Vines v. Bill Tilden. Vines won 47-26 (64.3%).
The Tilden-Vines tour opened at Madison Square Garden. A record breaking crowd of 16,000 enthusiastic spectators packed into the Garden. Some spectators had to be turned away because the venue was full. Tilden’s greater experience indoors helped him beat the rookie Vines in straight sets. However, on the tour Vines’ youth and power overcame Tilden’s experience, though Tilden’s tally of 26 matches was very respectable considering he was past 40 and Vines was at his peak. The tour was a great success. Tilden described the tour by saying:
“Wherever we played we set new attendance records. Then we returned to undertake a special series of ten international matches against the two leading professionals of France, Henri Cochet and Martin Plaa. America took all ten matches! The combined tours grossed well in excess of a quarter of a million dollars.”
1935 H. Ellsworth Vines v. Lester Stoefen. Vines won.
Unfortunately there was no big amateur signing at the end of 1934. In 1935 Vines took on Lester Stoefen in a tour that proved to be very one sided. At one stage Vines led Stoefen 25-1. The final tally of matches is not known, but Vines won by a wide margin. This tour was not very successful.
1936 H. Ellsworth Vines v. Lester Stoefen, Berkeley Bell & George Lott. Vines won.
With no big amateur signing, another second rate tour between Vines, Stoefen, Berkeley Bell and George Lott took place. The final scores are not known, but it can be assumed that Vines won fairly comfortably. At the end of 1936 reigning Wimbledon and U. S. champion Fred Perry turned pro, providing a much needed boost to the pro game.
1937 H. Ellsworth Vines v. Fred Perry. Vines won 32-29 (52.4%).
Not only was the first Vines-Perry tour one of the most successful, it was also one of the closest. Tilden said the tour grossed a quarter of a million dollars. The 1937 tour opened on January 7th at Madison Square Garden. A crowd of 17,630 packed into the Garden that night, which was a record for an indoor match until the King-Riggs Battle of the Sexes match in 1973. Perry won the match in four sets. Perry won in Cleveland and Chicago to lead 3-0 in the series. The next morning Vines was admitted to hospital suffering from nervous exhaustion. When he returned Perry’s momentum was broken. The Perry-Vines tours, more than any others, took in smaller indoor venues that were barely big enough to accommodate a tennis court. In these venues the players would often be right up against the wall during the rallies (they would have to be careful if they were chasing down a deep lob!) The ball would sometimes hit the wall behind the players and then whack them on the back of the ear on the rebound! In these venues there was often not enough room to lay the canvas court, so someone had to paint white lines on the floor (there were sometimes other lines marked for other sports, which made it confusing!) Perry described the sorts of venues he played at in his 1984 autobiography. This is a small excerpt of what he said:
“I have played on ice rinks with the canvas laid right on top of the ice, where every step off the canvas sent you skidding off into the distance, and even in the venues where boards were laid over the ice the cold used to numb your lower legs and weight the tennis balls like lumps of lead.”
The amount of travelling involved in World Championship Series was gruelling. In the winter, Perry and Vines travelled by train. There were usually four hundred miles between stops. After completing a best of three sets singles match in the smaller venues and best of five in the larger ones, there would be a best of three doubles. The moment the doubles finished the players would run to catch their train still dressed in their tennis attire having had nothing to eat or drink. They would arrive at their next destination the next morning and head straight to their hotel. Then they would meet the local press (players were in charge of their own publicity). Then they would sleep for a few hours and wake at 4pm and then eat. Then they would do radio interviews in the early evening before their match began at 7.30pm. No wonder Perry said he looked a bit gaunt at the end of that tour! Outside of the winter months, Perry and Vines would often travel in the same car. Fortunately they got on very well.
1938 H. Ellsworth Vines v. Fred Perry. Vines won 49-35 (58.3%).
In 1938, with no new major amateur signing, Vines and Perry faced each other again. The major change on this tour was that Perry and Vines owned the tour and arranged all the dates with the venues. Vines’ new passion for golf meant that some of the dates were linked in to golf events so that Vines could enter qualifying for them, as Perry recalled.
“Strangely, this new interest never affected his tennis, although he eventually became a golf professional. In 1938 Vines was still giving me plenty of trouble with his big serve and his hard-hitting forehand. On indoor courts he was rough to handle.”
1939 J. Donald Budge v. H. Ellsworth Vines. Budge won 22-17 (56.4%). J. Donald Budge v. Fred Perry. Budge won 28-8 (77.7%).
After winning six Grand Slam titles in a row from 1937-8 including the 1938 Grand Slam, J. Donald Budge had signed a pro contract to promoter Jack Harris at the end of 1938. Budge remembered in his tennis memoir that his first tour against Vines was very successful. He claimed he made more than $100,000. The Vines-Perry tour of 1938 had ended up being fairly close, so although Perry had been beaten, there was still a reason to keep him involved in the series. Budge had not had a good record against Perry in the amateurs. Rather than playing the smaller venues, the Budge tours would hit the bigger cities twice. 17,000 turned up at the opening of the Budge-Vines tour at Madison Square Garden. Budge beat Vines 6-3,6-4,6-2 and won the tour 22-17. During the tour, Budge and Vines compared badly blistered feet. However, one aspect that was easier than the Perry-Vines tours was that they played the larger arenas. After 1939 Vines left tennis behind him to concentrate on golf, where he achieved success as a professional. Budge recalled the tour in his tennis memoir.
“It may be difficult to imagine how I could get up every night to play the same guy, but considering what was riding on every match- the world championship- I never had any trouble preparing myself to play Vines. The fact that he had been my idol for years was another factor that made me want to beat him all the more. It was like eating when you were hungry, and the fact he and I were playing the same opponent every night made no difference at all in my mental outlook. I was ready every night.”
Budge’s tour with Perry was less close and considerably less successful than his tour with Vines.
“After enduring Vines’ power game, I never felt any real pressure when playing Fred. I opened against him on March 10, 1939, in Madison Square Garden, but this opening drew only 7,000 and an appropriately smaller gate as well. I whipped Perry 6-1,6-0,6-3 in forty-nine minutes, and that rout removed a lot of drama from the tour from the first.”
1940 J. Donald Budge won by default. No challenger.
Bobby Riggs had won Wimbledon and the U. S. in 1939, but he opted to remain in the amateur ranks for a little while longer. With war raging in Europe as the 1930s came to a close, any new pro signings would be restricted to American players and there was only one Grand Slam (the U. S.) in which to assess current form in the amateur ranks.
1941 J. Donald Budge v. Bill Tilden. Budge won 51-7 (87.9%).
In 1941, with no new amateur signing, Budge took on the ageing Tilden and won easily (the most one sided World Championship Series where scores are known). A lot of the people that came to see the matches did so because they thought it might be their last chance to see the 48 year old Tilden play. As it transpired, Tilden continued playing until 1946, when jail sentences curtailed his career. Budge remembered the tour:
“He (Tilden) was still capable of some sustained great play that could occasionally even carry him all the way through a match. Most of the time he could, at his best, hang on for at least a set or two. Despite his age, he was no pushover…It was seldom, however, that he could extend me to the end, and I swamped him on the whole tour”.
1942 J. Donald Budge v. Bobby Riggs, Frank Kovacs, Fred Perry & Lester Stoefen. Budge won with a 52-18 record (74.2%).
In 1942 Budge employed young sports promoter Alexis Thompson to promote the tour in which Budge faced fresh amateur signings Bobby Riggs (1941 U. S. champion) and Frank Kovacs (1941 U. S. finalist), plus Perry and Stoefen. The tour went ahead, despite the fact the U. S. A. had just become involved in the war. The opening matches at Madison Square Garden on Boxing Day 1941 saw Perry suffer a nasty accident. Normally for indoor matches they used a heavy canvas court, with pulleys and ropes at each end and either side to stretch it tight, but on this occasion they opened with a lightweight canvas. A split opened up during the opening match between Budge and Kovacs which didn’t show. Perry played Riggs in the second singles. Perry described in his autobiography how his foot was caught in the hole in the canvas when running forward to a short ball and how he cartwheeled up in the air and landed on his elbow, smashing it to bits. Perry was never the same player after that. America’s involvement in the war meant that the tour wasn’t as well supported as it should have been and the tour was cut short because of this. Budge finished first with a 52-18 record. Riggs was second with a 36-36 record. Kovacs was third with a 25-26 record. Perry was fourth with a 23-30 record. Stoefen was fifth with a 2-28 record. 1943-5 was a period when tennis virtually came to a standstill. Very depleted U. S. and U. S. Pro events were the only tennis tournaments of any note that were held in these years.
1946 Bobby Riggs v J. Donald Budge. Riggs won 23-21 (52.2%).
In 1946 Riggs took on Budge in a tour organised by Jack Harris. Budge was not able to recapture his pre-war form, though the tour ended up being the closest World Championship Series ever. Riggs led 13-1 before Budge managed to find a way of beating him, only losing by two matches in the end, as Budge recalled.
“I was finally able to establish enough of a new style to give him a fight. But the tour was not quite long enough for me, and I was never able to catch him. The tour had been billed as a natural contest of styles between the slugger (me) and the clever boxer (Riggs). As such, it would have been the classic battle. Unfortunately, it never worked out that way. I could never get the swing to serve with the power I had owned. In the end I was really trying to outsteady Bobby. I was just trying to beat him at his own game.”
Riggs, in his autobiography, said of the 1946 tour with Budge:
“After the war he (Budge) took something off the ball and played his shots safer. I could play against that kind of game.”
1947 Bobby Riggs v. Frank Kovacs. Riggs won 11-10 (52.3%).
With no major amateur signing at the end of 1946, there was no major pro tour in 1947. Riggs organised a short tour in which he faced Frank Kovacs (who was at his peak). Riggs won 11 matches to 10.
1948 Jack Kramer v. Bobby Riggs. Kramer won 69-20 (77.5%).
Bobby Riggs would take on the next great amateur signing, 1947 Wimbledon & 1946 and 1947 U. S. champion Jack Kramer in 1948. Two other new signings 1947 Australian champion Dinny Pails and Pancho Segura played a supporting tour, which was won by Pails. The Jack Harris organised Kramer-Riggs tour opened on Boxing Day 1947, when one of the greatest snowstorms ever to hit the New York area played havoc with transport, yet 15,114 people managed to battle through the snow, many on foot, to witness the first match in an eagerly anticipated tour. Riggs won in four sets. As usual both players had to undertake a lot of promotional work in between matches and they would travel hundreds of miles in between each venue. After trailing 8-5, Kramer went in front 12-9. Riggs then levelled it up at 12 all. From a narrow 16-15 lead, Kramer began to exert his new ultra-attacking style to the full and within a week he was seven matches up. He hardly lost another match after that. The final result was Kramer 69, Riggs 20. Riggs recalled the tour :
“The stakes were high for me in the Kramer series. I realized that the survivor would get to play the next amateur champion to turn pro, while the loser would be dropped from the tour, just as Budge had been dropped when I beat him…Jack had a natural rhythm on his serve, with a great big arc to his motion. His first serve was almost the equal of a Gonzales or Vines delivery. But Kramer was in a class by himself with his second serve, which was almost as tough as his first ball. So even if he faulted his first serve, which wasn’t often, I was faced with returning a ball that was nearly as difficult to handle. I used the lob more against Jack than ever- fifty or sixty times a match- to keep him from crowding the net. But I’d have to spin a perfect high lob to the corners to beat him with that shot. I can’t remember him missing a single smash in the hundred matches we played. That’s how fantastic he was overhead. Jack was utterly relentless in his savage attacking game…Kramer kept the pressure on me in every match, even when he was far ahead. On the odd occasion he lost, he was furious with himself. He was a merciless competitor and possessed the killer instinct in the highest degree.”
Kramer recalled the tour in his autobiography:
“I would rush in and try to pound his weakest point- his backhand, which had control but not much speed- pound it, pick on it, smash it till it broke down. For the first time it was kill or be killed. So the style I am famous for was not consciously planned; it was created out of the necessity of dealing with Bobby Riggs.”
1949 Jack Kramer won by default. No challenger.
There was no obvious challenger from the amateur ranks for Kramer to take on in 1949. 34 year old Adrian Quist had won the Australian. 32 year old Frank Parker had won the French. Bob Falkenburg, who had stamina issues, had just managed to win Wimbledon. 20 year old Pancho Gonzales had won his first Grand Slam title at the U. S. but was several years away from his peak.
1949-50 Jack Kramer v. Pancho Gonzales. Kramer won 96-27 (78.0%).
Bobby Riggs took over as promoter from Jack Harris after his tour with Kramer. 1949 Wimbledon champion Ted Schroeder only played part time so he remained amateur. In 1949-50 Kramer took on young Pancho Gonzales, who had just won back to back U. S. titles. Veteran Frank Parker also turned pro having won back to back French titles, but he was outclassed by Segura in the supporting tour. World Championship Series tours usually got underway after Christmas or sometime in January, but the 1949-50 Kramer-Gonzales tour began in October and proved to be one of the longest tours in the history of the series. 13,357 turned up at Madison Square Garden, though not as many that had turned up for Kramer and Riggs. Kramer won in four sets. Kramer soon established a 22-4 lead. Although Gonzales improved as the tour went on, Kramer was at his peak and won easily. Kramer recalled the tour by saying:
“Although I was clearly the better player we did have some good, long matches. And whatever you think of Gonzales, he has the heart of a lion. At 5-5 in the fifth, there is no man in the history of tennis that I would bet on against him; but against me on this tour, it was precisely the close ones that he couldn’t win”.
Gonzales recalled his first tour in his autobiography, as told to Cy Rice.
“I got the trouncing of my young life. Jack was merciless. He never relaxed. His ‘off’ nights were few and far between. If I managed to dump him in Boston and foolishly start thinking I’d solve his all-court game, he’d thump me so terribly the next night in Providence I’d wonder if the strings in my racket weren’t just ornamental. Consequently, Jack wasn’t doing the gate any good. How many persons, at the height of Rocky Marciano’s career, would pay to see him fight a flyweight? Our tour wasn’t much different. I was clearly overmatched, and it began to dawn on me that, at the age of twenty-one and less than a year out of the amateurs, was a far cry from the peak of professionalism.”
1950-1 Jack Kramer v. Pancho Segura. Kramer won 64-28 (69.5%).
1950 French and Wimbledon champion Budge Patty remained an amateur (as did U. S. champion Art Larsen) so there was no big new signing for 1951. Having beaten Gonzales the previous year, Kramer then faced experienced pro Pancho Segura in the 1950-1 World Championship Series. This was Segura's first chance at the pro championship, but he was outclassed by Kramer, who was at his peak. Kramer recalled the tour in his autobiography.
“Segura’s problem was that no matter how well he played, he couldn’t overcome my serve. Against most players, even the good servers, he could break them down by running around their second serves and pounding the forehands back. You had to get in a high percentage of good first serves to beat Segura, but in my case- and this was also true of Gonzales- we had such depth and control of our second serves that we could keep Segura from using his big weapon (and especially in the deuce court). So Segura and I were a classic case of the tour imbalance that develops. Once I beat him nineteen straight”.
1952 Jack Kramer won by default. No challenger.
Because there were few tournaments, Kramer hardly played at all in 1952, as there was no new amateur signing to face him on a tour. Only two players won more than two Grand Slam titles in the period 1947-54. They were Jaroslav Drobny and Frank Sedgman. Drobny was already 29 when he took his first Grand Slam title at the 1951 French. 1951 Australian and Wimbledon champion Dick Savitt only played regularly for a few more months before going into a career in the oil industry in late 1952. 1949 & 1950 Australian and 1951 U. S. champion Sedgman seemed the obvious choice to face Kramer in 1952, but at the end of 1951 Harry Hopman launched a 'keep Sedgman amateur' campaign. A petrol station was purchased from the money raised and given to Sedgman's bride to be. The hypocrisy in the amateur establishment was clear for all to see. In the years that followed the hypocrisy was even more blatant, as amateurs were paid 'under the table'. The bid to keep Sedgman amateur only delayed him turning pro for a year.
1953 Jack Kramer v. Frank Sedgman. Kramer won 54-41 (56.8%).
After Gonzales and Frank Parker turned pro in 1949, there was no major pro signing until the end of 1952, when reigning Wimbledon and U. S. champion Frank Sedgman joined the pro ranks, along with his compatriot reigning Australian champion Ken McGregor. After losing heavily to Pancho Segura on his 1953 tour, which was a supporting act to the main contest, Ken McGregor returned to Aussie Rules Football. He played pro tournaments in Australia but didn't tour overseas again. In 1953 Kramer faced his toughest test yet in the World Championship Series against Sedgman. Kramer was now beginning to suffer from an arthritic back but he managed to summon up one final effort to beat Sedgman in what proved to be Kramer’s toughest tour. Kramer led 11-6, but Sedgman came back to just one behind at 18-17. Then they played some matches on clay and Sedgman suffered from a sore shoulder and a bout of flu. Kramer won seventeen of the next nineteen to lead 34-20, which was enough of a lead to see Kramer home. Kramer, who had now taken over from Riggs as promoter, recalled the tour:
“Sedg was a great competitor. Even when he got the flu and the sore shoulder, he never quit. He was the quickest I’ve ever seen. He could attack off his second serve, or he could come in behind his little slice backhand- and once Sedg got to the net, forget it, because he was so quick you had to thread a needle to get anything past him. Anything he could get he would put away. Frank Sedgman hardly ever hit a second volley. If he got his racket on a volley, it was almost always a placement, deep and hard. He was more aggressive the latter part of the tour, and he should have played it that way all along.”
1954 Pancho Gonzales v. Pancho Segura & Frank Sedgman. Gonzales won with a 60-42 record (58.8%).
In 1954 Kramer stopped touring and Gonzales was brought back into the fray, having spent over three years in the wilderness. These tough years made Gonzales more determined than ever not to lose another World Championship Series. He never did. With no new amateur signing and with no reigning pro champion competing, the tour was unsurprisingly not a great financial success. Gonzales won with a 60-42 record (he beat both Sedgman and Segura 30-21). Segura was second with a 44-52 record (he edged out Sedgman 23-22). Sedgman was third with a 43-53 record.
1955 Pancho Gonzales won by default. No challenger. (Gonzales also won most tournaments, winning 4 events).
There was no tour in 1955. Gonzales begged Kramer to find someone to play him, but Kramer insisted there was no one in the amateurs that was up to the job. 32 year old Drobny and 31 year old Seixas had won Wimbledon and the U. S. in 1954. Hoad (who was yet to win a Grand Slam) and Rosewall (the 1953 Australian and French champion) were considered too young and were not yet at their peak.
1955-6 Pancho Gonzales v. Tony Trabert. Gonzales won 74-27 (73.2%).
After winning three Grand Slam titles in 1955, Kramer wasted no time in signing Tony Trabert to tour with Gonzales in 1955-6. 1954 Australian and U. S. finalist Rex Hartwig also joined the pro ranks. After losing easily to Segura in the supporting tour to the Gonzales-Trabert contest, Hartwig returned to Australia and didn't tour again. The Gonzales-Trabert tour was a long tour and it got underway in early December 1955. Gonzales and Trabert did not get on and the animosity between them got worse as the tour progressed. Trabert spoke of his feud with Gonzales to Joe McCauley in The history of Professional tennis.
“I appreciated his tennis ability but I never came to respect him as a person. Too often I had witnessed him treat people badly without cause. He was a loner, sullen most of the time, with a big chip on his shoulder and he rarely associated with us on the road. Instead he’d appear at the appointed hour for his match, then vanish back into the night without saying a word to anyone.”
Over 10,000 spectators turned up at Madison Square Garden to see the opening match of the tour. This opener proved to be a classic match, with Gonzales coming from two sets down to win in five sets. Gonzales won the tour comfortably. Gonzales recalled the tour:
“I learned that to beat Tony I had to stay on top of him, forcing him into errors…Trabert, realising that to lose on this major tour meant the end of big money offers, took his defeats hard…I won the tour, 75 to 27. Given the chance, I’d like to have shellacked him 102 to 0. Each one of the twenty-seven losses cut into me deeply.”
1957 Pancho Gonzales v. Ken Rosewall. Gonzales won 50-26 (65.7%).
At the end of 1956 reigning Australian, French and Wimbledon champion Lew Hoad decided not to turn pro and remained in the amateur ranks for a few more months. In 1957 Gonzales took on reigning U. S. champion Ken Rosewall, who at 22, was still not yet at his peak. Rosewall was the master strategist. Gonzales reckoned that strategy could be overcome by sheer power. Gonzales described Rosewall by saying:
“He played the game literally the way it was taught. His backhand, slightly undercut, looked stronger than his forehand. But that was deceptive. He took his forehand shots nicely on the rise with pace. His serve held no terrors. Yet it was effortless and well placed.”
The tour began with eleven matches in Australia. Stadiums were packed out as fans came in their droves to see one of their own take on the American pro champion. Gonzales had a 7-4 edge as they headed to Madison Square Garden to begin the American leg of the tour. 11,500 turned up at the Garden that night. By the time the tour concluded in Bakersfield, Gonzales had assumed a commanding 50-26 lead. Gonzales was very tired but very gratified. Rosewall remembered the tour in the Peter Rowley biography of him.
“On the U. S. circuit in those days almost all the matches were played on canvas laid over wood or ice and pulled tight with block and tackle. This sort of surface was very good for Gonzales’ game. Although he usually served to my backhand on our head-to-head tour in 1957, one of his best serves was swung wide to my forehand, particularly in the No. 1 or deuce court…When I first played Gonzales, I played an attacking game coming to the net, which was the way he played. Gonzales’ backhand was not that strong. He undercut it and hit it a little behind. So you’d try to play a shot deep to it. But he was always thinking one shot ahead while some players who hit a shot think it’s going to be a winner and don’t move any more. He liked to hit his backhand down the line and I would come in for the volley, but he was already moving cross-court. He placed his ground strokes not necessarily by trying to hit a winner but to set up the next shot.“
1958 Pancho Gonzales v. Lew Hoad. Gonzales won 51-36 (58.6%).
In 1958 Gonzales faced Rosewall’s compatriot Lew Hoad. Hoad turned pro after winning Wimbledon, which enabled him to get the feel for pro tennis for several months before his tour with Gonzales began. Gonzales won but it was his toughest test yet. Hoad was close to his peak at that time. Hoad led 8-5 after their Australasian segment which set attendance records at most of the venues. Then the tour recommenced in America and Hoad extended his lead to 18-9. With Hoad leading 18-9 they arrived at Palm Springs to play at the tennis club. It was the height of the tourist season. The stadium was packed out. Frank Sinatra, Lana Turner and Elizabeth Taylor were among the spectators. It was a cool night (March 1 1958). Hoad never loosened up. They had been playing mostly indoors. Gonzales beat Hoad. Then the next morning, Hoad awoke with a stiff back. Then Hoad lost in Pheonix, Albuquerque and El Paso. Hoad's back continued to trouble him. He needed a few days rest but they were playing every night. Gonzales found top form, winning 24 of 29 matches as Hoad's back continued to trouble him. Hoad won five in a row to narrow the gap to 31-35, but from then on Gonzales was the stronger player, winning 51-36. Gonzales recalled the tour:
“Every trick I ever learned, more concentration than was previously required, rigorous conditioning, and, lastly, a maximum of determination were needed before Lew was conquered.”
1959 Pancho Gonzales v. Lew Hoad, Ashley Cooper & Mal Anderson. Gonzales won with a 47-15 record (75.8%).
It would be Hoad, along with new signings Ashley Cooper and Mal Anderson, who would take on Gonzales in 1959. Rosewall was reaching his peak but was not selected to play. New signing Merv Rose (the reigning French champion) also did not play in the series and after a year of touring returned to Australia, as his compatriots McGregor and Hartwig had done before him. Gonzales won the 1959 round robin tour, though he had a narrow 13-15 losing record against Hoad. Gonzales' winning record was 47-15 (he lost to Hoad 13-15, beat Anderson 20-0 and Cooper 14-0). Hoad was second with 42 wins and 20 losses (he beat Gonzales 15-13, Cooper 18-2 and Anderson 9-5). Cooper was third with 21 wins and 40 losses (he lost to Gonzales 0-14 and Hoad 2-18 and beat Anderson 19-8). Anderson was fourth with 13 wins and 48 losses (he lost to Gonzales 0-20, Hoad 5-9 and Cooper 8-19). The series began to suffer from the fact that everyone knew the new pro signings were not in the same class as the best existing pros. Cooper had won three of the four Grand Slams in 1958, but had been outclassed after he had turned pro later in the year. Cooper found it hard to adjust to life on the pro circuit, saying:
“The main difference between amateur and pro tennis was having to play well night after night. It was akin to playing a final every time you stepped on court and, during the transitional period, you get very despondent.”
1960 Pancho Gonzales v. Ken Rosewall, Pancho Segura & Alex Olmedo. Gonzales won with a 49-8 record (85.9%).
In 1960 Gonzales won again, beating new signing Alex Olmedo, Rosewall and Segura. Gonzales showed he was still at the peak of his form on this tour. Half way through the North American segment he had won twenty three of twenty four matches (his one loss coming against Olmedo). At the end of the North American segment Gonzales led 33-5. After the European and Australian segments of the tour, Gonzales finished with 49 wins and just 8 losses. Rosewall was second with 32 wins and 25 losses. Segura was third with 22 wins and 28 losses. Rookie pro Olmedo (the winner of the Australian and Wimbledon in 1959) was fourth with just 11 wins and 44 losses. Although Rosewall won the British and French Pro titles in 1960 and 1961 (he didn't enter the U. S. Pro in these years, as the event struggled from 1960-2), Gonzales proved conclusively that he was still the master of the World Championship Series.
1961 Pancho Gonzales v. Andres Gimeno, Tony Trabert, Lew Hoad, Barry MacKay, Alex Olmedo & Earl ‘Butch’ Buchholz. Gonzales won with a 33-14 record (70.2%).
In 1961 Gonzales won a round robin tour against Andres Gimeno, Lew Hoad, Tony Trabert, Barry MacKay, Alex Olmedo and Butch Buchholz. Rosewall didn't play the 1961 tour, preferring to spend time with his family. Wimbledon and U. S. champion Neale Fraser was the top amateur in 1960, but he opted to remain in the amateur ranks (Fraser had no wins and six losses in Grand Slams against Cooper, who had been outclassed when he turned pro). As it happened, Fraser's amateur career declined after 1960 and by 1962 he was semi-retired. 1960 Australian champion Rod Laver was still several years away from his peak. With Hoad and Trabert declining, Olmedo finding it tough going in the pro ranks and new signings MacKay, Buchholz and Gimeno having turned pro without reaching a Grand Slam final, this tour was not as successful as those that had gone before. Matches in the 1961 series were nearly all best of three sets, which suited the 33 year old Gonzales. The tour began in New Zealand before heading to America and Gimeno began well. He twice beat Gonzales early on. However, by the time they reached Europe, Gonzales was in command. Gonzales won 15 in a row before Trabert (who was standing in for Hoad, who was by now suffering frequent injury problems) beat him at Wembley. At the end of the tour Gonzales won with a 33-14 record. Gimeno was second with 27 wins and 20 losses. Third was Trabert with 9 wins and 6 losses. Fourth was Hoad with 15 wins and 17 losses. Fifth was MacKay with 22 wins and 25 losses. Sixth was Olmedo with 18 wins and 29 losses. Seventh was Buchholz with 16 wins and 31 losses. Then the two top players played off in a series of matches played over one pro set and Gonzales won 21-7. One last great effort from Gonzales and he had proved once again he was the undisputed king of the World Championship Series.
1962 Ken Rosewall was pro champion. Rosewall won tour by default. Rosewall won 9 tournaments to Segura's 4.
Gonzales went into a brief period of retirement after 1961. 1962 was a period of stagnation in the pro game. The 1961 Grand Slam champions were Rod Laver (Wimbledon), Roy Emerson (Australian and U. S.) and Manolo Santana (French). Laver was still not yet at his peak and it would be many years before Emerson turned pro. The biggest amateur signing during the latter part of 1961 was 1958 & 1960 French finalist Luis Ayala. In 1962 there was no World Championship Series tour and a very weak U. S. Pro championships due to none of the top overseas pros playing in America. Jack Kramer resigned after a decade in charge of pro tennis. Tony Trabert, whose playing career was in decline, took over from Kramer. There were still a healthy number of tournaments, mostly in Europe. Rosewall was the top pro in 1962, winning most tournaments (nine) at Adelaide, Melbourne, Wellington, Auckland, Geneva, Paris (French Pro), Wembley (British Pro), Milan and Stockholm. Gonzales retired at 33 when Rosewall was 27 and reaching his peak years. By the time he returned properly in 1964, Gonzales was still a fine player, but he was past his peak.
1963 Ken Rosewall v. Rod Laver, Earl ‘Butch’ Buchholz, Andres Gimeno, Barry MacKay & Luis Ayala. Rosewall won with a 31-10 record (75.6%).
In 1963 Rosewall faced Rod Laver, fresh from his amateur Grand Slam, along with Buchholz, Gimeno, MacKay and Luis Ayala in the last World Championship Series. Rosewall began by beating Laver at White City Stadium in Sydney and proved to be the dominant player on the tour. Rosewall finished with 31 wins and 10 losses. Laver finished second with a creditable 26 wins and 16 losses. Buchholz was third with 23 wins and 18 losses. Gimeno was fourth with 21 wins and 20 losses. MacKay was fifth with 12 wins and 29 losses. Ayala was sixth with 11 wins and 30 losses. Rosewall and Laver then played off in best of three set matches and Rosewall won 14-4.
Laver, in his autobiography, shared his first opinions of Rosewall on turning pro:
“Rosewall, I could see, was going to be something else. He was closer with a point than a dollar, and he looked like he’d make about four mistakes a year, one for each season. That wasn’t far off…The only way I’m going to beat him is to have a very good day. He anticipates my shots so uncannily that I simply have to hit them bloody well enough that his anticipation and his legs are no use.”
1964 Ken Rosewall was pro champion. Rosewall won 11 tournaments and Laver also won 11, but Rosewall finished top of the official points table, which took into account final losses (Rosewall had 5 to Laver's 3).
The number of tournaments had been increasing since 1957 and in 1963 the World Championship Series was done away with and the pro champion would be the man that won most tournaments each year. Despite a proper tournament schedule, the pros still struggled to get media exposure. Laver was improving all the time and Rosewall only just managed to finish above him in the standings. Rosewall won events at Melbourne, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cannes, San Remo, Venice, Paris (French Pro), Hanover, the Facis trophy and Cape Town. Laver won events at Perth, Monterey, Boston (U. S. Pro), Biarritz, Geneva, Wembley (British Pro), Salisbury, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Cairo and Marseille. Pancho Gonzales didn't play at all in 1962 and played just one match in 1963 (a loss to Olmedo at the U. S. Pro). Gonzales made a sensational comeback in May 1964. He won at Cleveland and then beat Laver, Hoad and Rosewall (from 2 sets to 0 down in a brilliant five set final) to win the U. S. Pro indoors in New York. Although Rosewall and Laver won most of the remaining events, veteran Gonzales had shown that on his very best days he was still capable of beating both. The ever improving Gimeno beat both Rosewall and Laver to win at Noordwijk in Holland and Munich.
1965 Rod Laver was pro champion. Laver won 16 tournaments to Rosewall's 6.
In 1965 Laver finally overtook Rosewall and began his domination of the game that continued for the rest of the 1960s. Laver won events at Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Hobart, Oklahoma City, New York (U. S. Pro indoors), Los Angeles, San Rafael, Lake Tahoe, Newport R. I., Cannes, Wembley (British Pro), Nairobi, Bulawayo/Salisbury, Durban and Cape Town. Gonzales showed he was still able to win the occasional title beating Rosewall and Laver. He beat both to win in Sydney in January and the CBS event at Dallas in May, plus he beat Laver to win Seattle in June. In order to win an event, it was often necessary to beat both Laver and Rosewall, which most pros found very difficult to do. Gimeno did this at Milan in September.
1966 Rod Laver was pro champion. Laver won 15 tournaments to Rosewall's 9.
1966 saw Laver continue his dominance of the game. Laver won more tournaments than Rosewall, including the U. S. and British Pro titles. At the French Pro Rosewall managed to beat Laver in the final. Laver won events at Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Nancy, Cannes, New York (Forest Hills), Binghampton, Boston (U. S. Pro), Oporto, Wembley (British Pro), Milan, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Abidjan and Dakar. Gonzales was not playing a full schedule by now but he beat Rosewall and Laver in a four man televised event at Wembley in March and beat Laver again to win at Hollywood, Fla. in December. Gimeno beat Laver and Rosewall at Oklahoma City in July and Barcelona in September. By 1966 the organisation of the pro game was crumbling. Roy Emerson (10 titles) and Manolo Santana (3 titles) were the dominant Grand Slam champions in the 1963-67 period. However, both declined pro contracts at the end of the 1966 season, as they didn't want to take a pay cut (shamateurism was rife by now). Reigning U. S. champion Fred Stolle was the major amateur signing at the end of the 1966 season, along with Wimbledon finalist Dennis Ralston. They were the first Grand Slam finalists to turn pro since Laver.
1967 Rod Laver was pro champion. Laver won 18 tournaments to Rosewall's 7.
1967 was one of Laver's most dominant years. He won most of the tournaments, including the three majors the British, French and U. S. Pros. Laver won events at New York (U. S. Pro indoors), San Juan, Orlando, Miami Beach, Boston, Paris, Marseilles, San Diego, New York (Madison Square Garden), Oklahoma City, Boston (U. S. Pro), Newport R. I., Binghampton, Fort Worth, Wimbledon, Johannesburg, Paris (French Pro) and Wembley (British Pro). Gonzales beat Stolle and Laver to win at Melbourne in February. Gimeno beat Laver and Rosewall to win Cincinnati in July and Port Elizabeth in September. Stolle had wins over Laver and Rosewall during the year and won several tournaments. However, Laver and Rosewall had dominated the 1962-67 period, winning all the pro slams and most pro events. Two new promoters arrived in late 1967, George MacCall and Dave Dixon. They would revolutionise the pro game. MacCall signed Emerson and several of the top existing pros to his National Tennis League and Dixon signed reigning Wimbledon and U. S. champion John Newcombe, 1966 French champion Tony Roche, 1965 U. S. finalist Cliff Drysdale, Nikki Pilic and Roger Taylor to WCT. Then on December 14 1967 the British LTA voted for open tennis.
PRO SLAMS ARCHIVE
ABOUT PROFESSIONAL TENNIS
U. S. PRO CHAMPIONS 1927-1967
U. S. PRO CHAMPIONSHIPS 1927-1967
BRITISH PRO CHAMPIONS 1934-1967
BRITISH PRO CHAMPIONSHIPS 1934-1967
FRENCH PRO CHAMPIONS 1930-1967
FRENCH PRO CHAMPIONSHIPS 1930-1967
The winner of the World Championship Series was the pro champion from 1931-63. The series was the toughest test any top flight tennis player ever endured and usually contained many matches (sometimes over 100) across America (and later the rest of the world). If you won the series, you would receive your percentage for the tour and you would take on the next challenger the following year (or occasionally you might have a year off and play the next series the following year). If you lost, your earning potential was vastly reduced. Before the late 1950s, you had to play the handful of pro tournaments that existed, the main three of which were the British, U. S. and French pro championships (from 1940 to 1955 the French and British Pro were not often held). Earnings from tournaments were small compared to World Championship Series tours, though the pros all wanted to win the U. S., British and French Pro events to add these titles to their resume. Even though it harmed the gate and their own earnings by winning a World Championship Series tour by a wide margin, players still did it because the idea of throwing matches was alien to them. Even as far back as the late 1930s the pros held the edge over the amateurs. After the war the gap widened. Jack Kramer was the last rookie pro to win the World Championship Series in 1948. After that established pros Kramer, Pancho Gonzales and Ken Rosewall beat the newcomers every time, often by a wide margin. Once Rod Laver had turned pro at the end of 1962, the pros were vastly superior. The World Championship Series was abolished in 1963. From then on the pro champion was the man that won most tournaments each year.
GRAND SLAM TENNIS ARCHIVE