Aussies at Roland Garros – Rod Laver 1962
As we count down to French Open 2012, tennis.com.au will feature some of the best Australian achievements at Roland Garros.
As we count down to French Open 2012, tennis.com.au will feature some of the best Australian achievements at Roland Garros. The highlights will be revealed in chronological order and when all 20 have been named, you get the chance to vote for your No.1 achievement.
Rod Laver was already a Grand Slam champion by the time he won his first Roland Garros title in 1962. The 24-year-old left-hander from Rockhampton was an Australian Open (1960) and Wimbledon champion (1961).
The 1962 season started well for the ‘Rockhampton Rocket’ with his second Australian Open crown – a four-set win over friend and countryman Roy Emerson. In fact, Laver defeated Australians in each round, a scenario that is unimaginable now.
Laver was seeded No.1 in Paris as he was in Melbourne but had a far more difficult time on the clay than he did on grass back home. Laver dropped sets to unseeded players in the third and fourth rounds, but worse was to come.
In the quarterfinals Laver met fellow Aussie Martin Mulligan. Mulligan hadn’t won any major titles and wasn’t as talented as Laver, but he didn’t let either of those trivial details deter him.
Laver pocketed the first set as expected, but it was Mulligan who would take the next two. The fourth-set was a hard-fought affair with Mulligan bringing up match point. But standing on the brink of a major upset was as close as Mulligan would get. Laver dared to come to the net behind a second serve and was rewarded with a backhand volley winner that snuffed out Mulligan’s hopes. Laver re-grouped to take the fourth set 10-8 and the decider 6-2.
Another five-setter awaited though. Neale Fraser pushed Laver hard in the semifinals, but Laver prevailed to make it to his first Roland Garros final.
Laver had worked hard to get to the final against Emerson and early on it looked like the dramatic wins had taken their toll. Emerson jumped Laver and raced out to a two set and 3-0 lead before Laver worked his way back into the match. Laver ultimately prevailed 3-6 2-6 6-3 9-7 6-2 to keep his hopes of completing the calendar year Grand Slam alive.
Weeks later he would win Wimbledon – a straight set defeat over Mulligan in the final. Then the final piece of the puzzle – a four-set win over Emerson in the final of the US National Championships. And with that Laver became just the second man after Don Budge in 1938 to win all four majors in a calendar year.
Profile: Rod Laver
Aussies at Roland Garros – the complete list to date
1962 Rod Laver wins the men’s singles title on his way to his first calendar year Grand Slam