Aussies at Roland Garros – Ken Rosewall 1968
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.
The French Championships became the French Open as the wall dividing amateurs and professionals came crashing down in 1968.
With professionals now eligible to enter the Grand Slams alongside the amateurs, a strong field contested the French Open. Headed by Australians Rod ‘Rocket’ Laver and Ken ‘Muscles’ Rosewall, Andres Gimeno, Roy Emerson and Pancho Gonzales rounded out the top five.
Both players relished the opportunity to compete for one of the truly big tournaments, but to make it to the final they had some significant hurdles to overcome.
Rosewall, one of the oldest players in the draw at 33, played as if he was in his prime and made it to the quarterfinals without dropping a set. Thomaz Koch proved a little more difficult, but Muscles triumphed in four sets to move through to the semifinals and a meeting with third seed Andres Gimeno who he defeated in a taxing five-set match.
Laver, meanwhile, had endured a tougher time making it to the final rounds, then had his hands full with ninth seed Ion Tiriac who won the opening two sets of their quarterfinal before Rocket struck back. Laver swept fifth seed Gonzales aside in straight sets in the semis to make it to the final against friend and rival Rosewall.
They’d played each other dozens of times on the professional circuit, but this was their first meeting in a Grand Slam final. Going into the final, Laver narrowly led their head-to-head battle 58-55, but it would be Rosewall who would triumph in four sets, 6-3 6-1 2-6 6-2. Rosewall also won the doubles with fellow Aussie Fred Stolle.
At the time Rosewall was the oldest winner of the men’s singles title at 33 years and seven months, a record he passed on to Andres Gimeno (34 years, 10 months) in 1972.
“Ken [Rosewall] pushed me around for about 20 years,” laughed Laver when asked about his rivalry with Rosewall in 2012.
In total, the pair met on court 143 times, with Laver winning on 80 occasions to Rosewall’s 63, with most of their meetings played out on the professional circuit. Rosewall turned pro in 1957, while Laver, four years Rosewall’s junior, entered the pro league in 1963.
In total, Rosewall missed 46 Grand Slams thanks to the amateur-professional divide but, despite this, he still amassed 18 majors (eight singles, nine doubles and one mixed). Had the majors been open to all players who knows how many titles Muscles would have won.
On his return to the Grand Slam tournaments Rosewall defied his years to play in Wimbledon finals 20 years apart, and win Australian titles 19 years apart, French 15 years apart and US titles 14 years apart.
Aussies at Roland Garros – the complete list to date
1968 Ken Rosewall wins singles and doubles at the age of 33