Australia , 31 December 2022 | Tennis Australia

The Australian tennis community is mourning the passing of Grand Slam and Davis Cup Champion Rex Hartwig at age 93.

Fondly known as ‘Wrecker’ , Hartwig was part of the golden age in the post-war years that saw Australia dominate the men’s game.

His nickname reflected his approach on the court where he had a hard serve and groundstrokes and was an aggressive net rusher.

Hartwig learned to play by hitting a ball against a brick wall on his family’s farm at Culcairn in New South Wales. His first doubles partner was his father, the pair winning their first tournament when Rex was age 10.

He honed his game by moving to Albury and later Melbourne, where he worked for Spalding.

In 1952 he upset Ken McGregor and Merv Rose to win the South Australian singles title and was included in the Davis Cup squad.

He made his debut in the Challenge Round at Kooyong in 1953, controversially replacing Ken Rosewall in the doubles where he partnered Lew Hoad.

It was the only Davis Cup rubber he lost – winning six singles and seven doubles matches over the next two seasons. He hit the winning volley to give Australia the title in New York in 1955.

Hartwig was a brilliant doubles player and collected six Grand Slam titles including two Wimbledon crowns.

His greatest partnership, however, was with Madge Exelby who he married in 1952 after meeting as juniors at a tennis tournament. The couple had six children.

“It’s my life, totally my life. It’s my wellbeing, living and my love,” said Hartwig as he reflected on his career.

“So many great things happened to me from playing tennis.”

After a year as a professional touring with Jack Kramer in 1955 (during which he travelled more than 50,000 miles) he retired from competition and bought a sheep farm at Greta in Central Victoria.

Aside from farming, Rex Hartwig coached throughout Victoria and played on the Grand Masters Circuit.

An annual junior tournament in Albury is named in his honour and in 2016 he was inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame.


Davis Cup: 1953, 1954, 1955

Grand Slam men’s doubles titles

1953 US Championships (with Merv Rose)

1954 Australian Championships, Wimbledon (with Merv Rose)

1955 Wimbledon (with Lew Hoad)

Grand Slam Mixed Doubles titles:

1953 Australian Championships (with Julia Sampson)

1954 Australian Championships (with Thelma Long)

A funeral service for Rex Hartwig will be held at Mason Park Funerals, 95 Mason Street, Wangaratta, Vic, at 10.30am on Tuesday 10 January