Tony Trabert

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Tony Trabert
Tony Trabert 1960.jpg
Trabert in 1960
Full nameMarion Anthony Trabert
Country (sports)Flag of the United States.svg  United States
Born(1930-08-16)August 16, 1930
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
DiedFebruary 3, 2021(2021-02-03) (aged 90)
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, United States
Height6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Turned pro1955 (amateur from 1945)
Retired1963
PlaysRight-handed (one-handed backhand)
Int. Tennis HoF 1970 (member page)
Singles
Career record700–413 (62.9%) [1]
Career titles56 [1]
Highest rankingNo. 1 (1953, Lance Tingay )
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian Open SF (1955)
French Open W (1954, 1955)
Wimbledon W (1955)
US Open W (1953, 1955)
Other tournaments
Professional majors
US Pro F (1960)
Wembley Pro F (1958)
French Pro W (1956, 1959)
TOC SF (1959)
Doubles
Career record2–4
Highest rankingNo. 1 (1955)
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian Open W (1955)
French Open W (1950, 1954, 1955)
Wimbledon F (1954)
US Open W (1954)
Team competitions
Davis Cup W (1954)

Marion Anthony Trabert (August 16, 1930 – February 3, 2021) was an American amateur world No. 1 tennis champion and long-time tennis author, TV commentator, instructor, and motivational speaker.

Contents

Trabert was the No. 1 ranked amateur player in the world in 1953 and 1955, and the winner of ten Grand Slam titles – five in singles and five in doubles. He won two French singles championships, two U.S. National Men's Singles Championships, and one Wimbledon Gentlemen Singles championship. Until Michael Chang won the French Open in 1989, Trabert was the last American to hoist the championship trophy. He turned professional in the fall of 1955.

Tennis career

Amateur

Trabert (left) with Jack Kramer in 1955 Tony Trabert and Jack Kramer 1955-10-19.jpg
Trabert (left) with Jack Kramer in 1955

Trabert was a stand-out athlete in tennis and basketball at the University of Cincinnati, and was a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity. [2] In 1951, he won the NCAA Championship Singles title. [3] He played doubles with Bob Mault and was coached by George Menefee, who later became the head trainer for the Los Angeles Rams. Trabert was also a starter on the Cincinnati Bearcats basketball team at the University of Cincinnati. [4] Previously, at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, he had been Ohio scholastic champion three times and played guard on the 1948 basketball team that won the District Championship. [4]

A native of Cincinnati, Trabert grew up two houses down from a public park. It had clay courts that helped hone his groundstrokes. [5] By age 11, Trabert was winning junior tournaments and eventually became the world's No. 1 amateur at age 25. He turned pro after winning the ’55 U.S. Championships because he had a wife and two children to support. Trabert honed his tennis skills on the courts of the Cincinnati Tennis Club with the help of another member of that club, fellow International Tennis Hall of Famer Billy Talbert. Talbert became Trabert's mentor. In 1951, Trabert posted his first win over Talbert in the final of Cincinnati's international tennis tournament (now known as the Cincinnati Masters). In 1953, Trabert won the men's singles in the Ojai Tennis Tournament. [6]

Trabert's record in 1955 was one of the greatest ever by an American tennis player. [2] He won the three most prestigious tournaments in amateur tennis—the French, Wimbledon, and American Championships—en route to being ranked world no. 1 among the amateurs for that year. [7] In the midst of his amateur career, Trabert's game was interrupted by a two-year stint in the Navy, serving on the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea during the Korean War, but this did not stop him. [8] [4] He is one of only ten male players to have won three Grand Slam singles title in a year. [9] [5] Trabert's own chance at a Grand Slam was stopped with a loss to Ken Rosewall in the semifinals at the Australian Championships. [10] Trabert won 18 tournaments in 1955, compiling a match record of 106 wins to 7 losses, which included a 38-match winning streak. [3]

An athletic right-hander who mostly played a serve and volley game, [5] Trabert won all five of the Grand Slam singles finals he appeared in. He won the French Championships in 1954 and 1955 (1954 over Mervyn Rose, Budge Patty in the semifinal and Arthur Larsen in the final, and 1955 over Rose in the semifinal and Sven Davidson in the final), becoming the last American man to win that event until Michael Chang in 1989, [2] the U.S. Championships in 1953 and 1955 (1953 over Vic Seixas in the final, and 1955 over Rosewall in the final), and the Wimbledon title in 1955 (over Kurt Nielsen in the final) without losing a set (a record shared with Don Budge, Chuck McKinley, Björn Borg and Roger Federer). [5] [8]

Trabert, along with Vic Seixas, was an American Davis Cup team mainstay during the early 1950s, during which time the Americans reached the finals five times, winning the cup in 1954. It was one of only two victories over the dominant Australian teams during the decade (the other being in 1958). He called the 1954 Davis Cup win the "biggest thrill in my tennis career". [8]

Professional

Having reached the top amateur ranking in 1955, Trabert turned professional in the fall of that year. Trabert explained: “When I won Wimbledon as an amateur, I got a 10-pound certificate, which was worth $27 redeemable at Lilly White’s Sporting Goods store in London. Jack Kramer offered me a guarantee of $75,000 against a percentage of the gate to play on his tour." With a wife and two children to support, the decision was clear. [11] In 1956, he was beaten on the head-to-head world pro tour by the reigning king of professional tennis Pancho Gonzales, 74–27, consisting mostly of indoor matches on a portable loose canvas surface. [2] However, he beat Gonzales in 5 sets at Roland Garros in the final of the 1956 French Pro title. [5] Trabert also won a South American tour against Gonzales in 1956, winning 6 matches against Gonzales outdoors on clay, and losing three matches to the champion indoor, for a 6–3 tour victory. [12] For the year 1956 as a whole, Trabert had an edge over Gonzales in outdoor matches of 15-11 (1-1 on grass, 5–5 on cement, and 9–5 on clay). [13]

In the 1958 pro tour, Trabert won a personal series against Segura 34–31, showing that he had adjusted to the portable canvas surface used by the Kramer pros in small indoor venues and gyms. [14] In the Wembley Pro in 1958, he defeated Rosewall in the semi-final and was runner-up to Sedgman . In the French Pro at Roland Garros in 1959, Trabert beat Rosewall in the semifinal and then defeated Frank Sedgman in the final, to win his fourth title at the red clay venue. [5] In the 1960 US Pro (billed as Cleveland World Pro), he was runner-up to Alex Olmedo. In November 1961, Trabert led the United States team into the Kramer Cup final (the pro equivalent of the Davis Cup) at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. Trabert defeated Rosewall in four sets, but lost the fifth and deciding rubber to Lew Hoad in four sets. [15] In October 1962, Trabert won the South African Pro Championships on the cement courts of Ellis Park in Johannesburg by defeating Hoad in the final in five sets. [16] Trabert also had wins over Hoad at the Forest Hills Tournament of Champions in 1957 and 1958. [17]

Post-playing career

Trabert with wife Shauna in 1953 Tony Trabert with wife 1953.jpg
Trabert with wife Shauna in 1953

After retiring from the game, Trabert enjoyed a 33-year career (1971–2004) as a tennis and golf analyst for CBS covering such events as the US Open. During many of those years he teamed up with Pat Summerall and was the lead expert commentator at the US Open. [18] The popularity of their broadcasts helped propel the US Open into an annual financial success for CBS and the United States Tennis Association. He was also the US Davis Cup team captain from 1976 to 1980. Trabert's captaincy is remembered by his frustration in dealing with the egos of younger players like John McEnroe, and for his racket-wielding expulsion of anti-apartheid protesters who ran onto the court during a Davis Cup match against South Africa at the Newport Beach Tennis Club in California in April 1977. [19]

He was also a tennis author and was a motivational speaker. In 1988, he published a book, Trabert on Tennis, sharing his insights on the game from a player's, coach's, and commentator's standpoint. [5] In 1970, with the encouragement of Dr. Toby Freedman his good friend and doctor, Trabert opened a tennis camp "Trabert Tennis Camp" in Ojai, California at Thacher School, and then one in Pebble Beach, for ages 8–18 with his son, Mike Trabert, which he operated for many years before handing it over to his son and grandchildren. [8]

Trabert served as President of the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island from 2001 to 2011. [8]

In 2004 he announced his retirement from broadcasting while commentating at the Wimbledon Championships. [5]

Trabert resided in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida with his wife of thirty years, Vicki, and their grandchildren. [4] Together, they had five children (two of his and three of hers) and 14 grandchildren. [4] Forty years after his matches with Gonzales, Trabert told interviewer Joe McCauley "that Gonzales' serve was the telling factor on their tour—it was so good that it earned him many cheap points. Trabert felt that, while he had the better ground-strokes, he could not match Pancho's big, fluent service." [20] In his 1979 autobiography The Game Jack Kramer, the long-time tennis promoter and former world No. 1 player, included Trabert in his list of the 21 greatest players [lower-alpha 1] of all time.

Trabert died at age 90 at his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida on February 3, 2021. [4] [22]

Awards and honors

In 1970, Trabert was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. [5] He was enshrined into the Cincinnati Tennis Hall of Fame in 2002 together with Billy Talbert. [23] On September 8, 2014, Trabert was inducted into the United States Tennis Association's Court of Champions prior to the US Open men's singles final. [8]

Major finals

Source: [24]

Grand Slam tournaments

Singles: 5 (5 titles)

ResultYearChampionshipSurfaceOpponentScore
Win 1953 U.S. Championships Grass Flag of the United States.svg Victor Seixas 6–3, 6–2, 6–3
Win 1954 French Championships Clay Flag of the United States.svg Arthur Larsen 6–4, 7–5, 6–1
Win 1955 French Championships (2)Clay Flag of Sweden.svg Sven Davidson 2–6, 6–1, 6–4, 6–2
Win 1955 Wimbledon Grass Flag of Denmark.svg Kurt Nielsen 6–3, 7–5, 6–1
Win 1955 U.S. Championships (2)Grass Flag of Australia (converted).svg Ken Rosewall 9–7, 6–3, 6–3

Doubles: 6 (5 titles, 1 runner-up)

ResultYearChampionshipSurfacePartnerOpponentsScore
Win1950 French Championships Clay Flag of the United States.svg Bill Talbert Flag of Egypt (1922-1958).svg Jaroslav Drobný
Flag of South Africa (1928-1994).svg Eric Sturgess
6–2, 1–6, 10–8, 6–2
Win1954French ChampionshipsClay Flag of the United States.svg Vic Seixas Flag of Australia (converted).svg Lew Hoad
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Ken Rosewall
6–4, 6–2, 6–1
Loss 1954 Wimbledon Grass Flag of the United States.svg Vic Seixas Flag of Australia (converted).svg Rex Hartwig
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Mervyn Rose
4–6, 4–6, 6–3, 4–6
Win1954 U.S. Championships Grass Flag of the United States.svg Vic Seixas Flag of Australia (converted).svg Lew Hoad
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Ken Rosewall
3–6, 6–4, 8–6, 6–3
Win1955 Australian Championships Grass Flag of the United States.svg Vic Seixas Flag of Australia (converted).svg Lew Hoad
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Ken Rosewall
6–3, 6–2, 2–6, 3–6, 6–1
Win1955French ChampionshipsClay Flag of the United States.svg Vic Seixas Flag of Italy.svg Nicola Pietrangeli
Flag of Italy.svg Orlando Sirola
6–1, 4–6, 6–2, 6–4

Pro Slam tournaments

Source: [25]

Singles: 4 (2 titles, 2 runner-ups)

ResultYearChampionshipSurfaceOpponentScore
Win 1956 French Pro Clay Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg Pancho Gonzales 6–3, 4–6, 5–7, 8–6, 6–2
Loss 1958 Wembley Pro Indoor Flag of Australia (converted).svg Frank Sedgman 4–6, 3–6, 4–6
Win 1959 French ProClay Flag of Australia (converted).svg Frank Sedgman6–4, 6–4, 6–4
Loss 1960 U.S. Pro Indoor Flag of Peru.svg Alex Olmedo 5–7, 4–6

Singles performance timeline

Trabert joined the professional tennis circuit in 1955 and as a consequence was banned from competing in the amateur Grand Slams until the start of the Open Era at the 1968 French Open.

Key
W F SFQF#RRRQ#ANH
(W) Won; (F) finalist; (SF) semifinalist; (QF) quarterfinalist; (#R) rounds 4, 3, 2, 1; (RR) round-robin stage; (Q#) qualification round; (A) absent; (NH) not held. SR=strike rate (events won/competed)
1948194919501951195219531954195519561957195819591960196119621963SR W–L Win %
Grand Slam tournaments 5 / 1658–1184.1
Australian Open AAAAAA 2R SF not eligible0 / 24–266.7
French Open AA 4R A 4R A W W not eligible2 / 418–290.0
Wimbledon AA 2R AAA SF W not eligible1 / 313–286.7
US Open 3R 2R 1R QF A W QF W not eligible2 / 723–582.1
Pro Slam tournaments 2 / 1927–1761.4
U.S. Pro AAAAAAAA SF SF SF A F AA QF 0 / 55–550.0
French Pro not held W NH QF W SF SF 1R 1R 2 / 711–568.8
Wembley Pro NHAAAAANHNH SF A F SF QF QF QF QF 0 / 711–761.1
Win–Loss2–11–13–34–13–16–016–323–16–21–14–36–15–33–21–21–37 / 3585–2875.2

The results of the Pro Tours are not listed here.
Source: [26]

Explanatory notes

  1. Kramer considered the best player ever to have been either Don Budge (for consistent play) or Ellsworth Vines (at the height of his game). The next four best were, chronologically, Bill Tilden, Fred Perry, Bobby Riggs, and Pancho Gonzales. After these six came the "second echelon" of Rod Laver, Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Gottfried von Cramm, Ted Schroeder, Jack Crawford, Pancho Segura, Frank Sedgman, Tony Trabert, John Newcombe, Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, Björn Borg, and Jimmy Connors. He felt unable to rank Henri Cochet and René Lacoste accurately but felt they were among the very best. [21]

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References

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  14. McCauley, p.208
  15. McCauley, p115
  16. McCauley, p.120
  17. McCauley, pp. 206, 209
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General sources