Tony Trabert

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Marion Anthony ("Tony") Trabert (August 16, 1930, Cincinnati, Ohio) was a top American tennis player of the 1950s, first as an amateur and then as a professional. He has also been a tennis author, a long-time television commentator, instructor, and motivational speaker. In his 1979 autobiography Jack Kramer, the tennis promoter and great player himself, included Trabert in his list of the 21 greatest players of all time.[1]

Career

Trabert was a stand-out athlete in Tennis and Basketball at the University of Cincinnati, and was a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity. In 1951, he won the NCAA Championship Singles title. He was coached by George Menefee. He was also a starter on the basketball team. Previously, at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, he had been state singles champion three times and played guard on the 1948 basketball team that won the district championship.

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. The first win Trabert posted over Talbert came in the final of Cincinnati's international tennis tournament (now known as the Cincinnati Masters) in 1951. Both were enshrined into the Cincinnati Tennis Hall of Fame in 2002. Barry MacKay was enshrined in 2003.

Trabert's record in 1955 was one of the greatest ever by an American tennis player. 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. Only Grand Slam winners Don Budge and Rod Laver, and in 2010 Rafael Nadal, have ever achieved the same feat. Trabert's own chance at a Grand Slam was stopped with a loss to Ken Rosewall in the semifinals at the Australian Championships. Trabert won 18 tournaments in 1955, compiling a match record of 106 wins to 7 losses.

An extremely athletic right-hander who mostly played a serve and volley game, Trabert won all five of the Grand Slam singles finals he appeared in. He won the French Championships in 1954 and 1955 (becoming the last American man to win that event until Michael Chang in 1989), the U.S. Championships in 1953 and 1955, and the Wimbledon title in 1955 without losing a set (a record shared with Don Budge, Chuck McKinley, and Björn Borg).

Trabert, along with Vic Seixas, was an American Davis Cup team mainstay during the early 1950s, during which time the Americans reached the finals 5 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).

File:Trabert.jpg
Trabert (left) in Australia with the eminent aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira in the early 1950s

Having reached the top amateur ranking in 1955, Trabert turned professional in the fall of that year. He was beaten on the head-to-head world pro tour in 1956 by the reigning king of professional tennis Pancho Gonzales, 74-27. However, he beat Gonzales in 5 sets for the 1956 French Pro title, and beat Frank Sedgman for the same title in 1959. He was runner-up to Sedgman in the Wembley Pro in 1958. In the US Pro, he was runner-up to Alex Olmedo in 1960.

In 2000, the USTA originated the Trabert Cup for Mens 40 and over International Competition.

Retirement

In 1971, he began a 33-year career as a tennis and golf analyst for CBS covering such events as the US Open. During many of these years he teamed with Pat Summerall and was the lead expert commentator at the US Open. The popularity of their broadcasts helped propel the US Open into an annual financial success for CBS and the U.S. Tennis Association. He was also the US Davis team Captain from 1976 to 1980. Tony'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 an apartheid protest demonstrator during a Davis Cup match against South Africa at the Newport Beach Tennis Club in California in April 1977. He is also a tennis author and a motivation speaker.

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."[2]

In 2004, Trabert announced his retirement from broadcasting while commentating at the Wimbledon Championships in London.

Trabert was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island in 1970.

Major finals

Grand Slam tournaments

Singles: 5 (5 titles)

Outcome Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Winner (1/1) 1953 U.S. Championships Grass Template:Flagicon Victor Seixas 6–3, 6–2, 6–3
Winner (2/2) 1954 French Championships Clay Template:Flagicon Arthur Larsen 6–4, 7–5, 6–1
Winner (3/3) 1955 French Championships (2) Clay Template:Flagicon Sven Davidson 2–6, 6–1, 6–4, 6–2
Winner (4/4) 1955 Wimbledon Grass Template:Flagicon Kurt Nielsen 6–3, 7–5, 6–1
Winner (5/5) 1955 U.S. Championships (2) Grass Template:Flagicon Ken Rosewall 9–7, 6–3, 6–3

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

Outcome Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents Score
Winner 1950 French Championships Clay Template:Flagicon Bill Talbert Template:Flagicon Jaroslav Drobný
Template:Flagicon Eric Sturgess
6–2, 1–6, 10–8, 6–2
Winner 1954 French Championships Clay Template:Flagicon Vic Seixas Template:Flagicon Lew Hoad
Template:Flagicon Ken Rosewall
6–4, 6–2, 6–1
Runner-up 1954 Wimbledon Grass Template:Flagicon Vic Seixas Template:Flagicon Rex Hartwig
Template:Flagicon Mervyn Rose
4–6, 4–6, 6–3, 4–6
Winner 1954 U.S. Championships Grass Template:Flagicon Vic Seixas Template:Flagicon Lew Hoad
Template:Flagicon Ken Rosewall
3–6, 6–4, 8–6, 6–3
Winner 1955 Australian Championships Grass Template:Flagicon Vic Seixas Template:Flagicon Lew Hoad
Template:Flagicon Ken Rosewall
6–3, 6–2, 2–6, 3–6, 6–1
Winner 1955 French Championships Clay Template:Flagicon Vic Seixas Template:Flagicon Nicola Pietrangeli
Template:Flagicon Orlando Sirola
6–1, 4–6, 6–2, 6–4

Pro Slam tournaments

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

Outcome Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Winner 1956 French Pro Clay Template:Flagicon Pancho Gonzales 6–3, 4–6, 5–7, 8–6, 6–2
Runner-up 1958 Wembley Pro Indoor Template:Flag icon Frank Sedgman 4–6, 3–6, 4–6
Winner 1959 French Pro Clay Template:Flag icon Frank Sedgman 6–4, 6–4, 6–4
Runner-up 1960 U.S. Pro Indoor Template:Flag icon Alex Olmedo 5–7, 4–6

References

  1. In his 1979 autobiography 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.
  2. The History of Professional Tennis, Joe McCauley

Sources

  • The Game — My 40 Years in Tennis (1979) — Jack Kramer with Frank Deford (ISBN 0-399-12336-9)
  • The History of Professional Tennis (2003) Joe McCauley
  • Little Pancho (2009) Caroline Seebohm
  • Man with a Racket (1959) The Autobiography of Pancho Gonzales, as told to Cy Rice
  • Trabert Cup (2000) Mens 40 and over International Competition
  • Cincinnati Tennis Hall of Fame (2002)