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Kim Chapin
August 26, 1968
Rod Laver is threatening to make victory in open tennis his own closed shop. He so excels the field that he soon may not have any competition but the memory of past immortals
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August 26, 1968

Open Season For A Test Of Time

Rod Laver is threatening to make victory in open tennis his own closed shop. He so excels the field that he soon may not have any competition but the memory of past immortals

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Lance Tingay, the British journalist whose yearly world rankings are accepted as more or less official, names Tilden, Budge, Kramer, Vines and Laver as his top players of all" time, "not in any particular order. Laver is an outstanding match player, has outstanding all-round strength with a terribly good backhand."

C. M. Jones, editor of Lawn Tennis Magazine, says, "Vines, on the basis of one match, is at the top. Next in order is Budge. Then, in no particular order, come Laver, Tilden and Kramer. Laver's greatest asset is his very, very rapid speed of reaction and movement and his excellent personal attitude toward tennis. When he is in a tough spot, Laver doesn't in any way retreat. He gets bolder and bolder and uses his wide range of shots without fear. He has sheer bravery and a beautiful sense of play."

Fred Perry, the best player in England's history, puts Tilden "alone at the top." Behind him come Cochet, Vines and Budge—and Laver. "You have to put Laver in there," says Perry. "He's the best player since the war."

Kramer says, "I can't rate Tilden, because he was past his prime when I saw him. From what I have seen I'd put Budge, Vines, Perry, Gonzalez and Bobby Riggs in the first echelon. I lean toward Vines as the No. 1 man in any given match. For overall consistency you have to look at Budge. In another group, just a shade below, are Frank Sedgman, Rosewall, Lew Hoad, Ted Schroeder and, believe it or not, Pancho Segura. Laver is up among that second group and vying for the first. He has no major weaknesses."

Budge ranks Vines and Kramer together at the top, then lists Perry, Laver, Gonzalez, Rosewall, Sedgman and Hoad, not in any order.

"I don't get to sec very much tennis these days," Jean Borotra explains. "But I did watch Laver play briefly at Wimbledon. He was imperial!"

Ren� Lacoste calls Laver's antagonist, Rosewall, the best ever. "He is a complete athlete who combines intelligence with dexterity. After him I'd put Tilden, with Laver third. The three are in a class apart. All the others come in at a good distance. Despite the handicap of his size and weight, he is tops in service, ground strokes and volleys."

Ken Rosewall, usually laconic, will talk at length about the mechanics of Laver's game. "He's exceptional, he's unorthodox and he's someone you couldn't copy," Rosewall says. "As a champion, his performances and court temperament could be held up as a fine model for young players. But his playing style certainly couldn't be, because he has shots that few other players can produce. I don't quite know how he does them myself, but it's those wristy strokes of his that win. He has so much power in his left forearm that it obviously gives him a feeling of strength and confidence to play those unorthodox shots.

"Lefties are generally expected to have a weakness in their backhands, but that's a weakness Rod doesn't have. And the strength of his shots. Very few players on the defensive, or when running to make a recovery shot, can play as powerfully or as quickly as Rod."

On a key point in his championship victory over Tony Roche at Wimbledon last month, Roche broke off a sharply angled forehand cross-court passing shot that appeared to have Laver beaten. Rod lunged for it, and not only made contact but hit a winner. As if to show that it was no fluke, he managed the exact same thing on the following point.

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