Summer of Tennis : The Top 15 Australian Mens Tennis Players 1974 – 2014

 

My first live tennis viewing was a fantastic exhibition match between Arthur Ashe and Ken Rosewall at Kooyong in 1974, and I’ve been hooked ever since. There has been some excellent Australian players since that time.

Lleyton has to be number one. He is the only Australian to win two separate Grand Slams in that period (U.S and Wimbledon), and was also runner-up in the U.S Open to Federer, as well as the Australian Open to Safin. He has won a total of 30 ATP titles and was number one for 75 consecutive weeks. He is not everybody’s cup of tea: some don’t like his demeanour on court, and others complain that he lacks a killer shot. But nobody can deny that he always gives 100 per cent.

Pat Rafter runs a close second. He struggled at around 40 or 50 in the rankings for a number of years, and then suddenly emerged in 1997-99 to win consecutive U.S Opens and and jump to number one in the world for one week. He was also runner-up twice at Wimbledon, and a semi-finalist at both the Australian and the French. He won 11 ATP tournaments in the world and had the best kick serve in the business, and retired relatively young at the age of 30.

Pat Cash restored the fortunes of Australian tennis after a long drought by winning Wimbledon in 1987. He was also twice an Australian Open finalist, and a semi-finalist at the U.S Open losing narrowly to Ivan Lendl. He won seven titles in total, and was an outstanding serve and volleyer, but had his career cut short by a terrible run of injuries.

Scud Philipoussis seemed to have all the shots but arguably under-achieved. However, he still reached a U.S Open and Wimbledon final, won 11 titles, and achieved top ten status.

The remaining 11 players arguably sit well below the top four. Peter McNamara won five ATP singles titles and reached number seven in the world before injury intervened. He was best known for his two Wimbledon doubles titles partnering Paul McNamee. McNamee reached no.24 in the world, and won four Grand Slam doubles in total. Their doubles partnership revived Australian tennis after some poor years.

John Alexander was Australia’s David Cup stalwart throughout the 1970s. He won seven ATP titles, reached three Australian Open semi finals, and achieved a highest ranking of number eight.

Wally Masur was a contemporary of Pat Cash who reached the semi finals of both the Australian and US opens, and got to number 15 in the world. John Fitzgerald was another David Cup hero who won six titles, and secured a top 25 ranking.

The two Woodies were the dominant doubles combination of the 1990s, winning 11 Grand Slam doubles together. Todd Woodbridge won 16 Grand Slam doubles in total, and achieved a highest singles ranking of 19. Woodforde won a total of 12 Grand Slam doubles titles, and also achieved a highest singles ranking of 19.

Kim Warwick was runner-up in the Australian Open in 1980, and reached number 15 in the world. Mark Edmondson remains the last Australian male to win the Australian Open in 1976. He won six ATP titles in total, and his highest ranking was 15.

Phil Dent was an Australian Open finalist who won four ATP titles, and achieved a peak ranking of 17. Jason Stoltenberg won four ATP titles, and achieved a ranking of 19.

Other Australian players of note included Wimbledon semi-finalist Rod Frawley, Richard Fromberg, the hopefully still unfulfilled Bernard Tomic, Wayne Arthurs, Ross Case, Geoff Masters, Darren Cahill, Scott Draper and the late Brad Drewett. I did not consider the older greats such as Laver, Rosewall, Newcombe and Roche given they were mostly past their best by the mid-1970s.

 

The Top 15 Australian Men 1974 – 2014

Lleyton Hewitt

Patrick Rafter

Patrick Cash

Mark Philipoussis

Peter McNamara

Paul McNamee

John Alexander

Wally Masur

John Fitzgerald

Todd Woodbridge

Mark Woodforde

Kim Warwick

Mark Edmondson

Phil Dent

Jason Stoltenberg

 

About Philip Mendes

Philip Mendes is an academic who follows AFL, soccer, tennis and cricket. He supported Fitzroy Football Club from 1970-1996, and on their death he adopted the North Melbourne Kangaroos as his new team. In his spare time, he occasionally writes about his current and past football teams.

Comments

  1. Being a pedant i need to mention there are players like Cliff Letcher who reached two grand slam doubles finals, and John Marks who recahe dan Australian Open singles final.

    Jog my memory, did Darren Cahill reach a US open semi before having a run of injuries whish cruelled his career?

    Glen!

  2. Philip Mendes says

    Glen – Good points: you are right about Darren Cahill. He did reach the 1988 US Open semi finals – I mentioned him above as just missing the top 15. And Marks came from nowhere to play Vilas in the 1978 Oz final. Never repeated that form though.

  3. Good list, Philip. The other tick in the poo’s box is him winning both his singles rubbers at the Davis Cup final on the French clay. Woodforde probably a better singles player than Woodbridge over the distance, though (Qtr final of Aus Open & a couple of Adelaide titles?).

  4. Philip Mendes says

    Dave – agree with you. Scud won that Davis Cup singlehandedly for Australia, and also won the vital tie against Ferrero a few years later in Melbourne after pulling his pectoral muscle. I also thought Woodforde was a more reliable singles player than Woodbridge – he made the 4th round of the other 3 Grand Slams, and beat Scud (after he had beaten Sampras) to reach the semis of the Oz Open. Woodbridge made a Wimbledon semi final, but his serve always seemed to let him down in big singles matches.

  5. True Phil. John Marks played Guilermo Vilas in the Australian Open final in the summer of 78-79, going down in straight sets. He’d started his winning run in the tournmemnt when his oppenent retired after the first set, though i can’t recall who it was: Maybe Jose louis-Clerc, or John Sadri.

    It’s interesting looking at how many Australians were ranked in the top 100 in that period yet as had no one in thetop 10, we were lamenting the demise of Australian tennis. All these years later half as many of our men are ranked in the top 200, yet it;s portrayed as a renaissance. Funny how time changes perspectives.

    Glen!

  6. Philip Mendes says

    Glen – I think it was Clerc who only had to play the 1st round to qualify for the Masters. From memory he arrived in Australia badly jet-lagged just before the match, and was clearly not in a fit state to play. Sadri made the final in 1979 losing to Vilas. I think the major change over the years is the addition of so many Europeans – French, Spanish, Russians, Serbians, Croatians etc. In the 1970s it was still mainly Americans, Australians, Swedes and a few Italians and Eastern Europeans.

  7. That Wally Masur is in the Top 10 players of the last 40 years says everything you need to know about the less than dizzy heights of Australian Men’s Tennis.

    For my money, and as subjectively as anything, Scud is the best player of that lot, followed by Cash then Rafter and begrudgingly, Hewitt makes up the top 4.

    Sadly (or for whatever reasons) Scud never achieved the titles his talent suggested he would claim.

    Cheers

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