A natural athlete, Newcombe played several sports as a boy until devoting himself to tennis. He was the Australian junior champion from 1961 to 1963 and was a member of Australia’s Davis Cup winning team in 1964. He won his first Grand Slam title in 1965 by taking the Australian Championships doubles title with fellow Australian Tony Roche. That same year, the duo won the Wimbledondoubles title. They teamed to win the Australian doubles championship three more times, Wimbledon another four times and theUS Championships in 1967, the French Championships in 1967, and the French Open in 1969. They won 12 Grand Slam titles, which remained the all-time record for a men’s doubles team until 2013, when it was surpassed by Bob and Mike Bryan.
Newcombe’s powerful serve and volley was the backbone of his attacking game. He frequently came up with a second-serve ace. He was the top ranked amateur in the world in 1967 according to Lance Tingay, although Rex Bellamy ranked him second behindRoy Emerson. As a professional, Newcombe was the joint world No. 1 player in 1970 and 1971. In singles play, he was a two-time winner of the Australian Open, a three-time winner of Wimbledon, and a two-time winner of the US Open.
As a member of Lamar Hunt‘s World Championship Tennis professional tour group and the players’ union, he was banned by theInternational Tennis Federation from competing in the 1972 Wimbledon Championships and he joined the ATP boycott of the event in 1973.
Newcombe was the last of the Australians who dominated tennis in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
In his 1979 autobiography, Jack Kramer, the long-time tennis promoter and great player himself, included Newcombe in his list of the 21 greatest players of all time.
- Newcombe served as chairman of the International Tennis Players Association which formed in 1969.
- He served as President of the Association of Tennis Professionals in 1977 and 1978.
- Overall, he won 26 Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles (27 if his 1965 mixed doubles shared win is added).
- Newcombe and Rod Laver are the only players to ever win both the US Open and Wimbledon men’s singles titles as an amateur and as a professional. The grass surfaces favoured his game, and the French Open’s clay surface was the only major singles championship he never won. However, he did take the French doubles title on three occasions.
Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes…John Newcombe.