Home News Owen Davidson, Australian grasp of doubles tennis, dies at 79

Owen Davidson, Australian grasp of doubles tennis, dies at 79


Owen Davidson, an Australian tennis participant who received 13 Grand Slam doubles titles, together with eight with Billie Jean King, whereas establishing himself among the many most achieved combined doubles gamers in historical past, died Might 12 at a care middle in Conroe, Texas. He was 79.

The trigger was most cancers, mentioned Isabel Suliga, his longtime buddy and caretaker. Mr. Davidson lived close by within the Woodlands, a deliberate group north of Houston.

Outfitted with a sleek volley, highly effective overhand and devastating left-handed serve, Mr. Davidson emerged as one of the dominant doubles gamers of the Nineteen Sixties and early ’70s. Whereas he by no means superior previous the semifinals of a serious singles match, he received two Grand Slam titles in males’s doubles and 11 in combined doubles, greater than any participant however Doris Hart (who had 15 main titles in combined doubles) and Margaret Court docket (who notched 21).

Mr. Davidson, who was often called “Davo,” was a part of a era of powerhouse Australian gamers that included fellow Corridor of Famers Roy Emerson, Rod Laver, John Newcombe, Ken Rosewall and Fred Stolle.

However he remained greatest identified for his partnership with an American, King, who received 39 main titles and have become a pioneer for gender equality in tennis. In her 2021 autobiography, “All In,” King recalled that she traveled to Australia to play with Mr. Davidson and his countrymen partly as a result of they “had been open-minded about feminine accomplishment and didn’t thoughts coaching with me,” in contrast to most American males.

Once they first began coaching collectively, practising in Melbourne in 1964 in a two-on-one drill with Emerson, Mr. Davidson “despatched me across the courtroom like a pinball,” she wrote. “After 5 minutes I assumed I used to be going to break down — and that was simply the primary day.

“I’ve all the time mentioned the Australian males made me No. 1,” she continued, “and people classes had been an essential a part of it.”

Mr. Davidson and King had been just about unstoppable, shedding within the finals of a Grand Slam match solely as soon as, in opposition to Françoise Dürr and Jean-Claude Barclay on the 1968 French Open.

In all, they received one French championship, three U.S. titles and 4 trophies at Wimbledon, the place their title victories included an epic 1971 conquer Court docket and Riessen, 3-6, 6-2, 15-13.

“We’d been on the market a very long time,” King recalled in an interview with the Worldwide Tennis Corridor of Fame, “and at 13-all, I mentioned to him, ‘Owen, let’s get out of right here.’ And so we did,” profitable the subsequent two video games.

“How we acquired out of that one I’ll by no means know,” Tennis journal quoted Mr. Davidson as saying.

In 1967, Mr. Davidson grew to become solely the third participant to ever win a calendar-year Grand Slam in combined doubles. He took the Australian title with Lesley Turner, a fellow Aussie, earlier than partnering with King to comb the French, Wimbledon and U.S. championships.

The considered a calendar-year Slam by no means crossed his thoughts, he mentioned, till tennis journalist Bud Collins walked as much as him earlier than the U.S. closing at Forest Hills and advised him he wanted only one extra match. “I acquired a little bit nervous,” Mr. Davidson recalled many years later, telling the Houston Chronicle that he didn’t discuss to King concerning the achievement till they completed dispatching Rosie Casals and Stan Smith, 6-3, 6-2.

On a drizzly April day in 1968, Mr. Davidson was written into the tennis historical past books yet another time when he defeated John Clifton, a British beginner, within the opening spherical of the British Exhausting Court docket Championships on the West Hants Membership in Bournemouth. It was the primary match of the Open Period, during which professionals are allowed to compete alongside amateurs, and inaugurated a brand new age for the game that Mr. Davidson had performed ever since he was 10, becoming a member of his father on journeys to tennis courts close to their dwelling in Melbourne.

“I used to be form of hanging round,” he recalled, “and after they weren’t enjoying, I’d wander onto the courts and begin hitting balls round. It turned out to be my sport.”

The older of two sons, Owen Keir Davidson was born in Melbourne on Oct. 4, 1943. He honed his sport whereas working with Mervyn Rose and Harry Hopman, the longtime coach of Australia’s Davis Cup group, and received his first main championship in 1965, when he and Robyn Ebbern shared the Australian combined doubles title with Newcombe and Court docket in a yr that the ultimate wasn’t performed.

In 1966, he partnered with Donna Floyd Fales to win the combined doubles title on the U.S. Championships. At Wimbledon, he upset the two-time defending champion Emerson, who slipped on the courtroom and tore ligaments in his shoulder, to arrange a semifinals match in opposition to Manuel Santana, the eventual champion.

Mr. Davidson was self-deprecating about his success within the match, noting that it got here in opposition to an injured opponent. When a radio interviewer requested him earlier than the semifinals, “Simply who’s Owen Davidson?,” he replied, “Definitely no person particular.” Then he took Santana to 5 units, enjoying what he described on the time as “the perfect aggressive tennis of my life.”

In 1972, he received his first Grand Slam title in males’s doubles, partnering with Rosewall on the Australian Open, and practically received his second earlier than he and Newcombe fell within the finals of the U.S. Open in opposition to Cliff Drysdale and Roger Taylor. Mr. Davidson and Newcombe broke by way of the subsequent yr, profitable a dramatic U.S. Open closing over Laver and Rosewall, their boyhood idols, 7-5, 2-6, 7-5, 7-5.

Mr. Davidson additionally performed on Australia’s Davis Cup group, coached the British group from 1967 to 1970 and labored as the pinnacle professional at Wimbledon. In 1972 he moved to Texas, the place he grew to become the pinnacle professional on the Houston Racquet Membership and labored at venues together with the Woodlands Nation Membership and the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch. He additionally coached execs together with teenage prodigy Andrea Jaeger and Houston native Sammy Giammalva Jr.

In 2010, he was inducted into the Worldwide Tennis Corridor of Fame.

His first marriage, to Angie Davidson, led to divorce. In 1983, he married Arlene Covey. She died in 2014. Survivors embrace a son from his first marriage, Cameron Davidson; and a brother.

Mr. Davidson was nonetheless giving classes three months earlier than his demise, in response to his buddy Suliga, and competed in doubles tournaments lengthy after he gave up on singles within the mid-Seventies. “I don’t final as lengthy I used to final,” he advised the Chronicle in 2010, “however I can nonetheless cling in there with the children fairly good.”


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