Ken Rosewall - Open-closed Career: April 1968 Through July 1972

Open-closed Career: April 1968 Through July 1972

In 1968 there were many different sort of players:

  • amateur players, dependent on their national and international federations, allowed to play the amateur events and also the open events but couldn't receive official prize money
  • registered players, also dependent on their national and international federations, eligible to play the Davis Cup and forbidden to play pro events as an amateur, but authorised to take prize money in the open events contrary to an amateur (example : Okker)
  • professionals under contract with NTL who had to first play NTL tournaments
  • professionals under contract with WCT who had first to play WCT tournaments. At the beginning of the open era Dave Dixon, WCT boss, didn't allow his players to enter tournaments where NTL players were present: there was no WCT player at the two first open tournaments, Bournemouth and Roland Garros 1968, while all the NTL players were present. The first tournament where NTL and WCT players competed against each other, was the U.S. Pro, held at Longwood in June 1968
  • freelance professionals (Hoad, Ayala, Owen Davidson, Mal Anderson, ...).

In 1968 there were a) an amateur circuit including the Davis Cup ("closed" to any "contract" professional until 1973) and the Australian Championships, b) two pro circuits: the "World Championship of Tennis (WCT)" circuit and the "National Tennis League (NTL)" circuit which met on 4 tournaments, and c) an open circuit (with a little more than 10 tournaments).

Many events were still reserved to the amateur players between 1968 and 1972.

Two tournaments were at the top in 1968: Wimbledon (a 128-man field), and the US Open (a 100-man field), played on grass, where all the best competed. The third position can be claimed by the Roland Garros Open, being the First Grand Slam tournament, but with a lesser field, missing several of the best clay court players (Santana, Okker, Newcombe, Roche and the 6 other WCT players).

Next probably came the first Pacific Southwest Open in Los Angeles (64-man field, played on hardcourt) with all the best players present.

Other notable tournaments that year were the Queen's Club tournament (the Graebner-Okker final cancelled due to rain which also delayed the first matches in Wimbledon) and the greatest pro tournaments where all the NTL and WCT pros could compete (but without amateur or registered players) as the U.S. Pro (outside Boston, on grass), the French Pro (coming back to Roland Garros after the 5-edition interlude at Coubertin), the Jack Kramer Tournament of Champions at Wembley in November and perhaps the Madison Square Garden Pro in December with the four best pros of each organisation.

In this context Rosewall played almost all NTL pro tournaments in 1968, the four "NTL-WCT" tournaments and some open tournaments. He entered his first "open" tournament at 33 years 5 months and 19 days at Bournemouth on clay ("open" because among the pros only the NTL players entered and the amateurs were mainly British) and successively defeated Gimeno and Laver. At Roland Garros, the First Grand Slam Tournament of the Open Era, Rosewall confirmed his status of probably the best claycourt player in the world (in fact since 1958 except in 1959 and 1966) by defeating Laver in the final 6–3, 6–3, 6–1. Bad defeats followed against some of the upcoming 1967 amateur players (Roche twice on grass at the US Pro and at Wimbledon Open, Newcombe on clay at the French Pro and Okker on grass at the U.S. Open) but his end of the year was better. He reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open, was finalist to Laver at the Pacific Southwest Open, defeating the new U.S. Open winner, Arthur Ashe, 6–3 6–2 and in November captured the Wembley pro tournament over WCT player, John Newcombe. At age 34 Rosewall was still ranked #3 in the world behind Laver and Ashe according to Lance Tingay and Bud Collins.

Read more about this topic:  Ken Rosewall

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