Tony Trabert, a five-time Grand Slam singles champion and former No. 1 player who went on to successful careers as a Davis Cup captain, broadcaster and executive, died last Wednesday at his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, aged 90.
He was not only a terrific example to us all on how to be a great champion, but also as a wise coach and mentor, a fair and effective leader, someone who gave back to the sport, and an all-around terrific ambassador for tennis Stan Smith
Trabert , who won three of the four major singles titles in 1955, including Wimbledon and the U.S. Nationals (now known as the US Open) without losing a set, was ranked No. 1 in singles in 1953 and 1955.
In addition, the American won five Grand Slam titles in men’s doubles, including four with Vic Seixas.
He won all of his major titles as an amateur before joining the professional ranks which was part of the drive towards open tennis which eventually came about in 1968.
“When I won Wimbledon I got a 10-pound certificate, which was worth $27 dollars at a sporting good store,” Trabert recollected while declaring that the highlight of his career was helping the US Davis Cup team beat Australia for the 1954 Davis Cup title and then leading them as captain, to the title in 1978 and 1979.
Trabert was a broadcaster for more than 30 years and is probably best known for his coverage of the US Open on behalf of CBS. He was inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 1970 and became its President for 11 years in 2001.
“He was not only a terrific example to us all on how to be a great champion, but also as a wise coach and mentor, a fair and effective leader, someone who gave back to the sport, and an all-around terrific ambassador for tennis,” current Hall of Fame President Stan Smith said.
Born on August 16, 1930, Marion Anthony Trabert grew up in Cincinnati near public clay courts where he learnt his craft and in 1951, he won the NCAA singles championship for the University of Cincinnati.
From 1953 to 1955, Trabert won 38 singles titles and went 5-0 in major finals, each against a different opponent. He just failed to secure a calendar Grand Slam when he lost to Ken Rosewall in the semi-finals of the 1955 Australian Open.
Trabert’s first major title came at the U.S. Nationals in 1953. He won his first French Open title in 1954 and a year later became the last American to win at Roland Garros until Michael Chang in 1989.
Trabert said the best players in his heyday rivalled those of the modern generation.
“The depth is much greater now than when I played,” he said in a 2011 interview with a Cincinnati TV station. “There are more good players today. I’m not so sure the top players today are any better than the top players when we played. No one will ever know that. But you didn’t have to beat as many good players to win a tournament when I was playing as they do now.”
Looking back on his career, Trabert expressed no regrets about turning professional and disqualifying himself from further Grand Slam events before the arrival of the Open era.
“Jack Kramer offered me a guarantee of $75,000 against a percentage of the gate to play on his tour,” he explained. “I made $125,000 to play 101 matches on five continents over 14 months.”
In early 2014, he underwent heart surgery but a bad right shoulder prevented him from playing golf or tennis.
He is survived by his wife, Vicki; a son, Mike, and a daughter, Brooke Trabert Dabkowski, from his marriage to Shauna Wood, which ended in divorce; three stepchildren, Valerie Mason and James and Robbie Valenti; 14 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.