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2010 Hall of Fame Inductee Owen Davidson dies at 79
The prominent Aussie won 13 Grand Slam doubles titles, including 11 in mixed, and won a Calendar Year Grand Slam in 1967.
Published May 13, 2023
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Owen Davidson, winner of 13 Grand Slam doubles titles, died on May 12 at the age of 79. A 2010 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee, Davidson was a prominent Australian player and peer of his compatriots, fellow Hall of Famers John Newcombe and Tony Roche.
His greatest results came in mixed doubles, where “Davo” won eleven majors. Most notably, Davidson in 1967 earned a calendar year Grand Slam. First came a victory in Australia alongside fellow Aussie Lesley Turner. Davidson then won Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Championships with Billie Jean King. Only two other times has a player earned a sweep of all four mixed majors in a single year.
King and Davidson would eventually win eight majors (one French, four Wimbledon, three US). As King once said, “He had that rough lefty serve, great volleys, and a fantastic overhead,” she said. “We also got along so well. Just a great, great partner.” Davidson believed their finest moment took place at Wimbledon in the 1971 finals, when he and King overcame Margaret Court and Marty Riessen, 15-13 in the third. “How we got out of that one I’ll never know,” said Davidson. “But let me tell you this: Billie Jean was an incredible volleyer and a terrific partner.”
Davidson’s two Grand Slam men’s doubles title runs happened at the ’72 Australian Open with Ken Rosewall and the ’73 US Open, when he paired with lifelong friend Newcombe to win a sparkling all-Aussie final versus two titans, Rosewall and Rod Laver.
He had that rough lefty serve, great volleys, and a fantastic overhead. We also got along so well. Just a great, great partner. Billie Jean King
He was also a formidable singles player. At Wimbledon in 1966, Davidson reached the semifinals, in the previous round upsetting another Aussie icon, two-time defending champion Roy Emerson. Davidson advanced to the quarterfinals at the majors an additional seven times. Another historic moment for Davidson came on April 22, 1968, when he won the first match of tennis’ Open era, defeating John Clifton in Bournemouth, England.
The Davidson tennis pedigree ran deep. Born in tennis-rich Melbourne on October 4, 1943, Davidson was coached by another lefthanded Australian Hall of Famer, Mervyn Rose. As his career advanced, like all the great Aussies, Davidson was mentored by Davis Cup captain Harry Hopman.
All of those experiences came in handy when Davidson joined Great Britain’s LTA in 1967 – responsibilities that included being coach of the British Davis Cup team, leader of British competitive tennis, and head pro at the All England Club. After relocating to the United States in the ‘70s, Davidson worked at a variety of venues, including tennis events firm Grand Slam Sports and a pair of Texas-based facilities, the Woodlands Country Club and the John Newcombe Tennis Academy.
He also wrote books and articles, followed the game closely, and was a constant source of insight for a wide range of players, coaches, broadcasters, journalists, corporations and others.
I was fortunate to get to know “Davo” quite well over the course of attending Newcombe’s fantasy camps just about every year since 1995. As recently as this past March, Owen was one of my coaches at Newcombe’s annual mixed doubles event. As you’d expect from a legendary Aussie, his advice was always informed, direct, and concise.
One of the highest forms of praise tennis folk use to describe others is to say, “he lived his life inside the game.” Owen Davidson did that as much as anyone. He will be missed.