Class of 1991
Singles World No. 1
Grand Slam Results
8-time major champion, 5-time finalist
Member of Australian Davis Cup Team 1957, 1958
Member of winning Davis Cup Team 1957
Overall Record: 2-2
Singles Record: 2-2
Doubles Record: 0-0
In a brief, three-year span, serve-and-volleyer Ashley John Cooper jammed what seems like the equivalent of 33 years of productivity into a dazzling career.
The 5-foot-10 Cooper, a disciple of Coach Harry Hopman’s endless array of great Australian players in the 1950s, won the Australian, Wimbledon, and U.S. Championships in 1958, becoming one of only eleven men in tennis history to achieve that feat. He was a scant two victories away from winning the Grand Slam (all four majors in the same year) that year, advancing to the semifinals of the French Championships as the No. 1 seed, but was upset by Chilean Luis Ayala in an epic five-set match, 11-9, 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 5-7.
Cooper played in an impressive 13 major finals, winning four singles and four doubles titles. He rose to No. 1 in the world in 1957 and 1958, and then two years later sought out the greener pastures of professional tennis. Ascending to the world’s top spot in 1957 was based on winning the Australian Singles Championship, advancing to both finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. National Championships, and a pair of doubles championships at the French Championships and U.S. Nationals. The activity and accomplishment was fast and furious. In singles play, the No. 2 seeded Cooper won the 1957 Australian singles title over Neale Fraser, 6-3, 9-11, 6-4, 6-2. He made the Wimbledon finals, was stopped short by Lew Hoad, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 and at the U.S. Championships suffered another disappointing straight sets loss against Malcolm Anderson, 10-8, 7-5, 6-4.
Doubles play saw Cooper team with Anderson to sweep through the French, 6-3, 6-0, 6-3 over fellow Aussies Don Candy and Mervyn Rose. He and Fraser crossed the pond later that summer to win the U.S. National Championship over Gardnar Mulloy and Budge Patty, 4-6, 6-3, 9-7, 6-3. That victory ended the 1957 major season and put in motion a stunning 1958 campaign.
No. 3 seeded Cooper began 1958 by defeating Anderson, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4, to win the Australian Championships. The victory included a four set semifinal over Fraser that primed Cooper for the final. After a semifinal loss in Paris, he took his wares to London, where he was seeded No. 1 at Wimbledon. Cooper advanced by defeating Britain’s Bobby Wilson in an exhausting five set quarterfinal, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 7-5 and a four-setter over Rose in the semifinals (7-9, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3) to reach the finals, where once again, Fraser awaited him. Cooper battled through an arduous match, winning 13-11 in the fourth set victory to snare his second major championship. In victory, Cooper lost seven sets in his seven wins and played 322 games, a record for any champion at the All England Club.
Cooper’s dizzying run of triumph continued on U.S. soil, where Cooper rolled into the U.S. Nationals as the second seed behind Mal Anderson and faced a challenging draw, one that saw him face Fraser in the semifinals. Cooper defeated his rival for a sixth straight and final time, 8-6, 8-6, 6-1. As scripted, Anderson stood at the finals gate, and Cooper won for a second time in a 1958 major final against him, albeit a doozy of a victory, 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 10-8, 8-6.
Though rivals in singles play, Cooper and Fraser teamed to win both the 1958 Australian and French Doubles Championships. The first victory came over fellow Aussies Roy Emerson and Robert Mark and the French victory over Aussie Robert Howe and South African Abe Segal. He played two years of Davis Cup for Australia in 1957 and 1958, as a member of the winning team in 1957 over the United States, and losing in the Final Round to them in 1958.
Since it was difficult to turn down an opportunity to play for pay, Cooper turned professional in 1959, and had a successful run, winning the European Grand Prix in 1960, advancing to the semifinals of the U.S. Pro in 1959 and 1960 and the semifinals of the French Pro in 1962.
Post playing days, he settled in Brisbane and operated a family tennis and squash complex before serving as a Tennis Player Development Administrator with Tennis Queensland. He was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, his inscription reading: Give it your best shot.
Australian Championships: W 1957, 1958
French Championships: SF 1956, 1957, 1958
Wimbledon: W 1958
U.S. Nationals: W 1958
Australian Championships: W 1958
French Championships: W 1957, 1958
Wimbledon: F 1958
U.S. Nationals: W 1957