Class of 1974
World No. 7
Grand Slam Results
3-time major champion
Brazilian Team member 1954-1955
Overall Record: 3-7
Singles Record: 2-4
Doubles Record: 1-3
Shifts in momentum are the lifeblood of winning tennis. Bob Falkenburg capitalized on his opportunity on tennis’s grandest stage and exactly at the right time.
He was facing John Bromwich in the 1948 Wimbledon Gentlemen Singles final. He was facing defeat – it was a fait accompli. Bromwich had match points in the fifth set. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Falkenburg gambled with powerful backhands. His last stroke flew off his racquet and appeared headed out. Bromwich made no effort to counter attack. The ball landed in. Momentum swung heavily in Falkenburg’s favor and he roared back to win his only major singles championship – albeit a huge victory – 7-5, 0-6, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
The July 3, 1948 edition of the Montreal Gazette offered this synopsis from both players: “I had my chance,” Bromwich mourning in the dressing room, “but I didn’t take it.” “I was lucky to win,” Falkenburg said modestly.
In 1949, Falkenburg was set on defending his Wimbledon title and played against Bromwich in the quarterfinals, but the Australian would not falter a second time. It was an uneven match, with Falkenburg squandering a 2-0 set advantage – momentum swings mysteriously working both ways – with Bromwich seizing victory, 3-6, 9-11, 6-0, 6-0, 6-4.
Those who played against the 6-foot-3 Falkenburg said he was a thinking man’s player, one who took calculated risks when others might play it safe. He was confident that his big, booming serve wouldn’t fail him and that his forays to net would lead to winners. Part of that inner-strength came from his tennis upbringing. The Falkenburg family was steeped in the game. His brother Tom and sister Jinx were talented competitors who both played in the U.S. National Championships. Bob was a scholastic standout at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, and won the U.S. Interscholastic title in 1942, teaming with his brother to capture the doubles title that same year. As a 17-year-old in 1943, Falkenburg broke into the U.S. Top 10, one of the youngest to do so, and remained a part of the elite fraternity for the next five years.
Falkenburg, who was born in New York City but raised in Los Angeles, remained close to home as a collegian, and the friendly surroundings of the University of Southern California suited him perfectly. He won the 1946 Intercollegiate Singles and Doubles Championships.
Falkenburg didn’t have an extensive playing career, but in the years he did compete, he was always a factor. He was a semifinalist at the U.S. National Singles Championship in 1946 and a quarterfinalist in 1947. In both cases, he was beaten by fellow Southern Californian, Jack Kramer. The immortal Kramer wouldn’t remain Falkenburg’s foil forever, as the duo teamed to win the 1947 Wimbledon Gentlemen Doubles title over Tony Mottram and Bill Sidwell, 8–6, 6–3, 6–3.
In 1944, Falkenburg captured a U.S. championship, teaming with Don McNeil to win the doubles title over the esteemed tandem of Pancho Segura and William Talbert, 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. In 1945, he partnered with Jack Tuero and lost in an epic match to another pair of doubles specialists, Talbert and Gardnar Mulloy, 12-10, 8-10, 12-10, 6-2. That same year, Talbert would again spoil a Falkenburg major championship bid, as he and Margaret Osborne teamed to defeat Falkenburg and Doris Hart in mixed doubles action, 6-4, 6-4.
Towards the end of his career, Falkenburg married a Brazilian woman and played Davis Cup for Brazil. Falkenburg etched out a significant business career in Brazil. When he traveled to Brazil for a tennis tournament he recalled being “distressed that I couldn’t get a decent hamburger or milkshake.” He launched 10 Bob’s snack bar outlets in Rio de Janeiro, making him the nation’s largest supplier of America’s traditional fast food fare. Today there are more than 1,000 Bob’s franchises throughout Brazil.
Falkenburg’s solid career has been recognized on numerous occasions. He was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Hall of Fame (1985), the Fairfax High School Hall of Fame (1999), the USC Hall of Fame (2009) and the Southern California Tennis Association Hall of Fame (2010).
Wimbledon: W 1948
U.S. Nationals: SF 1946
Wimbledon: W 1947
US Open: W 1944
U.S. Nationals: F 1945