Frank Sedgman

Frank Sedgman

Class of 1979

Master Player

Career Achievements

Top Ranking     
World No. 1 (1951)

Grand Slam Results
22-time major champion, 11-time finalist

Davis Cup
Member of the Australian Davis Cup Team 1949-1952
Member of the Australian Championship Davis Cup Team 1950-1952
Overall Record: 25-3
Singles Record: 16-3
Doubles Record: 9-0

Citizenship: AUS Born: October 29, 1927 in Mont Albert, Victoria, Australia Played: Right-handed

In celebration of his 80th birthday in 2007, legendary Australian player Frank Sedgman was thrown a gala birthday party, attended by 400 guests. There was one surprise: legendary Jack Kramer flew in from Los Angeles to take part in the festivities. Kramer was widely chastised as the person who lured the wildly successful Sedgman, then just 25-years-old and the winner of 22 majors, from the amateur to the pro game in 1953. Sedgman’s decision portrayed him as a “traitor,” betraying his country and he was banned from the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club – the spiritual home of Australian tennis – and the All England Club at Wimbledon.

Time erases a lot of hard feelings and sour memories, and Sedgman was ultimately forgiven and became a national treasure once again. In 1979, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia, which recognizes citizens for achievement and meritorious service. Kramer relished his trip Down Under, and outside of his Aussie cohorts like Ken Rosewell, Neale Fraser, Ken McGregor, and John Bromwich, not one is more equipped to analyze Sedgman’s game than Kramer, an aficionado in bridging past players with the present crop. Kramer told The Age that a young Sedgman would have given Roger Federer all he could handle – and then some. "If he had the same equipment, he would be all over Roger's backhand, he'd make all those passing shots," Kramer explained. "Frank Sedgman was the quickest man around the court, he had great anticipation, you couldn't lob to him, and he was a super volleyer. He might have had a shot at Roger. It would be wonderful to watch."

In comparison, Sedgman certainly had a Federer-like streak during the prime of his career. In just five years, from 1948 through 1952, he won a stunning 22 major titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. Trimming that remarkable feat down to just the 1951 and 1952 seasons, Sedgman had 24 major opportunities and won 16 of them. Seventeen of his major titles were earned in doubles, seven alongside longtime partner McGregor. In 1951 the duo became the only men’s doubles team in history to win the Grand Slam in a single year and they came excruciatingly close in 1952, winning the first three majors. At the U.S. Nationals, Aussie Mervyn Rose and American Vic Seixas hung on for a 3-6, 10-8, 10-8, 6-8, 8-6 victory. As a reference point, the only threat to Sedgman’s doubles Grand Slam came in 2013 when the Bryan Brothers, Mike and Bob, won their first three majors, but were also derailed at the US Open.

Sedgman won five major singles titles, taking the Australian Championships in 1949 and 1950, the U.S. Nationals in 1951 and 1952 and Wimbledon in 1952. During that miraculous run, he was a finalist at Wimbledon in 1950, and the 1952 Australian and French. Playing at his home major, Sedgman defeated Bromwich in 1949 (6-3, 6-2, 6-2) and doubles partner McGregor the following year (6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1). His U.S. National singles titles showcased his talents to a new audience, and they were impressive. He thumped Seixas in the 1951 final, 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 and had a carbon-copy performance in 1952 against Gardnar Mulloy, winning 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. At both the 1952 French and Wimbledon championships, Sedgman faced the skillful lefty Jaroslav Drobný. He lost the French (6-2, 6-0, 3-6, 4-6), the only major singles championship he didn’t win, but did bounce back admirably in the one cherished title – Wimbledon. He played another tight match against Drobný, but prevailed in four sets, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, the victory ending an 18-year Aussie winning drought in London.

“I was very keyed up about it all,” Sedgman said in an Australian documentary chronicling his 1952 Wimbledon victory. “I lost the first set, which I wasn’t expecting to do, but I was able to come back and win in four sets, which was pretty good,” the modest and unabashed Sedgman said.

“I was from a small country town and Frank Sedgman was the first tennis player that I had ever heard of,” said Tony Roche. “Sedg has done it all, and the great tradition we’ve had in Australian tennis is owed to Frank Sedgman, not only in the way he played, but the way he did it, how he carried himself on the court and the great doubles he played with Ken McGregor is something special.”

Sedgman and McGregor won seven consecutive major doubles titles – the Australian, French, and Wimbledon championships in both 1951 and 1952, and the U.S. Nationals in 1951. None of the championships were won easily, perhaps making them more special. The 1951 championships at the Australian, French, Wimbledon, and U.S. Nationals took five, four, five, and four sets respectively. The even year titles were straight set triumphs. The first Australian was perhaps the toughest of the seven to earn, fellow Aussies Bromwich and Adrian Quist pushing hard, but falling 11–9, 2–6, 6–3, 4–6, 6–3. The 1951 Wimbledon victory was a nip-and-tuck battle against Drobný and Eric Sturgess, ultimately won by the Aussies, 3–6, 6–2, 6–3, 3–6, 6–3. Sedgman’s mixed doubles ledger was perfect, winning eight majors (Australian: 1949, 1950; French: 1951, 1952; Wimbledon: 1951, 1952; U.S. Nationals: 1951, 1952), all with American superstar Doris Hart.

Sedgman’s Davis Cup exploits were perfect in 1950, 1951 and 1952, going an undefeated 9-0 in singles and doubles competition, winning crucial matches and leading the Aussies to three straight championships over the United States. The 1952 championship was particularly poignant, as he and McGregor earned the go-ahead point with a 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 victory over Tony Trabert and Seixas. Understandably, the nation that embraced its tennis so dearly felt jolted when Sedgman ended his amateur status.

That happened in 1953, when Sedgman was cajoled by Kramer to join his professional tour, which many called a “circus.” It proved financially and professionally rewarding for Sedgman. He earned in excess of six figures, and won the French Pro in 1953, the Wembley Pro in 1953 and 1958, was a finalist at the US Pro in 1954, 1961, and Tournament of Champions in 1956 and 1957. He retired in 1967, forging a successful business career that saw him invent flavored drinking straws called Sedge Straws.

Coinciding with Sedgman’s 87th birthday in 2014 was the release of his biography, Game Sedge & Match: Making of a Tennis Dynasty. In his memoirs, Sedgman spoke honestly about his coach Harry Hopman and the backlash he received when turning professional. Sedgman reveals why he celebrated his Wimbledon victory in 1952 with a soft drink instead of champagne and includes an interview with Margaret Court, who credits Sedgman and his wife Jean for helping her become a tennis icon.

Grand Slam

Grand Slam Best Results

Titles

5 Singles | 9 Doubles | 8 Mixed Doubles

Singles
Australian Championships: W 1949, 1950
French Championships: F 1952
Wimbledon: W 1952
U.S. Nationals: W 1951, 1952

Doubles
Australian Championships: W 1951, 1952
French Championships: W 1951, 1952
Wimbledon: W 1948, 1951, 1952
U.S. Nationals: W 1950, 1951

Mixed Doubles
Australian Championships: W 1949, 1950
French Championships: W 1951, 1952
Wimbledon: W 1951, 1952
U.S. Nationals: W 1951, 1952