Class of 1990
World No. 4 (1973)
Grand Slam Results
3-time major champion, 3-time finalist
Member of the Czech Davis Cup Team 1966-80
Member of the 1980 Championship Czech Davis Cup Team
Captain of the Czech Davis Cup Team 1982-87
Overall Record: 60-34
Singles Record: 39-19
Doubles Record: 21-15
On his personal dossier, there are no entries for Jan Kodeš at the Australian Championships. It’s not a typo or a mistake. The Czech-born Kodeš earned his Hall of Fame career on the clay in Paris and grass in London and Forest Hills.
Kodeš was most comfortable playing on clay, evidenced by winning the French Open in 1970 and 1971, but his aggressive, attacking groundstroke game led him to a pair of finalist appearances in the 1971 and 1973 US Opens. He had a lengthy career spanning 17 years from 1966 to 1983 and earned 11 singles and 17 doubles career titles. He rose to No. 4 in the world in 1973.
From 1966 to 1981, he never missed a French Championship. He was 43-14 all-time in Paris and advanced into the fourth round five times (1967, 1969, 1974, 1975, 1977), was a quarterfinalist twice (1972, 1973) and won his first title in 1970 in a breeze over Yugoslavian Željko Franulović, 6-2, 6-4, 6-0. As the No. 7 seed, Kodeš had a relatively easy route to the finals, never facing a seed higher than the No. 5, Franulović, along the way. No. 1 seed Ilie Nâstase lost in the quarterfinals to No. 8 Cliff Richey, No. 2 seed Stan Smith withdrew in the first round and No. 3 and No. 4 seeds Manuel Santana and Arthur Ashe respectively, were bounced in the fourth round and quarterfinals.
In 1971, Kodeš was seeded No. 1 at the French Open and his relentless baseline game led him to a second straight title, albeit this one decidedly more difficult. He needed five sets and a comeback after being down 2-1 against Frenchman François Jauffret in the fourth round, winning the last two sets 6-0, 6-4. Awaiting him in the championship match was No. 3 seeded Nâstase, who couldn’t match Kodeš’s intensity and relentless pursuit of the ball, falling 8-6, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.
In 1973, Kodeš won Wimbledon in what many referred to as a strike year. That year, 79 men’s players, including 13 of the top 16 seeds, voted to boycott the tournament as protest against Wimbledon’s decision not to allow Yugoslav star Niki Pilić to compete due to a misunderstanding over a Davis Cup match. Pilić was deemed not “in good standing” with the ITF and the organization decided to make him the poster child for conformity.
“I did not get emotionally involved in the turmoil of the issue and until the draw was made public I did not know who was in nor who was out,” Kodeš said. “The remaining players were still strong and there were some excellent grass court specialists. I was convinced that I should not choose to boycott Wimbledon. Nâstase thought similarly.” He defeated Russia’s Alex Metreveli in the final, 6-1, 9-8 (7-5), 6-3, but some record books contain a curious asterisk as though they never played. The field was hardly void of top players. Jimmy Connors, Björn Borg, and Roger Taylor were among those who competed against Kodeš. The matches were still competitive; Kodeš needed five sets (7-5 in the fifth) to defeat Taylor in the semifinals.
Kodeš long abhorred playing on grass, and wasn’t shy about making his feelings known. He played spectacularly in at the US Open 1971, defeating No. 1 seed John Newcombe in the first round, 2-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-3 and knocking off No. 3 seed Ashe in the semifinals, going the distance in a five-setter. He couldn’t upset No. 2 seed Smith in the final, but it dispelled any notion that the Czech only excelled on slow surfaces. At the US Open in 1973, he basically sailed through the first four rounds as the No. 6 seed, defeating Pilić in five sets in the quarters and upsetting No. 1 Smith in a five-set semifinal triumph. He led No. 10 seed Newcombe 2 sets to 1, but the hard-charging Aussie kicked it up a notch, taking the last two sets 6-2, 6-3 and the title.
For 12 years Kodeš was Czechoslovakia’s top ranked player, and his affinity for playing Davis Cup was significant. He played in 94 matches over 15 years starting in 1966, losing in the 1975 finals against Sweden. The team won the 1980 championship, 4-1 over Italy.
French Open: W 1970, 1971
Wimbledon: W 1973
US Open: F 1971, 1973
French Open: F 1977
Wimbledon: QF 1973
Wimbledon: QF 1973