Class of 1984
World No. 3 (1938)
Grand Slam Results
19-time major champion and 16-time finalist
Member of the Australian Davis Cup Team 1937-1939, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1950
Member of the Australian Championship Davis Cup Team 1939, 1950
Overall Record: 39-12
Singles Record: 19-11
Doubles Record: 20-1
When opposing players saw John Bromwich’s name penciled next to theirs in either a singles or doubles match, even the brightest days could suddenly turn cloudy. It wasn’t that Bromwich wasn’t a nice guy and an honorable sportsman and competitor – he was, but the Aussie was like a bad winter cold that harbors for months on end. He was unforgiving and relentless and once you solved one part of his game, another flared up, seemingly more potent than the first.
The competitive side of Bromwich’s resume read like the profit-loss statement of a successful Fortune 500 company. From 1939 to 1949, he reached the finals of 35 Grand Slam Championships – 21 Australian, five Wimbledon and nine U.S. Nationals. Bromwich won 19 major titles, the majority (17) coming in doubles and mixed doubles.
Bromwich had one of the most unique, unorthodox, maddening, and hard to gauge playing styles in tennis history. He was a lefty who served right-handed. He hit his forehand with one hand and his backhand with two, one of the first to employ that technique. He strung his racquet loosely, which created more power as the ball catapulted off the strings, but made it exceedingly difficult for opponents to hear the ball once hit, paramount to judging power, pace, and depth. “People called my racquet an onion bag,” Bromwich often said. “They complained they couldn’t hear me hit the ball.”
When playing doubles with fellow Aussie Adrian Quist, it didn’t much matter whether opponents could hear the ball or not, it didn’t change the results. The duo owned the Australian Championships winning eight straight titles from 1938 to 1950, even with World War II interrupting their magnanimous run, which stands as a team record in the majors. The pair didn’t sweep their opponents off the court every time, in fact all of their victories were earned in three sets. In 1951, the youthful duo of Frank Sedgman, 23, and Ken McGregor, 22, needed five sets and their full arsenal of skills to end Quist, 33, and Bronwich’s, 38, run at the Australian, 11-9, 2-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. Bromwich and Quist continued their doubles dominance abroad, winning at Wimbledon in 1950 and the U.S. Nationals in 1939. Neither of those two championships was won in straight sets either. Bromwich captured his two subsequent U.S. Nationals titles with Bill Sidwell (1949) and Sedgman (1950).
Bromwich had a plethora of memorable tennis highlights. At the 1939 Davis Cup, he and Quist won a pivotal Challenge Round doubles rubber over the formidable United States team of Jack Kramer and Joseph Hunt, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5, 6-2. After Quist lost to Bobby Riggs to even the match 2-2, Bromwich played potentially his best singles match ever, whipping Frank Parker 6-0, 6-3,6-1, to earn the Aussies the championship in the only time a country has rebounded from an 0-2 deficit in the final. There was an overt contrast in playing and dressing styles between Parker and Bromwich – the Aussie wore traditional white long-sleeved shirt and long white trousers, while Parker wore shorts and a white headband. Bromwich had superb ball movement, running Parker from corner to corner. After he hit an overhead smash to win the match, Bromwich nonchalantly tossed his racquet in the air toward his courtside seat and received a congratulatory pat on the back from a teammate.
His doubles prowess continued in mixed play, where he won five major titles. Four of those came with Louise Brough Clapp (1948 and 1949 Wimbledon, 1947 U.S. Nationals) and the 1938 Australian with Margaret Wilson.
Bromwich played in seven Australian singles finals, winning a pair nine years apart in 1939 and 1948. As an 18-year-old at the 1937 Australian, he upset No. 1 seed Jack Crawford, 6-1, 7-9, 6-4, 8-6, in the semifinals, snapping Crawford’s run of six consecutive finals appearances. In 1939 as the No. 1 seed, he held true to the seeding and dusted off his doubles partner Quist, 6-4, 6-1, 6-3. Seven years later, competing again as the No. 1 seed, Bromwich won his second title, this one considerably more difficult in a 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 marathon victory over compatriot Dinny Palis. He was a finalist five times (1937, 1938, 1947, 1948, 1949) and may be best remembered for a match that wafted into the air, the 1948 final against American Bob Falkenburg. Bromwich held three match points and saw the match slip away, losing 7-5, 0-6, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5. On the first set point, up 5-2, Bromwich had the chance to pounce on an easy volley, but pulled away at the last second, calculating Falkenberg had hit the ball long. It didn’t – the ball landed on the chalk, a puff of white particles released into the air – the ball had landed on the baseline. In his autobiography, Kramer wrote, “to me, it never seemed he (Bromwich) was the same player after that.”
In the 1949 Wimbledon quarterfinals, the No. 5 seed Bromwich met No. 4 seed Falkenburg. The American snared the first two sets 6-3, 11-9, and then in a dramatic twist of momentum, Bromwich took the third and fourth sets 6-0, 6-0 and the fifth 6-4. His road to a championship was dampened in the semifinals when Jaroslav Drobný won easily, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2. On three occasions, Bromwich had a legitimate shot at advancing to the finals of the U.S. National Men’s Singles Championships, losing in the semifinals in 1938, 1939 and 1947. In 1939, he led American Welby van Horn 2-0 in the match, but dropped the finals three sets, 8-6 in the third.
Grand Slam Record
Australian Championships: W 1939, 1946
French Championships: QF 1950
Wimbledon: F 1948
U.S. Nationals: SF 1938, 1939, 1947
Australian Championships: W 1938, 1939, 1940, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950
Wimbledon: W 1948, 1950
U.S. Championships: W 1939, 1949, 1950
Australian Championships: W 1938
Wimbledon: W 1947, 1948
U.S. Championships: W 1947