Class of 1986
World No. 1 (1967)
Grand Slam Results
26-time major champion, and 9-time finalist
Open Era Titles
Open Era Record
Overall Record: 853-296
Singles Record: 520-181
Doubles Record: 333-115
Member of the Australian Davis Cup Team 1963-1967, 1973, 1975-1976
Member of the Australian Championship Davis Cup Team 1964-1967, 1973
Captain of the Australian Davis Cup Team 1994-2000
Captain of the 1999 Australian Championship Davis Cup Team
Overall Record: 25-9
Singles Record: 16-7
Doubles Record: 9-2
At some point in time, the endless array of brilliant Australian tennis players that dominated the 1950s, 60s, and 70s had to end. The Aussies had made tennis their own personal playground going on a fourth decade. From 1950 to 1967, Harry Hopman’s teams won 15 Davis Cup championships and between 1961 and 1970, Aussie men’s players won at least one major title at every event. This reign finally begin to subside in the late 1970s, but not before John Newcombe put his deep imprint on tennis history. In singles, doubles, and mixed doubles, Newcombe won 26 total majors, just three behind record-holder and fellow Aussie Roy Emerson’s 28 championships. His 17 doubles titles are an all-time record.
He was easily identifiable by his thick moustache, which Australian tennis fans adored and his nickname, Newk. He also landed a profile picture on the August 26, 1974 cover of Sports Illustrated. Newcombe was gregarious, charming, and gracious in both victory and defeat, the epitome of what Australian tennis players had become under Hopman’s disciplined guidance.
Born in Sydney, Newcombe said his tennis inspiration came from Aussie forerunners Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad, and Frank Sedgman, a trio that combined to win 53 major titles. “There was kind of a code that you had as an Australian that you never left the court losing unless you had blood all over you,” Newcombe said. “That’s the sort of toughness you need to compete on the world stage. Sedge was the first one who caught my eye. He epitomized what an Australian player should be, someone who was extremely fit, fought to the end and behaved properly.”
Enamored with many sports as a youth, Newcombe eventually gravitated toward tennis and adopted the winning edge before he reached 10 years old. “The first competition I played was the C grade Sunday morning men’s competition in Sydney,” Newcombe told website tennis-prose.com in 2010. “I was age eight. The next youngest was probably 16. And then it was a lot of older guys playing after that. And I won that competition – the first one I played in. I was playing for a club called Jubilee Park in Laine Cove, Sydney. I was pretty feisty as a kid.” From a precocious youth to a maturing teenager, Newcombe won the Australian junior championship from 1961-63 and at age 19 had already secured a spot on the 1964 Australian Davis Cup team that defeated the United States, 3-2. From that point, Newcombe was a mainstay on Australia’s Davis Cup team, winning four championships (1964, 1965, 1966, 1973). Newcombe compiled a 16-7 record in singles record and 9-2 mark in doubles. He served as Davis Cup captain from 1994-2000.
With his rapid success, the Aussie torch had successfully been passed from Rod Laver to Newcombe, and in 1965, when he connected with longtime partner Tony Roche the duo began a tremendous display of major doubles championship tennis. The pair won the 1965 Australian and followed that summer with a Wimbledon title. From 1965 to 1971 they won 11 of their 12 then-record setting major championships, a mark that has since been broken by Bob and Mike Bryan (in 2013). To demonstrate how dominating the Aussies were during that timeframe, all but two of those titles were won playing against Aussie compatriots. The Newcombe-Roche combination won four Australian titles (1965, 1967, 1971, 1973), Wimbledon four times (1965, 1968, 1969, 1970), two French championships (1967, 1969), and one at the U.S. Nationals (1967). Five additional titles were won at Wimbledon in 1966 with Ken Fletcher, the US Open in 1971 with Roger Taylor, the 1973 Australian Open with Mal Anderson, the 1973 US Open with Owen Davidson, and the 1973 French Open with Tom Okker. He won a pair of mixed doubles championships, both with compatriot Margaret Court at the U.S. Nationals in 1964 and the 1965 Australian.
Newcombe took serving, volleying and a hard-driving forehand to new heights; they were the cornerstones of his game. When he was younger, Newcombe employed a kick serve that over time evolved into a powerful flat serve. His was astonishingly fast for a big and strong 6-footer. His forward serving motion thrust him onto the court and at the service box in a split second. From that point he could control the point, engulfing the net or dropping back to smash an overhead. He was perpetual motion on the court, always attacking and imposing his will on a match.
Newcombe said that 45 minutes before each match he ran a dress rehearsal through his mind on how he visualized play would unfold. That mental approach and attention to scouting his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses provided Newcombe with a tactical edge that buoyed his performance. That preparation led him to seven major singles titles in 10 opportunities, three at Wimbledon (1967, 1970, 1971) and two each at the U.S. Nationals/Open (1967, 1973) and Australian (1973, 1975). He defeated West German Wilhelm Bungert at Wimbledon in 1967 (6-3, 6-1, 6-1) for his first major singles titles after being a finalist at the 1966 U.S. Nationals (4-6, 12-10, 6-3, 6-4 loss to compatriot Fred Stolle). His back-to-back Wimbledon titles in 1970 and 1971 came in mammoth five-setters against Rosewall and Stan Smith. “Grass is the best of all surfaces because it changes from day to day,” Newcombe told Pro-Tennis Magazine in 1991. “The variations in bounces from day one of Wimbledon to the men’s final is extraordinary. To succeed on grass, players have to learn to outwit their opponents as well as handle the conditions. Winning Wimbledon three times was great, but I played in 10 finals there altogether – four singles and six doubles – and won nine of them. I am pretty proud of that.”
All of Newcombe’s singles titles came on grass; the 1967 U.S. Nationals over American Clark Graebner in straight sets, 1973 Australian over New Zealand’s Onny Parun, the 1973 US against Jan Kodes in a five-set marathon, and the 1975 Australian over Jimmy Connors. In the Open Era, Newcombe won 34 singles titles and 33 doubles championships. He is one of a scant few players to hold world No. 1 rankings in both singles (1967, 1970, 1971) and doubles (1965). He was ranked in the World Top 10 in singles ten consecutive years (1965-1974). In 1971, his finest season on tour, Newcombe won six of 21 singles tournaments and had a 57-15 match record. Once the Open Era began, Newcombe compiled a 520-181 record in singles and a 333-115 mark in doubles.
Newcombe was part of Lamar Hunt's World Championship Tennis professional tour group and active in the players' union. He served as President of the Association of Tennis Professionals in 1977 and 1978. Newcombe was one of the first to sign a contract to play World TeamTennis, joining the Houston franchise in 1974, and then retired in 1981, though he played his last majors in 1978.
Ranked as one of the 21 best tennis players of all time by legendary Jack Kramer, Newcombe was inducted into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985 and elevated to “Legend of Australian Sport” in 2014. In 1979 he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), the fifth such Aussie following Laver, Rosewall, Court, and Evonne Goolagong Cawley. In 1989 Newcombe was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to tennis.
Newcombe has published half a dozen books, the most notable being Newk: Life on and off the court in 2014 and The Power Within: How to Create a High Performance Mind in 2012.
Australian Open: W 1973, 1975
French Championships/Open: QF 1965, 1969
Wimbledon: W 1967, 1970, 1971
U.S. Nationals/US Open: W 1967, 1973
Australian Championships/Open: W 1965, 1967, 1971, 1973, 1976
French Championships/Open: W 1967, 1969, 1973
Wimbledon: W 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1974
U.S. Nationals/US Open: W 1967, 1971, 1973
Australian Championships: W 1965*
French Championships: F 1965
Wimbledon: SF 1979
U.S. Nationals: W 1964
*1965 Australian Nationals final not played, Newcombe and Margaret Court shared title with Robyn Ebbern & Owen Davidson.