Born: March 3, 1935
in Burnside, Queensland, Australia
In 1957, Malcolm James Anderson became the first unseeded player to win the U.S. National Men’s Singles Championships, and he faced one of the stiffest challenges ever, needing to best the top three seeds to win. While pre-Open Era records aren’t as precise as those post-1968, unseeded players rarely, if ever, won a major title. In the Open Era, only a few men have ever won a major tournament as an unseeded entrant including, Mats Wilander (1982 French Open), Boris Becker (1985 Wimbledon), Andre Agassi (1994 US Open), and Gustavo Kuerten (1997 French Open) among others. What made Anderson’s accomplishment particularly impressive was that in 1956 he lost in straight sets to American Mike Green (6-3, 6-4, 6-2), and 12 months later he was hoisting the trophy atop his shoulders.
Anderson, who was tabbed as the Aussie heir apparent slated for stardom after compatriots Ken Rosewall and Lew Hoad became professionals, had a specular run at Forest Hills. He thumped No. 2 seed Dick Savitt (6-4, 6-3, 6-1) in the fourth round, which was his fourth consecutive straight sets victory. Chilean Luis Ayala, also unseeded, became Anderson’s fifth consecutive straight sets victim (6-1, 6-3, 6-1) in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals Swedish star and No. 3 seed Sven Davidson became Anderson’s next conquest, losing a mega five-set battle, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6.
The final pitted two Aussies: Anderson and No. 1 seed Ashley Cooper. The pre-match buzz favored Cooper. En route to winning the 1957 Australian Championships, he dispatched Anderson in three sets in the semifinals and word on the street was that “Ash always cools Mal.” Not this time. In three tight sets Anderson prevailed, 10-8, 7-5, 6-4. The victory prompted U.S. Davis Cup team captain Bill Talbert to say, “That was the finest exhibition of groundstrokes at Forest Hills since Gonzales in 1949.”
Anderson’s ground strokes were groomed and crisp; especially punch from a gangly 6-foot-1 22-year-old who hailed from the cattle country north of Brisbane. Anderson was fleet-footed and on that September afternoon in New York, every part of his game was clicking in rhythm. The problem Anderson faced going forward, though, was that Cooper never forgot the defeat, and thwarted both of Anderson’s championship bids in 1958. As the No. 1 seed, he reached the finals of the Australian Championships. He needed a colossal effort against compatriot Mervyn Rose in the semifinals, winning 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, 19-17, but waiting in the wings stood Cooper, and he rolled to a 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Anderson. The rubber match between the two friends came at the 1958 U.S. Nationals, a lengthy and grueling match Anderson would likely like to replay. He held a 2-1 sets lead, but let the fourth slip away, 10-8. The fifth was a barnburner, but it swung in Cooper’s favor, as did the match, 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 10-8, 8-6.
Though Anderson had some success at Wimbledon, reaching the quarterfinals in 1956 and 1958, and rose to No.2 in the world in 1957-58, it took him 16 years to reach another major final, stunningly advancing to the 1972 Australian Open title match at age 38 as the No. 8 seed. He had an arduous five-set upset victory over No. 1 seed John Newcombe in the quarterfinals, defeated Russian Alex Metreveli in straight sets in the semifinals, but couldn’t topple the brilliance of No. 2 seed Rosewall in the finals, falling 7-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Anderson won three major doubles championships, claiming the 1957 French National men’s doubles title with Cooper, the 1957 Australian Mixed Doubles championship with Aussie Fay Muller, and the 1973 Australian men’s doubles with Newcombe, a rousing 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 victory over compatriots John Alexander and Phil Dent. He played successfully on the Australian Davis Cup team in 1957, 1958, 1972 and 1973, helping the Aussies claim the 1957 and 1973 championships, both over the United States. Anderson was elected into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame in 2001.
Anderson was signed by Jack Kramer to turn professional in late 1958 and had immediate success, winning the 1959 Wembly Pro over Pancho Segura in five sets, 4-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 8-6. He was a semifinalist at the French Pro (1962, 1965) and a quarterfinalist at the US Pro (1959, 1965, 1966).