Class of 2012
Contributions to Tennis
Great Britain No. 1 (1957, 1959, 1960)
Grand Slam Results
One-time finalist at Wimbledon
Member of the Great Britain Davis Cup Team 1955-1960
Overall Record: 24-13
Singles Record: 15-7
Doubles Record: 9-6
In 1960, Mike Davies reached the men’s doubles final at Wimbledon with Bobby Wilson, and until 2012 it marked the last time a British male has been in the final of Wimbledon Gentlemen’s singles or doubles. It took 52 years for that accomplishment to happen again, when both Andy Murray (singles) and Jonathan Marray (doubles) made the finals in 2012. It was the only time in Davies’s short, but comprehensive playing career that he would come that close to holding major tournament hardware. He’d won at least one round as a singles player in each of the three other majors – Australian, French, U.S. – but the self-described “tennis rebel” and Britain’s top ranked player in 1957, 1959, and 1960 yearned for more. He itched to turn pro to compete on a global circuit and earn money. His ticket to the professional ranks was hastened in 1960 when British authorities, despite his respectable 24-13 career record, booted him off its Davis Cup Team for his often outspoken banter against rules and regulations he deemed archaic. That suited the fiery Davies, who grew up playing tennis on the public courts of Cwmdonkin Park in his native Swansea, Wales just fine.
“You had amateur players prevented from playing in professional tournaments and professional players prevented from playing in amateur ones,” Davies told Wales Online.
“That meant you kept playing the same players over and over again. I needed a new challenge. The only downside about going professional was that I wouldn’t be able to play at places like Wimbledon anymore. But at least I was happy and openly making some money for doing something I loved.”
Davies toiled on the professional circuit from 1960-67, earning quarterfinal slots at the U.S. and French Pro events and a semifinal appearance at the Wembly Pro, all in 1966.
While his on-court results weren’t staggering, Davies absorbed the intricacies of professional sports like he was cramming for a college entrance exam and the advanced education led Davies to become a fine tennis marketer and promoter. Davies didn’t resort to using gimmicks and antics as ways to bring tennis into the modern era. His initiatives were revolutionary, but not blatant anarchy against the tennis establishment. His foresight was refreshing and quite frankly, much needed.
As the Executive Director at World Championship Tennis (1968-81), Davies rid tennis of its white ball, replacing it with today’s yellow model. "We were the first to get rid of the white ball because we were trying to get on television," Davies explained to Wales Online. "People were saying they had a lot of trouble following the white ball.” At the WCT, Davies staged tournaments, sold sponsorships, and television rights. He took professional tennis into big stadiums and major cities. He was laying the foundation for a new tennis experience for fans. The American audience, in particular, claimed the all-white playing outfits made it difficult to differentiate one player from another, so Davies introduced colored apparel, ostensibly to appeal to the television viewing public. He introduced the 30-second maximum time between points and the 90-second changeover every two games. Television needed commercial time, so Davies developed the mechanism. He engineered big television contracts – with both NBC and later ESPN – one of the first being the highly anticipated World Championship Tennis final in May 1972 between Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver that drew huge ratings. Rosewall won a marathon match, 7-6 in the fifth.
In 1981, Davies left WCT to join his fellow pro, Butch Buchholz, as Marketing Director for the Association of Tennis Professionals and eventually took over as Executive Director, righting an organization that was in dire financial straits into a profitable entity. He joined the International Tennis Federation in 1987, holding positions as General Manager and Marketing Director. In 1990, he created the Grand Slam Cup, which was played in Munich, Germany from 1990-1999. This event was for the 16 players who had the best record in the four major events. The prize money was $6 million, with $2 million going to the winner of the event. Davies also served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Pilot Pen International Men's and Women's Tennis Tournament, held the week prior to the US Open at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University in New Haven.
Australian Championships: SF 1957
Wimbledon: F 1960