Class of 1987
World No. 1 (1972)
Grand Slam Results
7-time major champion, 10-time finalist
Overall Record: 1209-471
Singles Record: 657-271
Doubles Record: 552-200
ATP World Tour Championships
Member of the U.S. Davis Cup Team 1968-1973, 1975-1979, 1981
Member of the U.S. Championship Davis Cup Team 1968-1972, 1978-1979, 1981
Overall Record: 35-7
Singles Record: 15-4
Doubles Record: 20-3
Every now and again, if the moment was right, you’d catch Stan Smith on court releasing a fleeting smile or grin. Otherwise, the two-time major singles champion and former-World No. 1 had what is known as a poker face on court. Winning or losing, Smith had the most even temperament of any male touring pro of his generation, a balanced, unemotional approach to competition that led him to win a combined 1,209 singles and doubles matches.
Smith’s modus operandi was rooted in being calm, cool, and collected. He rarely allowed external circumstances to affect his play, and if something in his game wasn’t clicking just right, Smith’s facial expression would never betray what he was feeling inside. He was a disciplined, no frills player who for 13 years on tour had one of the most complete games the sport has even seen. Smith hardly ever beat himself, evidenced by winning 85 percent of his tiebreakers during the 1972 season, one that saw him capture his second major singles championship at Wimbledon.
Smith was a rangy 6-foot-4 serve and volley specialist with surprising quickness and agility both laterally and vertically. He was a tenacious ball retriever, a trait usually reserved for smaller players, and his court coverage made the 27-foot singles baseline width appear like it was seven feet. His game was economical – quick, punchy strokes with great length, swift advances to net, points completed efficiently. This steady approach led Smith to 37 career singles championships and 53 in doubles – five in major championships with his longtime partner Bob Lutz. He helped the United States win seven Davis Cup championships (1968-72, 1979, 1981), tied for best in history with Bill Tilden. His Davis Cup doubles forays with were legendary: On 13 occasions he earned the deciding victory (nine with Lutz, four with Erik van Dillen) and secured three championship-winning points in singles. Smith played 11 years with the U.S. Davis Cup team.
A native of Pasadena, California, Smith won the 1964 U.S. Junior 18-and-under championships at Kalamazoo, Michigan and took his considerable talents to the University of Southern California where he was a three-time All-America. He won the 1968 NCAA Division I Singles Championship and doubles titles with Lutz in 1967 and 1968.
Smith’s major doubles victories came before his singles triumph. He was a major doubles finalist 13 times, winning five, all with Lutz, although he advanced to the 1971 French Open with Tom Gorman and the 1971 US Open and 1972 Wimbledon finals with Erik Van Dillen. The Smith-Lutz combination won its first major at the 1968 US Open (the first year of the Open Era), defeating Arthur Ashe and Andrés Gimeno, 11-9, 6-1, 7-5. A second title came at the 1970 Australian Open. Smith and Lutz played in six US Open finals, winning four (1968, 1974, 1978, 1980). They played in three Wimbledon Gentlemen Doubles Championship finals (1974, 1980, 1981).
Smith made his first major singles final in the 85th annual Wimbledon Championships in 1971. As the No. 4 seed, Smith met No. 2 seed John Newcombe in the title match and the pair entertained the All England Club with an intense five-set match of two players who built their games on the serve and volley. Newcombe recovered from a 2-1 sets deficit to win his third Wimbledon title, 6-3, 5-7, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Smith’s next two trips to a Grand Slam singles final had different outcomes; he captured the 1971 US Open and Wimbledon in 1972, both in lengthy matches.
At the 1971 US Open, Smith got a favorable break when No. 1 seed Newcombe was bounced in the first round by eventual finalist Jan Kodeš of Czechoslovakia. Still, as the No. 2 seed, Smith had lots of work at hand. American Marty Riessen forced him into two tiebreakers in the quarterfinals and in the semifinals Tom Okker from the Netherlands roared back from a 2-0 hole to force a fifth set. Smith outlasted the feisty Okker, 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3 to reach the finals against the unseeded Kodeš. Smith continued his steely and clutch play in tiebreakers (it was the first US Open to end in a tiebreaker), winning the match in four sets, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6.
In 1972, when Smith defeated Ilie Năstase to win the Wimbledon Gentlemen Singles Championship, his victory was tainted with controversy because World Championship Tennis (WCT) contract players, including defending champion Newcombe and such luminaries as Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, and Arthur Ashe were banned by the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF) from entering the event. That threesome, along with several other big-name pros had skipped the French Open in favor of a WCT event and the decision didn’t resonate well with the ILTF. It was the precursor to 91 pros boycotting Wimbledon in 1973.
In any case, Smith and Năstase played a fabulous five-set final with Smith earning a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 victory. “You don’t try to lose here just because all the best players aren’t here,” Smith said prior to the championships. “The subject isn’t even worth my time. This is still the greatest tournament in the world, and the pros know it. For me, this championship would be the pinnacle.”
Smith won nine of his 37 singles titles in 1972, the year he rose to No. 1 in the world. He tacked on eight more in 1973, over Laver, Ashe, Newcombe, and Jimmy Connors, among many, proving that Smith could hold his own and more away from the doubles court. In 1973 he earned a satisfying WCT Dallas championship with a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Arthur Ashe. Outcomes such as this led Smith to be ranked in the world Top 10 six times starting in 1969. In his 1979 autobiography, Jack Kramer ranked Smith as one of his 21 best players of all time and in 2005 Tennis Magazine ranked Smith 35th in its 40 Greatest Player of the Tennis era.
To those who didn’t follow Smith’s tennis career, his name still resonates thanks to the widely popular and all-time best-selling Adidas tennis shoe bearing his name. The shoe, initially launched as the Haillet in the early 1960s, went through several design revisions over seven years and in 1973 was renamed the Adidas Stan Smith. The white leather shoe with green trim around the heel featured Smith’s portrait and autograph on the tongue. Today, more than 50 versions of the shoe are available, but are not recommended for competitive play, their appeal being fashion-based.
Since 2011, Smith has served as President of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
French Open: QF 1971, 1972
Wimbledon: W 1972
US Open: W 1971
Australian Open: W 1970
French Open: F 1971, 1974
Wimbledon: F 1972, 1974, 1980, 1981
US Open: W 1968, 1974, 1978, 1980
US Open: F 1967