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Full Open Era Rankings ~Volume I~ Dawn of Open Tennis

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The second edition of the French Open is going to give us a chance to see a new edition (this time with different result) of the final between Laver and Rosewall we had in 1968. The two Aussies are at it again, with the third Aussie, Roche taking advantage rankings wise.

Laver and Roche are top seeds. Surprisingly, Laver almost loses this part of history, which we all know today as TOTAL DOMINATION to Dick Crealy. A tough 5-set match that shapes Laver for the rest of the tournament. Gimeno's road to the quarters goes through Manuel Santana, and his abandon before the end of the match after leading 2-0 at sets and having Gimeno come back. In another quarter we have Newcombe - having just defeated Kodes after a 5-set match that went astray in the third set when Jan won 6-0, forcing a tough 4th set ending in 10-8 - and Tom Okker fresh here without dropping a set. Another quarter pits together Fred Stolle - who easily dispatched US Open Champion Arthur Ashe - and the defending champion, Ken Rosewall, now seeded 3rd. The final quarter sees second seed Tony Roche against Franulovic, who's coming after a victory against another Australian (of the so many), Roy Emerson.

In the quarters, Laver drops the first set, but quickly recovers to advance in the semis against Gimeno with the score 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. Newcomer Newcombe almost deals with Okker, but the Dutch comes back twice to win the match in the final set, 5-7, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. After a very close first set and a lost second set, defending champion Rosewall advances in the semi, dealing 12-10, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 against Stolle. The last spot is taken by Tony Roche 4-6, 7-5, 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 against Franulovic.

Laver quickly dispatches Gimeno to get ready for the final, 4-6, 6-0, 6-2, 6-4. Rosewall has a surprisingly simple task against Roche. For those wanting to make an idea on how this match was played, video highlights are available here:

Tony Roach vs Ken Rosewall - French Open 1969 Semi Final [Highlights]

Laver's "revenge" comes swift. Rosewall is not able to win a set against him, unlike the previous year when Rosewall lost a set. You can also watch Lavel win the whole thing in a quite impressive manner right here:

Legendary Rod Laver vs Ken Rosewall Roland Garros 1969 Final

We can't complete this without the traditional picture of the happy winner:

The top 10 on the Monday after Roland Garros now are:

--- Code: ---# Name Age Cnt Pts Avg
1 Rod Laver 30 AUS 72 9.000
2 Tony Roche 24 AUS 49 4.455
3 Ken Rosewall 34 AUS 32 4.000
4 Tom Okker 25 NED 55 3.929
5 Arthur Ashe 25 USA 34 3.778
6 John Newcombe 25 AUS 37 3.700
7 Clark Graebner 25 USA 22 2.750
8 Cliff Drysdale 28 RSA 23 2.556
9 Andres Gimeno 31 ESP 27 2.455
10 Fred Stolle 30 AUS 24 2.182

--- End code ---



Australian tennis continues it's full domination of the early Open Era. Soon after Roland Garros, Aussies dispute the final at the Queen's event. More than that, there's three of them in the semis. On one side, Newcombe defeats Laver and on the other side, Fred Stolle defeats Ralston. In the end, Stolle will claim the title, helping himself to a better rankings position. All is set for Wimbledon 1969, with Laver defending for the title.

Laver and Roche are top seeds once again. Roche takes a perilous road to the quarters, as he has to battle Queen's semifinalist Dennis Ralston. The 5 set match eventually ends up with Roche winning. On his quarter comes Clark Graebner, one could call a lucky player, benefiting from 2 retirements (one by Gimeno) and winning against inexperienced Nastase for his spot. Although he looks like easy prey, Clark will be tough meat against Roche, as the Australian will again be forced to end a match after 5 sets, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 11-9, coming from 2-0 down. One another quarter, Okker will be facing the winner of the Queen's final re-edition, decided by another match between Stolle and Newcombe, this time won by the younger Australian. Okker can't stop Newcombe either, and one semifinal is set to be all-Australian after 8-6, 3-6, 6-1, 7-5.

On the other half of the draw, Ashe defeats veteran Pancho Gonzales to claim his quarters position, and he will be facing another American, who, surprisingly, defeated Ken Rosewall, and won his previous match in 5 sets. Probably to tired to continue in the same manner, this surprise quarter-finalist, Robert Lutz, is defeated by Ashe in 4 sets, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, although it still was not as easy as it looked. His toughest match though was against Stilwell, which surprisingly has a few highlights:

1969 Ashe vs Stilwell

Ashe breaks the all-Australian deal in the semis, as the last one is obviously Laver, having easily obtained the spot against Cliff Drysdale (6-4, 6-2, 6-3). Laver had two tough matches though, one against Stan Smith (ended in 5 sets), and one against Premjit Lall, an anonymous Indian, where he had to come back from 2-0 down, 3-6 4-6 6-3 6-0 6-0.

Newcombe continues his splendid form for this year and defeats Roche, 3-6, 6-1, 14-12, 6-4. This victory, no matter the outcome of the final will be placing John on the second spot in the rankings. In the other semifinal, Ashe manages to get the first set, but is powerless to stop the Rod from shining in the end, 2-6, 6-2, 9-7, 6-0. It has been throughout this tournament that, whenever Laver had a comeback, he eventually won sets at 0. Well, it was not a rule, he only done it 3 times.

Although the final's outcome is probably predictable, Newcombe provided a tougher challenge, but was eventually forced to admit Laver's superiority. Highlights:

Rod Laver vs. John Newcombe (1 of 2) (The video's owner prevents external embedding)

Rod Laver vs. John Newcombe (2 of 2) (The video's owner prevents external embedding)

The new rankings for after this event can be checked here (direct link): RANKINGS 07/07/1969


Having dominated this year so far, Laver has provided himself with a comfortable lead in front of his competition. Not that he knows about it though, all he knows is that he won 3/4 Slams and there was one more to come, which he needed to win. Concentrating himself only on small WCT events, he rarely plays during this summer, letting us witness the other players at work:

07-13 July
The Master plays and wins Boston in front of the rankings runner-up, Newcombe. This is Laver's last tournament for one month. Much needed rest to come. Manolo Santana defeats Tiriac and wins Bastad. Bob Hewitt easily overcomes Pillic to win Dublin. This week is not counted in the rankings, per 1969 previously established rules.

14-20 July
Cincinnati doesn't yet attract so much attention. Besides Ashe, we don't see any of the Top 10 players of the world attending. Cliff Richey routines Allan Stone in the final and wins a few points helping him rise a bit in the rankings. In the other small tournaments of this week, Okker wins in Milwaukee and Emerson wins in Aix-en-Provence.
RANKINGS 21/07/1969

21-27 July
Ashe find himself again competing in the American main competition, this time being Indianapolis and this time reaching the final, but he's unable to win against Franulovic. Franulovic closes in on the Top 10, and Ashe on Newcombe.
RANKINGS 28/07/1969

28 July-04 August
Emerson stays in Europe to play in Gstaad, and the finalist he's facing is Okker, who flew off from Milwaukee to compete here. Not much changes in the rankings this week, but Emerson's win in Gstaad gets him in front of Franulovic and Richey, making a trio battle for Top 10.
RANKINGS 04/08/1969

05-11 August
This is Okker's week as he wins the Hilversum tournament, in preparation for the Hamburg European Summer main event. Roger Taylor is the player he faced in the final.
RANKINGS 11/08/1969

12-18 August
Two paths have lead to this week. The players who stayed in the US had the privilege to play for the 7500 dollar pot in Toronto. Newcombe is the main seed in Canada, but is unable to reach the final, being beaten by Buchholz. The other finalist and eventual winner of the tournament is Richey. Now Richey wins the small trio competition he had against Franulovic and Emerson and gets in front. In Europe, Tony Roche wins a tougher final against Okker 61 57 86 75 and overtakes both Newcombe and Ashe as the world number 2.
RANKINGS 18/08/1969

19-25 August
This week serves as warm-up for the US Open, and our main players compete in Fort Worth WCT. Laver wins the final against Ken Rosewall and is ready to complete his Grand Slam collection.
RANKINGS 25/08/1969


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