IN MEMORIAM: The late Merv Rose pictured in 2012 in Coffs Harbour.
IN MEMORIAM: The late Merv Rose pictured in 2012 in Coffs Harbour. ROB WRIGHT

Merv Rose, star of the golden era, dies at 87

MERVYN Rose, one of the stars of Australia's golden era of tennis, died yesterday.

An Australian Open and French Open champion who also won five grand slam doubles titles, Rose was 87.

Mervyn Gordon Rose AM was born on January 23, 1930 in Coffs Harbour. 

He turned professional in 1959.

Boasting an impeccable volley, the feisty Australian enjoyed great success in a career that spanned the amateur and professional eras.

He went on to coach or work with a number of elite players including Margaret Court, Billie Jean King and later Aranxta Sanchez Vicario.

Rose, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2001, returned to live in Coffs Harbour and maintained a keen passion for the sport.

Prior to being honoured at Melbourne Park at a ceremony in 2012, Rose said he loved the camaraderie of the sport during his playing days.

"Once upon a time Australia had the eight best players in the world," he told The Coffs Coast Advocate.

"We played for fun, and the locker room was full of card games.

"Now it's just agents making big money deals. Players these days get paid $50,000 just for turning up to a tournament. In my day there was no money."

Mervyn Rose in action in 1954
Mervyn Rose in action in 1954 Contributed

The left-hander, who became a Member of the Order of Australia in 2006, first played Davis Cup in 1951.

Under the tutelage of Harry Hopman, the left-hander represented Australia through to 1957 and was considered among the top 10 players in the world, although he did fall out with the legendary coach.

Aside from his two grand slam singles titles, Rose was also a three-time Wimbledon semi-finalist and made the last four at the US Open in 1952.

Like many leading amateurs, Rose eventually turned professional in order to make a living from his talent, which ended his ability to play in grand slams prior to the Open era beginning in 1969.

But he loved coaching and worked with a string of leading WTA Tour professionals aside from legends such as Court and King.

"My secret was that I had learnt skills from the best players in the world while I was a player and I would just show my students exactly what I had been taught," he said.

Rose did not shy away from his fiery nature on court - he has been dubbed the John McEnroe of his day - when profiled almost 40 years after his career came to an end.

He said he revelled in intense battles on court, citing a five-set win in the final of the 1958 Italian Open as his best win as it came over local star Nicola Pietrangelli.

"I outplayed him all match and the crowd didn't like to see their champion defeated, so they pelted bottles and cans at me," he said.

"I was in such a hurry to get off the court, I never got my hands on the trophy."

According to Cedric Mason, who was honoured with The Victorian Spirit of Tennis Award last year, his old playing partner enjoyed challenging authority if he believed something was not right.

"He didn't conform. Rosey was just different," Mason said a decade ago.

"If something struck him as wrong, he'd have a go. That was all."


The 1953 Australian Davis Cup team; (from left) Ken Rosewall, Rex Hartwig, Mervyn Rose and Lew Hoad.
The 1953 Australian Davis Cup team; (from left) Ken Rosewall, Rex Hartwig, Mervyn Rose and Lew Hoad.

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