Tony Charlton (Commentator)

by rod on September 25, 2008

Interview conducted early 2009. Sadly Jack Kramer a good mate of Tony’s passed away late 2009.

While it is always great to learn about what players think of their careers, we felt it would be interesting to catch up with someone close to the game but not a player. What better person to talk to than one of the famous voices behind player introductions and interviews than Tony Charlton, commentator extraordinaire at major Australian Tennis events for over 40 years.

Tony, to this day still stays in close contact with Jack Kramer and many other players who he met, not just in on-court interviews, but also shared many hours with in the commentary box and even socially on the golf course. So while not a tennis player, he was certainly representing Australia in a sort of golf davis cup challenge with Frank Sedgman, Jack Kramer and Ted Schroeder in a hard fought 18 hole event played on the days of the tennis Davis Cup Doubles when all had the morning off.

Tony started his tennis commentating career with the call of the 1951 Davis Cup Challenge Round in Sydney, where as he recalls, the crowds were very polite and the stadium was devoid of advertising material.

He has naturally met some great people and one he enjoyed particularly working with ‘Gorgeous’ Gussy Moran who was a co-commentator on special occasions.

In contrast, he recounts some very strange stories such as the on-court behaviour by Art ‘Tappy’ Larson, who was so superstitious that he was known to tap each shoe three times between points, talk to an imaginary bird on his shoulder and tapped everything with his racquet between points, the umpire, umpires chair, ball boys and so on. Today it would be classified as an obsessive compulsive disorder, but then again many players display some form of repetitious behaviour to help them focus and maintain rhythm.

The 1953 Davis Cup at Kooyong provided some scary memories as the temporary stadium scaffolding carrying a massive spectator crowd with a commentary box at the top, in which Tony was perched, was noticeably swaying during matches.

The big matches Tony recalls include Drobny’s win over Australian Bill Sidwell in the Victorian Championships which back then was a major lead up tournament to the Australian Championships. Scores 6-4, 6-3, 11-9.

Then we have the Professional tour in 1957 post the Kooyong Davis Cup Challenge round when new pro, Lew Hoad, played Pancho Gonzales in what has been written as one of the finest battles ever seen at the stadium. Crowds undeterred by arguments between administrators and professionals flocked to see the battle. One thousand people were locked out and 12,000 witnessed an amazing 4-6,9-7,11-9,18-16 match in favour of Hoad.

Finally, if you have ever read about significant Australian tennis matches, Tony cites the 1975 Connors v Newcombe match as a standout. There was certainly some niggling and words between the players as top seed Connors and second seed Newcombe methodically carved up the field into a finals showdown between old guard Рnew guard, etiquette Рbrash. A super tough effort against the odds saw Newk take home the event 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6.

Thanks for your time Tony and congratulations on your continuing career.





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