Rex Hartwig

by rod on March 16, 2011

Rex Hartwig played in the Australian Davis Cup team from 1953-1955.

This year Keith Jenkins caught up with Rex who is still actively farming in northern Victoria.

Rex was born on September 29th 1929 in Culcairn NSW. His parents both played tennis, his father one of the best in the area, so it comes as no surprise that young Rex took to the game and enjoyed countless hours off the court playing “the wall” which he envisaged to be NSW player Jimmy Matthews and the man to beat. At aged 10, Rex and his father played in a local tournament and won. The little cup they awarded to Rex is naturally one of his most treasured trophies even to this day.

At 13, Rex started to play in regular afternoon competitions and in this journey met Allan Kendall senior and junior, who were related to Jack Crawford and managed the grass courts in Albury. Rex took a job at the courts with Allan Kendall (junior) and they became a solid doubles pair winning the NSW, Victorian and Australian Junior titles. Allan Kendall later wrote the book “Australia’s Wimbledon Champions” in 1995 which is an excellent read.Rex Hartwig

These performances led Rex and Allan to be included in a country squad that played at White City in Sydney. On the first night out at Luna Park, he went down a slide awkwardly landing on his tail bone making walking and playing the next day very tough. Despite this, he won the mixed event. The junior development scheme designed to scout for up and coming talent claimed Rex was the first player to reach International success.

After playing regionally for the next few years, Spalding promoter Ian Trethowan and Melbourne based president of Lauriston Tennis Club, Les Exelby, enticed Rex to a career with Spalding and a position in the Lauriston A Pennant team. Perhaps not in the overall plan, Rex and Les’ daughter Madge became an item and consequently were married. Every Tuesday and Thursday Rex would leave work early to play tennis at Kooyong, practicing against Frank Sedgman, Ken McGregor and Colin Long among others which greatly added to Rex’s development. The stiff competition also made it difficult for Rex to gain a berth in Victoria’s interstate teams, so his career was comparatively slow to take off compared to the others, even though he was capable of beating all of them.

He was selected to represent Victoria in the Mars Buckely Cup and it was here that Harry Hopman and Rex became more than acquaintances. Rex trained with the 1952 Davis Cup Team and won the South Australian and West Australian Singles Championships. This was his entrée into the 1953 Davis Cup team as the then current tennis heroes Sedgman and McGregor both turned pro. Rex was to play vital roles in the Davis Cup team along with Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall for the next three years.

The 1953 Davis Cup match against the USA was perhaps one of the most controversial, yet eagerly anticipated events in Australian Tennis Davis Cup history for the reason that the exciting new combination of Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall both only turning 19 in that year were making their debut together. Lew had been in the 1952 team but had not played and this was Ken’s first time named in the team. Despite their young ages, both had performed very well on the international tournament scene and Australian public interest in the boys was immense. Hoad defeated Seixas in straight sets and Rosewall lost in straight to Trabert showing signs of nerves and sluggish form. The next day for the doubles the selectors dropped a bombshell, deciding to omit Rosewall from the doubles and opted to play Hartwig with Hoad in a combination not tried fully before. Although, Hartwig was probably the top doubles player his regular partner was Rose and this should have been the decision. Hartwig was about to catch a tram back home to collect his wife when he was told only half an hour before the game he was playing in the doubles. The mis-match didn’t inspire either player and this became Hartwig’s first and only defeat in a Davis Cup match.

The swap created public and press consternation, however Hopman in his book “Aces and Places” identified that Hoad and Hartwig had played together at a secret practice session at Royal South Yarra in the weeks leading up the contest. Luckily, Lew and Ken won the return singles to take the tie 3-2.

 

Rex Hartwig

 

In 1954, Rex unfortunately got the mumps! He was playing better than Lew and Ken and everybody else at the time but the poor timing meant he only was able to get in 2 or 3 practice days before the match started. Even so, “ I beat Lew still! As it turned out I wasn’t picked but I suppose I still got a game. Lew got hurt and I played the last match against Seixas, whom I beat”. Rex was indeed having a good couple of years in 1953 & 1954, being runner up in the Australian and US singles events and winning the doubles in the 1953 US Championships and at the Australian and Wimbledon in 1954. The Wimbledon win was no doubt a good one against familiar foes Trabert and Seixas.

Interestingly, the Hoad/ Hartwig combination was continued in the 1955 contests and in regaining the Davis Cup in 1955, they reversed the 1953 result against Trabert and Seixas.

Hartwig’s form was extremely good. On the USA tour against Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Italy and the USA, he lost only one service game. The doubles match against Seixas and Trabert rates as one of his best memories with the final score 12-14 6-4 6-3 3-6 7-5 and a record as the longest lasting doubles match in Davis Cup history up until then. They also won the Wimbledon doubles in 1955, the second time for Hartwig, having also won in 1954 with Rose against fellow Aussies Rosewall and Neale Fraser.

This was Rex’s last Davis Cup, for it was then that he turned pro in another bizarre series of circumstances. Jack Kramer had his eyes on Rosewall and Hoad to turn professional and although the youngsters had signed a provisional agreement tennis authorities did everything possible to create a situation to keep them in the amateur ranks. Kramer in desperation flew to Australia only to find the lads had decided not to turn pro. Hartwig saw an opportunity to join with the Kramer troupe and did so. While not a big name per se, Rex played 102 games on the American tour winning 87 and losing 15 with many matches against Pancho Segura, although he rated matches against Pancho Gonzales as the toughest. He came back home after some tours to Europe and South Africa and then only played pro events here, mainly in doubles with Rosewall and then Hoad the following year.

After that, Rex really did retire. He didn’t touch a racquet for close to 16 years.

In 1974, Frank Sedgman persuaded Rex into getting back into the game. The Grand Masters circuit for over 45’s was being developed very successfully into a 22 tournament circuit, mainly in the USA, some in Europe, the Philippines but not in Australia.

His first proper Masters tournament back is a testament to his natural ability and fitness. Only a few weeks after starting up again, he ended up in the finals losing to Frank, and together they won the doubles. From there Rex joined the Grand Masters tour for 5 years.Rex Hartwig

This suited Rex and his wife for they were treated like tennis royalty and could share the experience together. Unfortunately this was something not possible in the mid 50’s Davis Cup events when the family was just growing up. Australian tennis authorities back then even proclaimed, in writing, that no wives were to be in the same country as a Davis Cup event.

tennishistory.com.au would like to thank Rex for very kindly giving his time and for sharing his memories and recollections.

Thanks also to Keith Jenkins who travelled from Melbourne to interview Rex at his farm.

 

Rex Hartwig Tennis Records

Singles

Won Swiss International Championship

Coupe De Nations Deauville National Title

French Bordeaux Championship

West Australian State Championship [1952, 1955]

New South Wales State Championship [1954]

South Australian Championship [1952]

Queensland State Closed Championship

New South Wales Metropolitan Junior Championship

 

Runner-Up Australian Championship [1954]

Australian Hard Court Championship

USA Championship [1954]

Swedish Championship [1954]

Canadian Championship [1953]

Northern Tournament [Manchester, UK.] [1954]

Eastern Grass Court Championship [Orange, USA]

Victorian Hard Court Championship [twice]

Queensland Championship [twice]

Queensland Closed Championship

Tasmanian Championship

 

Doubles

Won Wimbledon [1954, 1955]

Australian Championship [1954]

US Open Championship [1953]

Queen’s Club Championship – London [1955]

 

Swedish Championship [1954]

Swiss Championship

Canadian Championship [1953]

Deauville Coupe de Nations National Title [France]

Bordeaux Championship [France]

Pacific South West Championship [1955]

Eastern Grass Court Championship [Orange, USA]

Northern Tournament [Manchester, UK] [1954]

 

Victorian Championship

Victorian Hardcourt Championship

West Australian Championship [twice]

Tasmanian Championship

South Australian Championship [1952]

Queensland Championship [1953]

Australian Junior Championship [1947]

Victorian Junior Championship

New South Wales Metropolitan Junior Championship [twice]

 

World Professional Championship – Cleveland, USA [1956]

Australian Professional World Round Robin Championship [twice]

Australian Pro Champs – Sydney, Aust. [1957]

Masters Round Robin Championship – Los Angeles, USA [1958]

Ampol $10,000 International Professional Championship

European Coupe de Nations World Professional Championship

New Zealand Professional Tournament [twice]

South African Professional Tour Doubles Competition

Wembly International Professional Indoor Championship

World Masters Round Robin [Los Angeles]

 

American Professional Tour Played 102 matches 85 won 17 lost

 

Runners-Up Wimbledon [1953]

Queen’s Club Championship [London] [1953, 1954]

Victorian Championship

New South Wales Championship

New South Wales Junior Championship

 

French Pro Champs [1956]

London Pro Indoor Champs – Wembley, UK [1956]

 

Mixed Doubles

Won Australian Championship [1953, 1954]

Australian Hard Court Championship

Queen’s Club Championship [London] [1953 shared]

Pacific South West Championship [1954]

New South Wales Championship [3 times]

Victorian Championship [twice]

Queensland Championship [1952, 1955]

Western Australia Championship [twice]

South Australian Championship [twice]

Tasmanian Championship

Victorian Hard Court Championship

Queensland Closed Championship

 

Runners-Up US Open Championship [1953]

Swedish Championship

Northern tournament [Manchester, UK.] [1954]

 

Davis Cup Represented Australia 1953, 1954, 1955

Singles 6 wins 0 losses def. Seixas, Reyes, Palafox, Main, Kamo, Miyagi,

Doubles 6 wins 1 loss [all with Hoad]

def. Palafox-Guerrero, Falkenberg-Moreira, Bedard-Fontana, Miyagi-Kamo,

Pietrangeli-Sirola, Seixas-Trabert [also only loss]

 

Winning Davis Cup Team 1953 def USA 3-2

1955 def USA 5-0

Runners-Up 1954 def by USA 3-2

 

Other Appointed Captain-Manager of Australian team that toured New Zealand in February 1953.

Team consisted of Hartwig, Neale Fraser, Ian Ayre and Clive Wilderspin.

 

 

Veterans

1975 Came out of retirement after 16 years and played in the Australian Veterans’ Championships.

1975 Runner-Up Australian Veterans’ Singles

Won Australian Veterans’ Doubles with Mervyn Rose

1976 Won Australian Veterans’ Singles

1977 Runners-Up Wimbledon Veterans’ Doubles with Victor Seixas

1978 Won Wimbledon Veterans’ Doubles with Frank Sedgman

1979 Won Wimbledon Veterans’ Doubles with Frank Sedgman

 

Grand Masters

1976 Joined the Elite Grand Master Circuit of former World Champions.

Played in 7 of the 10 Grand Master tournaments.

Finished 3rd in the bonus pool in singles.

Won the doubles with Victor Seixas.

 

1977 Played 20 Grand Master tournaments in Europe, USA and Puerto Rico.

Won the bonus pool and became the No.1 Seed.

Won the doubles with Frank Sedgman, winning 16 tournaments out of the 20 played.

 

1978 Played 22 Grand Master tournaments in England, Europe, USA and Australia.

Finished 3rd in the bonus pool.

Won the doubles with Frank Sedgman.

 

1979 Played 22 Grand Master tournaments world wide.

Finished 4th in the bonus pool.

Won the doubles with Frank Sedgman, winning 20 tournaments out of the 22 played.

 

1980 Played 16 Grand Masters tournaments world wide.

Won the doubles with Frank Sedgman, winning 16 tournaments.

 

Represented New South Wales in Junior Linton Cup tennis, being the first country junior to ever do so.

 

Represented Victoria in Interstate matches 1950 – 1955.

 

Won many major Country Championships in Singles, Doubles and Mixed. These include Albury, Ballarat, Benalla, Central Western Championships, Griffith, Geelong, Wagga Wagga, Wangaratta, numerous Country Week and ‘A’ Pennant titles.

 

Table Tennis

Played Table Tennis in Albury, starting in 1946 for 4 seasons, then 1 season in Melbourne.

 

After 13 years break began playing in Wangaratta in 1963.

Won the Wangaratta Table Tennis Championships from 1963 until retired in 1970.

 

Country Week Table Tennis.

Won the Mixed Doubles Country Championship [3 times], ‘B’ Singles [twice], Runner-Up in the Doubles Championships [twice].

 

Represented Albury and Border Table Tennis Association in Atlas Shield Competition.

 

From 1947 to 1970, never lost a singles match in competition play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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