Tennis Heritage Australia Q4 Newsletter

by rod on December 20, 2012

Greetings to our massive 580+ database of tennis enthusiasts,

There was no Q3 newsletter through lack of any real activity so we have jumped to Q4 in conjunction with meetings held in Melbourne and Sydney.

Please note that meetings are conducted two or three times per year and new members who have an interest in any aspect of tennis from being a past player to those collecting are most welcome to attend. Contact email addresses at the end.


On December 4th, the Victorian group representing Tennis Heritage Australia met for the second time this year.  The venue was the historic Albert Reserve Ground, originally owned by the MCC and called WAREHOUSEMAN’S ground.  The first Australasian Championships were conducted there in 1905 on the actual cricket ground.  This venue was also used for many of the intercolonial matches that commenced from 1885 between Victoria/NSW/Queensland and South Australia.

When Australasia won the Davis Cup in 1907, it meant that for the first time the challenge round would be played outside of the UK and further away “downunder” than the USA and UK had ever envisaged.  So there was much consideration given to how the tournament would operate so far away.  In the end for 1908 the USA won the right to challenge from the playoff round played in the USA against the UK.  Norman Brookes also won Wimbledon in 1907 and in honour of such a successful campaign Melbourne was designated the town to host the Challenge round and in fact was just a few blocks away from his home.  New dedicated grass courts were constructed for the 1908 contest and largely the area looks remarkably similar to the 1908 photos even though court surfaces now replicate those of the Australian Open and many players practice on these courts pre tournament.

As viewed in 1908

As the club is today. Luckily very well preserved with only minor extensions. It is such an historical tennis site.

The 14 attendees were well armed with some show and tell items, however, thanks to Keith Jenkins, Brett Steven was invited and provided us with a very interesting story about his 5 years with Pete Sampras on tour. Although from an Australian football background with the now defunct Fitzroy Football Club, Brett gained a reputation for being a good training coach with an ability to tackle the mental aspects of sport.  He first hooked up with Wally Masur at the US Open 1993 and then assisted Sandon Stolle on tour through Europe.  The impact for Sandon was quite immediate.  Having been in the top 200 he came up against Thomas Muster, the then number one player,  in the 1996 Dubai Tournament 1st round and won 6-1, 3-6, 7-6.  Maintaining performances and a great attitude is a tough thing for a player given high of winning can be offset by an unexpected defeat.  How true is it that top ten players are all there to be beaten by up and comers hoping to have a “off their brain” day on court.  One day a call came to Brett out of the blue from someone named Pete and while Brett didn’t twig straight away once he knew it was Pete Sampras asking for his services he took the role in a heartbeat as long as Pete understood that Brett was serious about advice giving and taking.   Brett’s work saw Pete through his last five years into his twilight career ending in amazing last US Open title 2002 when Pete had to play 5 matches in 7 days owing to rain delays.  What an outcome for all the effort from behind the scenes team and Pete himself.   Today, back in Australia, Brett is a new dad with tennis wife and eight time Wimbledon winner,  Cara Black.  He collects many things including tennis racquets for under $6….so hopefully meeting us will encourage some additional collecting. His role of mentor continues with Cara, now making a comeback at the 2013 Australian Open after giving birth only six months ago, along with some young golfers, but his inspirational message about being the best you can should see him once again helping some young tennis players.  Thanks Brett for coming and Keith for organising.


Brett outlining his interesting football career which led him into tennis and now a tennis family.

Attending this meeting were  Geoff Pollard, immediate past president of Tennis Australia and traveling from Interstate Ron McLean (by overnight Sydney train like the players of old) and Denis Tucker from Tasmania. The others are all local Melbourne residents many of whom also came to our previous Grace Park meeting.  It was great to have everyone together once more.

Geoff Pollard reported The Melbourne Park Tennis Musuem is still on the drawing boards and is getting closer.  The development is truly astounding now with new car parks, new clay courts and more under cover show courts.  Realistically, the museum will be about 3-4 years away.

On the subject of books, Norman and Jillian who are descendents of  Norman Brookes, were heavily involved in the launch last year of Richard Naughton’s book THE WIZARD.  While Tennis Australia were involved financially a great deal of criticism was made over Tennis Australia’s inability to get behind promoting and selling the book when it would be quite easy to effectively promote such a book through the TA system to clubs and visitors attending the OPEN etc.  Ron McLean has devoted his last 30 years compiling a book about the history of tennis in Australia from arrival in our colonial days  to World War 2.  Needing a budget of around $43,000 for 1500 copies Tennis Australia has not shown interest in funding production even though sales would recoup production costs and Ron is contemplating donating the manuscript in order for his work to be published.  It is frustrating but we need to work on some alternatives to get the work published somehow.

Michael Garnett sent an apology for missing the meeting. As an author of some impressive Royal Tennis books which also cross over into lawn tennis history, Mike has kindly donated two of his books for fellow members to borrow at anytime via Keith Jenkins or Rod Lack

Keith Jenkins also advised that limited copies in English of the JAN KODES story were also available for $30-40 depending on postage costs. See Facebook for more details  or email Keith

Show and Tell was very interesting.

David Shields announced the oddity that he believes he can source Frank Sedgman’s wedding to Jean on tape. We told Frank about this possibility at the Ken Rosewall book launch much to his disbelief!!!!  Will see how this evolves.

We had some excellent Bancroft O’HARA WOODS racquets sold in Australia around the 1915-1925 era.  Yet to be confirmed but we suspect the earlier model may have been named after Arthur (killed in WW1) and the later model Pat who was a Davis Cup and renowned doubles player in the 1920′s.

Also shown were  a metal 3D relief of a tennis scene we believe came from the 1920′s and no-one present could recall seeing another like it.  An excellent range of tournament and professional tour programmes from the late 1950′s were shown, some quite stunning gold fob medals and some 100 year old newspaper spreads featuring Norman Brookes and Co. at the 1912 Davis Cup.

Pre the Australasian Championships in 1905 the premier Australian tournaments were the NSW and Victorian State Championships.  The 1890 -1897 perpetual shield awarded to the Mens doubles (double handed) champions was recently acquired by a member and although with a few dings has inscribed some very worthy champions indeed.  Ben Green for one, and of course the eventual owner Alf Dunlop (his trophy).  Alf was the first Australasian Davis Cup Captain/Player in 1905 and was a renowned doubles player, winning the Australasian Championship with Fred Alexander in 1908 and the Victorian Championship Doubles title a staggering 9 times with Diddams (5) and Brookes (2) and Rodney Heath (2).

Many attendees also met the following day in the city for the launch of Richard Naughton’s second book in 12 months, this one in collaboration with Ken Rosewall, entitled ‘Muscles” and his era covering Amateur/Professional/Open tennis.  With many tennis dignitaries present and with some rare footage of Ken playing, it was an excellent event. Books available online from

Ken with John Fitzgerald and Frank Sedgman with Neale Fraser reminiscing a few yarns about Ken….
The book was launched in Sydney the week prior by John Newcombe & others.



Notes from Michael Fitzgerald

The meeting conducted at the Australian Tennis Museum (NSW) went well and we just wish we had longer.

We had a guest speaker for the first hour, David Pinsent representing Sydney Real tennis club. David spoke about the history of the game and how lawn tennis developed from it, showed us a real tennis racquet and ball and did a good job at trying to explain the rules and scoring of the game but I think we needed a few more hours for that. We also discussed the Alexander racquet that we saw at the Royal Melbourne tennis centre and its history and journey. We discussed the fact that Sydney does not have a real tennis court presently however are getting close to finalising some detail on a future potential site which they are all excited about. Currently Sydney siders need to travel to Melbourne, Ballarat or Tasmania to play. One interesting thing we spoke about was Rob Fahey. Rob has been world champion of the sport continuously since 1994, one of the longest world champion runs in sports history and is a legend of the game. I think it was very interesting.

The rest of the meeting we discussed racquets as you can see from the second photo,  we had a lot more on the table but Noel had to keep his ones under wraps at the moment. We normally have around 20 racquets we look at. These guys have the most incredible racquets, between us we could have our own exhibition. We spoke about the museum and its new exhibition which will be ready for the Apia NSW tennis open, the whole facility is now in tournament set up phase so there was quite a lot of people around.

You can stay in touch with the Museum via

(Rod) I think I make out some nice unusual examples including a Spaghetti strung Fischer and the curved grip ERGE.

Not sure about the others on the table but seeing unusual gear is very educational.

Apart from that we just talked tennis History and had a good time.

I briefly discussed getting Bill Sidwell to come and talk with us, all agreed a great idea, I think Dora has met him and said he really can talk!  Bill is now into his nineties and still organising and playing veterans golf.   He started with Slazenger in 1935 and worked there until his retirement in the mid 80′s.  He and Ken Rosewall know a lot about the Slazenger company and the racquet manufacturing industry as it developed here so having Bill and Ken would be able to present an enlightening experience never really explored before.


Please do add a LIKE to the facebook pages of AUSTRALIAN TENNIS HISTORY

Our Australian group is now involved with groups all around the World and we share all sorts of information from promoting interesting items on ebay, to researching stories about players, equipment,  early ads etc so you will learn quite a lot from this very quick and easy format.

Please keep mentioning our Melbourne and Sydney groups to any friends, players, pro shop owners who might be keen to meet others who share an interest in tennis across a variety of fields from research to writing, photos, programmes, racquets, autographs, ornaments, artwork etc etc……….

Have a very safe Christmas break and we look forward to sharing more great times over the course of 2013.

Rod (Melbourne )

Mike (Sydney)




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