Marion Anthony Trabert (born August 16, 1930 in Cincinnati, Ohio) is a retired American former World No. 1 tennis champion and long-time tennis author, TV commentator, instructor, and motivational speaker. In his 1979 autobiography Jack Kramer, the long-time tennis promoter and great player himself, included Trabert in his list of the 21 greatest players of all time.

Trabert was the No. 1 ranked player in the world in both 1953 and 1955 and the winner of ten major titles – five in singles and five in doubles. Trabert took his keen mind and aptitude for tennis and created a career that included two French singles championships (1954, 1955), two U.S. National Men’s Singles Championships (1953, 1955) and one Wimbledon Gentlemen Singles championship (1955). Until Michael Chang won the French Open in 1989, Trabert was the last American to hoist the championship trophy.

Career

Trabert was a stand-out athlete in Tennis and Basketball at the University of Cincinnati, and was a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity. In 1951, he won the NCAA Championship Singles title. He played doubles with Bob Mault and was coached by George Menefee, who became the head trainer for the LA Rams. Trabert was also a starter on the basketball team at the University of Cincinnati. Previously, at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, he had been State Singles Champion three times and played guard on the 1948 basketball team that won the District Championship.

A native of Cincinnati, Trabert grew up two houses down from a public park. It had clay courts that helped hone his groundstrokes. By age 11, Trabert was winning junior tournaments and eventually became the world’s No. 1 amateur at age 25. He turned pro after winning the ’55 U.S. Championships because he had a wife and two children to support. Trabert honed his tennis skills on the courts of the Cincinnati Tennis Club with the help of another member of that club, fellow International Tennis Hall of Famer Billy Talbert. Talbert became Trabert's mentor. In 1951, Trabert posted his first win over Talbert in the final of Cincinnati's international tennis tournament (now known as the Cincinnati Masters). Both were enshrined into the Cincinnati Tennis Hall of Fame in 2002 and Barry MacKay was enshrined in 2003.

Trabert's record in 1955 was one of the greatest ever by an American tennis player. He won the three most prestigious tournaments in amateur tennis—the French, Wimbledon, and American Championships—en route to being ranked world no. 1 among the amateurs for that year. In the midst of his amateur career, Trabert's game was interrupted by time spent in the Navy, but this did not stop him. Only Grand Slam winners Don Budge and Rod Laver, and in 2010 Rafael Nadal, have ever achieved the same feat. Trabert's own chance at a Grand Slam was stopped with a loss to Ken Rosewall in the semifinals at the Australian Championships. Trabert won 18 tournaments in 1955, compiling a match record of 106 wins to 7 losses.

An extremely athletic right-hander who mostly played a serve and volley game, Trabert won all five of the Grand Slam singles finals he appeared in. He won the French Championships in 1954 and 1955 (becoming the last American man to win that event until Michael Chang in 1989), the U.S. Championships in 1953 and 1955, and the Wimbledon title in 1955 without losing a set (a record shared with Don Budge, Chuck McKinley, and Björn Borg).

Trabert, along with Vic Seixas, was an American Davis Cup team mainstay during the early 1950s, during which time the Americans reached the finals 5 times, winning the cup in 1954. It was one of only two victories over the dominant Australian teams during the decade (the other being in 1958).

Having reached the top amateur ranking in 1955, Trabert turned professional in the fall of that year. Trabert has been noted explaining: “When I won Wimbledon as an amateur, I got a 10-pound certificate, which was worth $27 redeemable [for merchandise] at Lilly White’s Sporting Goods store in London. [Tennis legend] Jack Kramer offered me a guarantee of $75,000 against a percentage of the gate to play on his tour." With a wife and two children to support, the decision was clear. In 1956, he was beaten on the head-to-head world pro tour by the reigning king of professional tennis Pancho Gonzales, 74-27. However, he beat Gonzales in 5 sets for the 1956 French Pro title, and beat Frank Sedgman for the same title in 1959. He was runner-up to Sedgman in the Wembley Pro in 1958. In the US Pro, he was runner-up to Alex Olmedo in 1960.

At a tournament between the United States and South Africa in Newport Beach, California in April 1977, when anti-apartheid protesters ran on the court during the match, Trabert, then the U.S. manager, "hit two protestors with a racket" according to The Washington Post.[9]

In 2000, the USTA originated the Trabert Cup for Men's 40 and over International Competition.

Retirement

After retiring from the game, Trabert enjoyed a 33-year career (1971-2004) as a tennis and golf analyst for CBS covering such events as the US Open (tennis). During many of those years he teamed with Pat Summerall and was the lead expert commentator at the US Open. The popularity of their broadcasts helped propel the US Open into an annual financial success for CBS and the U.S. Tennis Association. He was also the US Davis team Captain from 1976 to 1980. Tony's captaincy is remembered by his frustration in dealing with the egos of younger players like John McEnroe, and for his racket-wielding expulsion of an apartheid protest demonstrator during a Davis Cup match against South Africa at the Newport Beach Tennis Club in California in April 1977. He is also a tennis author and a motivation speaker. He published a book, Trabert on Tennis, in 1988 on his insight on the game, from a player's, coach's, and commentator's standpoint. Trabert opened a tennis camp "Trabert Tennis Camp" in Ojai, then Pebble Beach, for ages 8–18 with his son, Mike Trabert, where he mentored for decades, then passed the torch to his son and grandchildren.

In 1970, Trabert was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, and served as president from 2001-2011.

In 2004, Trabert announced his retirement from broadcasting while commentating at the Wimbledon Championships in London.

On September 8, 2014, Trabert was inducted into the United States Tennis Association's (USTA) Court of Champions prior to the US Open men’s singles final.

Trabert currently resides in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida with his wife of thirty years, Vicki, and their grandchildren. Together, they have five kids (two of his and three of hers) and twelve grandchildren.

Forty years after his matches with Gonzales, Trabert told interviewer Joe McCauley "that Gonzales' serve was the telling factor on their tour — it was so good that it earned him many cheap points. Trabert felt that, while he had the better ground-strokes, he could not match Pancho's big, fluent service."

Major finals

Grand Slam tournaments

Singles: 5 (5 titles)

OutcomeYearChampionshipSurfaceOpponentScore
Winner1953U.S. ChampionshipsGrass Victor Seixas6–3, 6–2, 6–3
Winner1954French ChampionshipsClay Arthur Larsen6–4, 7–5, 6–1
Winner1955French Championships (2)Clay Sven Davidson2–6, 6–1, 6–4, 6–2
Winner1955WimbledonGrass Kurt Nielsen6–3, 7–5, 6–1
Winner1955U.S. Championships (2)Grass Ken Rosewall9–7, 6–3, 6–3

Doubles: 6 (5 titles, 1 runner-up)

OutcomeYearChampionshipSurfacePartnerOpponentsScore
Winner1950French ChampionshipsClay Bill Talbert Jaroslav Drobný
Eric Sturgess
6–2, 1–6, 10–8, 6–2
Winner1954French ChampionshipsClay Vic Seixas Lew Hoad
Ken Rosewall
6–4, 6–2, 6–1
Runner-up1954WimbledonGrass Vic Seixas Rex Hartwig
Mervyn Rose
4–6, 4–6, 6–3, 4–6
Winner1954U.S. ChampionshipsGrass Vic Seixas Lew Hoad
Ken Rosewall
3–6, 6–4, 8–6, 6–3
Winner1955Australian ChampionshipsGrass Vic Seixas Lew Hoad
Ken Rosewall
6–3, 6–2, 2–6, 3–6, 6–1
Winner1955French ChampionshipsClay Vic Seixas Nicola Pietrangeli
Orlando Sirola
6–1, 4–6, 6–2, 6–4

Pro Slam tournaments

Singles: 4 (2 titles, 2 runners-up)

OutcomeYearChampionshipSurfaceOpponentScore
Winner1956French ProClay Pancho Gonzales6–3, 4–6, 5–7, 8–6, 6–2
Runner-up1958Wembley ProIndoor Frank Sedgman4–6, 3–6, 4–6
Winner1959French ProClay Frank Sedgman6–4, 6–4, 6–4
Runner-up1960U.S. ProIndoor Alex Olmedo5–7, 4–6

Notes

  1. Garcia, Gabriel. . thetennisbase.com. Tennismem SL. Retrieved 7 November 2017. 
  2. Garcia, Gabriel. . thetennisbase.com. Tennismem SL. Retrieved 7 November 2017. 
  3. In his 1979 autobiography Kramer considered the best player ever to have been either Don Budge (for consistent play) or Ellsworth Vines (at the height of his game). The next four best were, chronologically, Bill Tilden, Fred Perry, Bobby Riggs, and Pancho Gonzales. After these six came the "second echelon" of Rod Laver, Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Gottfried von Cramm, Ted Schroeder, Jack Crawford, Pancho Segura, Frank Sedgman, Tony Trabert, John Newcombe, Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, Björn Borg, and Jimmy Connors. He felt unable to rank Henri Cochet and René Lacoste accurately but felt they were among the very best. Kramer himself surely belongs high on this list (in his head-to-head tour with Gonzalez in 1949 and 1950, Kramer won 78% of the matches).
  4. Lorge, Barry (February 1, 1978). . The Washington Post. Retrieved July 10, 2017. 
  5. The History of Professional Tennis, Joe McCauley