For millennials, the name Laver can only be related to the Cup that in 2017 gave birth to a tournament among the best in Europe and the Rest of the World. However, for such an exhibition to be named after him means that at some point in the rich history of tennis, Rodney George Laver meant tennis itself.
Eleven Grand Slam titles, five of them from the Open Era, endorse the man who dominated in the sixties when he shared the circuit with tennis players such as Roy Emerson, Manolo Santana and Andrés Gimeno. He achieved the Australian Open in 1960, 1962 and 1963; Roland Garros in 1962 and 1969; Wimbledon in 1961, 1962, 1968 and 1969; and the US Open in 1962 and 1969.
By chance, his birth coincided with the great year of the American Don Budge, the first tennis player to achieve the feat of chaining all four Grand Slams in the same season. Mauren Connolly (1953), Margaret Smith Court (1970) and Steffi Graf (1988) can be noted on that outstanding list. Nobody else. Not even Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
The Australian can hang two medals if that is the case. Since he succeeded in 1962 and 1969. In between something happened that undermined his plans to enlarge the windows. Upon turning professional, he was banned from the Majors in the five years after 1963 until the arrival of the long-awaited Open Era.
Despite this situation, Laver was able to stand out for implementing the new top spin, highly developed years later and tested with great success by Guillermo Vilas and Rafael Nadal, especially. Not very tall and with a quick left foot, his game was based on a well-oiled serve and volley although he did not lose aggressiveness from the bottom. It was easily adaptable to all surfaces and for that reason it lifted trophies on both fast courts and slow courts in similar amounts.
Titles that not even the books could account for for sure. Some speak of up to 184 between 1959 and 1976. Others only count those of the Open Era and those go up to 78. The irrefutable thing about the numbers is that Laver won four out of five games (record of 652-161 according to ATP) that he played as professional but was unfortunate that for much of his career there was no reliable player classification like the current ATP ranking. That is why its best historical location says that it is the third place although it is impossible not to relate it to 1.
He won five Davis Cups (1959, 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1973) and accumulated a million and a half dollars, far from the values that are handled today and perhaps equivalent to a single tournament. That young world that never saw her play but feels it when she hears the name of the main stadium of the Australian Open.