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|Jack Kramer (L) with Namatjira and Frank Sedgman (R)
||John Albert Kramer
||United States of America
|Date of birth
||August 1, 1921
|Place of birth
||Las Vegas, Nevada
|Date of death
||September 12, 2009 (aged 88)
|Place of death
||Bel Air, Calif.
||6 ft 2 inches
||Right-handed; one-handed backhand
John Albert Kramer (August 1, 1921 - September 12, 2009) was an American tennis player of the 1940s. A World Number 1 player for a number of years, he is a possible candidate for the title of the greatest tennis player of all time. He was considered the father and the leading promoter of the professional tennis tours. He was a relentless advocate for the establishment of Open Tennis between amateur and professional players. Open Tennis lost by five votes in 1960, but became a reality in 1968. In 1972 he helped found the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), and was the first Executive Director, and was unpaid at his request. In that role he was the leader of an ATP boycott of Wimbledon in 1973, for the banning of Nikki Pilic from the tournament. He was the creator of the modern Grand Prix points system. Tall and slim, he was the first world-class player to play "the Big Game", a consistent serve-and-volley game, in which he came to the net behind all of his serves, including the second serve. He was particularly known for his powerful serve and forehand, as well as his ability to play "percentage tennis", which he learned from Cliff Roche at the Los Angeles Tennis Club. This strategy maximized his efforts on certain points and in certain games during the course of a match to increase his chances of winning. The key was to hold serve at all costs.
Kramer was the son of a blue-collar railroad worker for the Union Pacific railroad. As a boy he was a fine all-round athlete, particularly in basketball and tennis. When he was 13, the family moved to San Bernardino, California, and after seeing Ellsworth Vines, then the world's best player, play a match. Kramer decided to concentrate on tennis. In 1944, he married Gloria, and they had five sons: Bob, David, John, Michael, and Ron. They lived in Bel Air, California. He invested in the Professional Tennis Tour, two golf courses, and race horses. He was extremely successful. Starting in 1948, the Jack Kramer Autograph tennis racket from Wilson Sporting Goods became the most popular selling racket of all time, over 35 years.
Within a year he was playing junior tournaments and taking lessons from legendary teaching professional, Dick Skeen. Because of his obvious ability and his family's lack of money, he came under the guidance of Perry T. Jones. at the Los Angeles Tennis Club (LATC). Jones was the President of the Southern California Tennis Association. Kramer traveled many hours each day from his home in Montebello, California, to play tennis at the LATC and the Beverly Hills Tennis Club. He was able to play against such great players as Ellsworth Vines, Bobby Riggs, and Bill Tilden. He was the National Boys' Champion in 1936, and the winner of the 1938 National Juniors Interscholastics. He competed occasionally in men's tournaments on grass courts in the East. He won matches against nationally ranked men such as Elwood Cooke. He also played with high school teammate, George Richards, who later was nationally ranked.
During World War II, Kramer served in the United States Coast Guard, but continued to win prizes in the United States, since the war had effectively put an end to international tennis. He turned professional to play Bobby Riggs on December 26, 1947 at Madison Square Garden, after winning Wimbledon and the United States Championships in 1947. 15,411 people showed up for the match in one of the worst snow storms in New York history. Kramer became the top professional for the next six years. He retired in 1954 to promote his Pro Tour. In his 1979 autobiography, The Game: My 40 Years in Tennis, Kramer calls Helen Wills Moody the best women's tennis player that he ever saw. "She was the champion of the world when I was 15 and played her -- she won seven Forest Hills and eight Wimbledons.... I beat her, but Helen played a good game." Bobby Riggs and Kramer convinced Gussie Moran and Pauline Betz to turn professional and play matches prior to their main contest.
This is how he ranked the best possessors of tennis shots ever in The Game (as of 1979):
Kramer's serve and forehand were equal to the best players in the game, but he would not talk about his own strokes.
Kramer attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, and he played on the tennis team there in the 1941 and 1942 seasons.
Kramer retired from competitive tennis permanently in 1954 due to arthritic back problems. He worked for the BBC as a commentator on the Wimbledon Championships during the 1960s, a role in which he was very popular because of his intimate off-court knowledge of most of the players. However, he was dropped by the BBC in 1973 because of his role in the boycott of the Championships by the professional players.
Jack Kramer died from a soft tissue cancer on September 12, 2009 at his home in Bel Air, California.
Awards and honors
Kramer was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1968. The Los Angeles Tennis Open was known for several years during the 1980s as the "Jack Kramer Open" -- the only World Tennis Tour event to be named for a player.
Grand Slam record
- Singles champion: 1947
- Men's Doubles champion: 1946, 1947
- Singles champion: 1946, 1947
- Singles runner-up: 1943
- Men's Doubles champion: 1940, 1941, 1943, 1947
- Mixed Doubles champion: 1941
- Mixed Doubles runner-up: 1940
Davis Cup record
- Champion: 1946, 1947
- Runner-up: 1939
Grand Slam singles finals: 4 (3 titles, 1 runner-up)
||Opponent in the final
||Score in the final
||U.S. Championships (1)
|| Joseph Hunt
||6–3, 6–8, 10–8, 6–0
||U.S. Championships (2)
|| Tom Brown
||9–7, 6–3, 6–0
|| Tom Brown
||6–1, 6–3, 6–2
||U.S. Championships (3)
|| Frank Parker
||4–6, 2–6, 6–1, 6–0, 6–3
- The Game, My 40 Years in Tennis (1979), Jack Kramer with Frank Deford (ISBN 0-399-12336-9)