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Roscoe Tanner (born October 15, 1951) is an American former professional tennis player, who reached a career high world singles ranking of No. 4 on July 30, 1979. Tanner was famous for his big left-handed serve, which was clocked at 153mph at Palm Springs in 1978 during the final against Raúl Ramírez.[1][2] [3]


Early life

Leonard Roscoe Tanner III[4] was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, graduated from the Baylor School, and with teammate Sandy Mayer, helped to lead Stanford University's rise to the number one ranking in collegiate tennis in 1973. Tanner played number one singles, with Mayer playing number two. The team also featured Rick Fisher, Stanley Pasarell, Jim Delaney, James "Chico" Hagey, Gery Groslimond, Pat DuPre, Tim Noonan and Paul Sidone. Of the winning 1973 Stanford tennis team, Tanner, Mayer and DuPre were all brothers in the Zeta Psi fraternity.

Playing history

Tanner defeated Haroon Rahim 10-8 in the fifth set to win the 1970 United States Amateur Championships (Men's Tennis).

Tanner defeated Guillermo Vilas in three straight sets in the 1977 Australian Open (January) final, to win his first and only grand slam title. Tanner lost a five set game to Björn Borg in the 1979 Wimbledon final, which was the first Wimbledon final to be broadcast live in the United States as part of Breakfast at Wimbledon. Tanner avenged this loss to Borg by beating him in four sets in the US Open quarter finals two months later, a match where Tanner's 140 mph serve brought the net down during the fourth set.[5] Tanner lost to Vitas Gerulaitis in the semi finals. Tanner described his 1979 US Open win over Borg and loss to Gerulaitis in his autobiography as "the highest of my highs and the lowest of my lows on a tennis court within two days of each other". [1]

Tanner's strong left-handed serve was thrown very low and struck with a lunge involving the whole body, earning him the nickname "The Rocket".[4] His booming 153 mph serve was the fastest ever recorded in tournament competition from February 1978[1][2][3]until Andy Roddick posted a 155 mph serve[6] in a Davis Cup tournament in September 2004.

Grand Slam singles tournament timeline

Tournament 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 Career SR Career Win-Loss
Australian Open (Jan) A A A A A A A A W - - - - - - - 1 / 1 6-0
French Open A A A A A 1R 3R A A 4R A A A A A A 0 / 3 5-3
Wimbledon A A A 3R A 4R SF SF 1R 4R F QF 2R 4R QF A 0 / 11 36-11
US Open 1R 2R 3R QF 3R SF 3R 4R 4R 4R SF QF QF 2R 3R 1R 0 / 16 40-16
Australian Open (Dec) - - - - - - - - 1R A A A 2R A 3R A 0 / 3 3-3
Grand Slam Win-Loss 0–1 0-1 2-1 6-2 2-1 8-3 9-3 8-2 9-3 9-3 11-2 8-2 6-3 4-2 8-3 0-1 N/A 90-33
Grand Slam SR 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 2 0 / 1 0 / 3 0 / 3 0 / 2 1 / 4 0 / 3 0 / 2 0 / 2 0 / 3 0 / 2 0 / 3 0 / 1 1 / 34 N/A

- = tournament did not take place at this time

A = did not participate in the tournament

SR = the ratio of the number of Grand Slam singles tournaments won to the number of those tournaments played.


Grand Slam finals

Singles: 2 (1-1)

Outcome Year Championship Surface Opponent in the final Score in the final
Winner 1977 Australian Open (January) Grass Argentina Guillermo Vilas 6–3, 6–3, 6–3
Runner-up 1979 Wimbledon Grass Sweden Björn Borg 6–7(4), 6–1, 3–6, 6–3, 6–4

Singles titles (16)

No. Date Tournament Surface Opponent in Final Score in Final
1. 1974 Denver WCT, U.S. Carpet United States Arthur Ashe 6–2, 6–4
2. 1974 Christchurch, New Zealand  ??? Australia Ray Ruffels 6–4, 6–2
3. 1975 Las Vegas, U.S. Hard Australia Ross Case 5–7, 7–5, 7–6
4. 1975 Chicago, U.S. Carpet Australia John Alexander 6–1, 6–7, 7–6
5. 1976 Cincinnati, U.S. Clay United States Eddie Dibbs 7–6, 6–3
6. 1976 Columbus, U.S. Hard United States Stan Smith 6–4, 7–6
7. 1976 San Francisco, U.S. Carpet United States Brian Gottfried 4-6, 7–5, 6–1
8. 1976 Tokyo Outdoor Clay Italy Corrado Barazzutti 6–3, 6–2
9. 1977 Australian Open (Jan.), Melbourne Grass Argentina Guillermo Vilas 6–3, 6–3, 6–3
10. 1977 Sydney Outdoor, Australia Grass United States Brian Teacher 6–3, 3–6, 6–3, 6–7, 6–4
11. 1978 Palm Springs, U.S. Hard Mexico Raúl Ramírez 6–1, 7–6
12. 1978 New Orleans, U.S. Carpet United States Victor Amaya 6–3, 7–5
13. 1979 Rancho Mirage, U.S. Hard United States Brian Gottfried 6–4, 6–2
14. 1979 Washington Indoor, U.S. Carpet United States Brian Gottfried 6–4, 6–4
15. 1980 Manchester, United Kingdom Grass United States Stan Smith 6–3, 6–4
16. 1981 Philadelphia Carpet Poland Wojtek Fibak 6–2, 7–6, 7–5

Personal life

Tanner has been married three times, first to Nancy, next to Charlotte and finally (so far) to Margaret. He has five children.[4]

In 2005, Triumph Books published an autobiography Tanner wrote in collaboration with Mike Yorkey, Double Fault: My Rise And Fall, And My Road Back. [1]

Legal problems

Tanner has an extensive record of conflicts with the law. He was first arrested in 1997 for failure to pay child support to Connie Romano, with whom he fathered a child in the early 1990s[7]. Tanner was arrested again in Karlsruhe in June 2003 on a fugitive warrant. He had fled from Florida after felony charges were filed against him. In this case, the charges related to passing a bad check to purchase a yacht in 2000 and to further nonpayment of child support to Romano.[2] He pled guilty and received an initial sentence of probation. After violating the terms of his probation, Tanner was sentenced to two years in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections. He was released one year early for "good behavior".[8]

In May 2008, Roscoe Tanner was arrested in Knoxville, Tennessee for the felony of writing US$72,000 in worthless checks as payment for two Toyota Highlanders.[9] The felony charge was dismissed on August 14, 2008 after the dealership obtained return of the vehicles, which were taken out of town, and upon Tanner's payment of US$5,000 in restitution to the dealership for the reduced value of the vehicles after their recovery.[10] Several years before, Tanner had been arrested in Knoxville for violating probation resulting from his guilty pleas in Florida relating to felony worthless checks and grand theft.[9]



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