Jack Kramer (L) with Albert Namatjira and Frank Sedgman (R)
|Full name||John Albert Kramer|
August 1, 1921|
Las Vegas, Nevada
|Died||September 12, 2009
Bel Air, CA, USA
|Height||1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)|
|Turned pro||1947 (first senior amateur event 1937)|
|Plays||Right-handed (one-handed backhand)|
|Int. Tennis HOF||1968 (member page)|
|Highest ranking||No. 1 (1946, Pierre Gillou)|
|Grand Slam Singles results|
|US Open||W (1946, 1947)|
|US Pro||W (1948)|
|Wembley Pro||W (1949)|
|Grand Slam Doubles results|
|Wimbledon||W (1946, 1947)|
|US Open||W (1940, 1941, 1943, 1947)|
|Grand Slam Mixed Doubles results|
|US Open||W (1941)|
Last updated on: April 18, 2012.
John Albert Kramer (August 1, 1921 – September 12, 2009) was an American tennis player of the 1940s and 1950s. A World No. 1 player for a number of years, and one of the most important people in the establishment of modern men's "Open"-era tennis, 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 1970, he created the Mens Grand Prix points system. In 1972, he helped found the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) with Donald Dell and Cliff Drysdale, and was the first Executive Director. He was unpaid at his request. In that role, he was the leader of an ATP boycott of Wimbledon in 1973, for the banning of Nikola Pilić from the tournament.
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, a retired Railroad Engineer, at the Los Angeles Tennis Club (LATC). 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, which was one of many things that made Kramer one of the greatest players of all time.
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 at the Los Serranos Country Club in Chino Hills, CA, 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. (Wilson Sporting Goods-1984)
He began his tennis career by taking lessons from legendary teaching professional, Dick Skeen. Within a year, he was playing junior tournaments. 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 (SCTA). 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. Lost tournaments to Arthur Marx, son of Groucho, in the Juniors.
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. 15,114 people showed up for the match in one of the worst snow storms in New York history to watch Riggs win. Kramer went on to win the tour with Riggs and 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 Sarah Palfrey Cooke and Pauline Betz to turn professional and play matches prior to their main contest. 1947 Australian Championships winner, Dinny Pails, and 4-time US Championships semi finalist, Pancho Segura, also turned professional in late 1947 and played against each other on the undercard of the 1948 Kramer vs. Riggs tour.
This is how he ranked the best possessors of tennis shots as of 1979:
- First Serve: Ellsworth Vines had the finest serve, along with Pancho Gonzales
- Second Serve: John Newcombe by far
- Backhand: Donald Budge, Frank Kovacs, and Ken Rosewall were the best
- Return Of Serve: Don Budge the best
- Forehand Volley: Wilmer Allison and Budge Patty.
- Backhand Volley: Close among Don Budge, Frank Sedgman, and Ken Rosewall, with Sedgman having the edge
- Overhead: Ted Schroeder, the best
- Lob: Bobby Riggs, of course
- Half-Volley: Pancho Gonzales and Ken Rosewall
- Forehand: Pancho Segura and Ellsworth Vines
Kramer's serve and forehand were equal to the best players in the game, but he would not talk about his own strokes.
Kramer retired from competitive tennis in 1954 due to arthritic back problems, making brief comebacks on tours with Hoad and Rosewall in the late 1950s. He started working for the BBC as a commentator on the Wimbledon Championships in 1960, a role in which he was very popular because of his intimate off-court knowledge of most of the players. He was paired with Dan Maskell in the commentators booth. However, he was dropped by the BBC in 1973 because of his role in the ATP boycott of Wimbledon that year, which saw 81 players, including defending champion, Stan Smith, stay away from the tournament.
The following tennis notables worked for Kramer on his Pro Tour: John Gardner, Olen Parks, Vic Braden, and Myron Mc Namara.
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
Pro Slam record↑Jump back a section
Grand Slam singles finals: 4 (3 titles, 1 runner-up)
|Outcome||Year||Championship||Surface||Opponent in the final||Score in the final|
|Runner-up||1943||U.S. Championships (1)||Grass||Joseph Hunt||3–6, 8–6, 8–10, 0–6|
|Winner||1946||U.S. Championships (2)||Grass||Tom Brown||9–7, 6–3, 6–0|
|Winner||1947||Wimbledon||Grass||Tom Brown||6–1, 6–3, 6–2|
|Winner||1947||U.S. Championships (3)||Grass||Frank Parker||4–6, 2–6, 6–1, 6–0, 6–3|
Pro Slam singles finals: 3 (2 titles, 1 runner-up)
|Outcome||Year||Championship||Surface||Opponent in the final||Score in the final|
|Winner||1948||US Pro||Grass||Bobby Riggs||14–12, 6–2, 3–6, 6–3|
|Winner||1949||Wembley Pro||Indoor||Bobby Riggs||2–6, 6–4, 6–3, 6–4|
|Runner-up||1952||Wembley Pro||Indoor||Pancho Gonzales||6–3, 6–3, 2–6, 4–6, 5–7|
Davis Cup record
- Champion: 1946, 1947
- Runner-up: 1939
- The Game, My 40 Years in Tennis (1979), Jack Kramer with Frank Deford (ISBN 0-399-12336-9)
- United States Lawn Tennis Association (1972). Official Encyclopedia of Tennis (First Edition), p. 425.
- "Kramer might have been best ever". Retrieved September 04, 2012.
- "Analyzing the Greatest Players of All Time". Retrieved September 04, 2012.
- "A look at Tennis Channel's Top 100". Retrieved September 04, 2012.
- "Jack Kramer". The Daily Telegraph (London). 2009-09-14. Retrieved 2010-05-05.
- The Game, Jack Kramer, pages 295 and 296
- Guardian obituary
- Dwyre, Bill (2009-09-13). "Jack Kramer, tennis champ and promoter, dies at 88". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-09-13.
- Tennis is my Racket (1949), Bobby Riggs
- Man with a Racket (1959), Pancho Gonzales
- Big Bill Tilden, The Triumph and the Tragedy (1979), Frank Deford
- Tennis Players are Made, not Born (1976), Dick Skeen
- Little Pancho (2009), Caroline Seebohm
- The Factory System (August 1950), Perry T. Jones in Life Magazine
- Mental Tennis (1994), Vic Braden
- As It Was (2009), Gardnar Mulloy
- Los Angeles Tennis Club
- Jack Kramer Club
- Never Make the First Offer (2009), Donald Dell
- Tennis great Jack Kramer dies at 88
- International Tennis Hall of Fame
- Excerpts from The Game
- Jack Kramer – Daily Telegraph obituary
- Michael Gray, Jack Kramer: Wimbledon and US tennis champion – and a promoter with a decisive influence on the modern game, The Guardian, 13 September 2009
- Steve Flink, Jack Kramer: Tennis player who won Wimbledon and went on to lead the men's game into the professional era, The Independent, 15 September 2009