World Professional Champion

Peter Underwood

In 1962 pro tennis needed Laver.

After winning the Grand Slam in 1962--in a tennis world split between amateur and pro-- there was one pinnacle left for Rod Laver to climb. He had to take on the great pro players, the "vagabond rug beaters."

Laver wanted only one thing: to become the best of the lot. For a record guarantee of $110,000 over three years, on January 4, 1963, he signed a contract.

Starting Over

By the end of 1962, in the pristine world of the amateurs, Rod The Rocket Laver was the best by a Rockhampton country mile--and the pros needed him desperately. Their circus was in one of its periodic holes. The cause was not a lack of top players. Champion Ken Rosewall was at his peak, and the rest of the gang weren't too bad either.

Despite chronic injury Hoad was still great, and occasionally sublime. And behind them was a superb bunch including the older masters Francisco Segura, Frank Sedgman and Tony Trabert. Pushing the veterans were the new boys, Andres Gimeno and Butch Buchholz.

Even the spear throwers were hardly pushovers: Barry MacKay, Mal Anderson, Ashley Cooper, and Alex Olmedo had collared Wimbledon and other Grand Slam titles.

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Peter Underwood is a doctor, writer, broadcaster, activist, and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. He has a long involvement with the Medical Association for Prevention of War, a group of health professionals who in 2009 founded the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons. He divides his time between peace work, medical education, growing fine wool, and writing. A passionate student of tennis since childhood, The Pros is his first nonfiction book.

The Pros: The Forgotten Era of Tennis

The Pros: The Forgotten Era of Tennis chronicles almost 40 years when the best players in the world were barred from competing in the biggest tournaments, including the Grand Slams. It focuses on the lives of careers of 8 players who dominated the traveling circus of pro tours around the world, from Bill Tilden to Rod Laver and all the champions in between, depicting the ruthless battles of these players for prize money and status as the best players in the world.

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