One of the finest seasons ever achieved was the 1955 of Tony Trabert, who won three of the Big Four singles titles - Wimbledon, French, and U.S. - to earn acclaim as the No. 1 amateur of that year. Only two other men, Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969), en route to their Grand Slams, have won those three upper-most championships within a calendar year.
Moreover, Trabert also won the U.S. Indoor and U.S. Clay Court titles, adding them to the pre-eminent American championships on grass at Forest Hills.
For that year, probably the most productive ever by an American man - 30 titles - he won 18 of 23 singles tourneys on a 106-7 match record. Included was a winning streak of 36 matches. He also won 12 doubles titles (with Vic Seixas).
An exceptional athlete, Marion Anthony Trabert was born Aug. 16, 1930, in Cincinnati, where he grew up. He was a standout basketball player at the University of Cincinnati, for which he also won the U.S. Intercollegiate singles title in 1951.
The French Championships has traditionally been the most difficult battleground for American men. Trabert won five titles in Paris, the singles in 1954 and 1955. It was 34 years before another American, Michael Chang, won in 1989. Trabert also won the doubles in 1950 (with Bill Talbert) and in 1954 and 1955 (with Vic Seixas). Only a defeat by Ken Rosewall (the eventual champ) in the semi-finals of the Australian Championships ruined Trabert's chance at a Grand Slam in 1955.
For five years Trabert was a mainstay of the U.S. Davis Cup team, along with Seixas. In each of those years the U.S. reached the challenge round finale, and Trabert's best-remembered match may have been a defeat, a tremendous struggle against Lew Hoad on a rainy afternoon in 1953 at Melbourne. Hoad won out, 7-5, in the fifth, and Australia kept the Cup. However, Trabert and Seixas returned to Australia a year later, where Trabert beat Hoad on the opening day in singles and he and Seixas won the doubles over Hoad and Rex Hartwig in a 3-2 triumph, the only U.S. seizure of the Cup from the Aussies during an eight-year stretch.
Though an attacker with a powerful backhand and strong volley, the competitive right-hander also had exceptional groundstrokes. In winning the U.S. singles at Forest Hills twice, 1953 and 1955, and Wimbledon, 1955, he did not lose a set, a rare feat.
Amassing 13 U.S. titles in singles and doubles, he was one of two Americans (the other was Art Larsen) to win singles championships on all four surfaces: Grass at Forest Hills, indoor, clay court and hard court.
Following the custom of the time, Trabert, as the top amateur, signed on with the professionals to challenge the ruler, Pancho Gonzalez, on a head-to-head tour in 1956. Gonzalez won, 74-27. Trabert was runner-up to Alex Olmedo for the U.S. Pro singles title in 1960, having won the doubles with Hartwig in 1956.
When his playing career ended, Trabert worked as a teaching pro and as a television commentator on tennis. In 1976 he returned to the Davis Cup scene as the U.S. captain, leading the Cup-winning teams of 1978 and 1979.
He had four years in the U.S. and World Top Ten, 1951, 1953, 1954 and 1955, No. 1 in each in 1953 and 1955, before turning pro. His amateur career was interrupted by service in the U.S. Navy. He was named to the Hall of Fame in 1970.
MAJOR TITLES (10)-French singles, 1954, 1955; Wimbledon singles, 1955; US. singles, 1953, 1955; Australian doubles, 1955; French doubles, 1950, 1954, 1955; US. doubles, 1954. OTHER U.S. TITLES (13)-Intercollegiate singles, 1951; Indoor singles, 1955; Clay Court singles, 1951, 1955; Hard Court singles, 1953; Indoor doubles, 1954, with Bill Talbert; 1955, with Vic Seixas; Clay Court doubles, 1951, 1955, with Hamilton Richardson; 1954, with Seixas; Hard Court doubles, 1950, 1953, with Tom Brown; Pro doubles, 1956, with Rex Hartwig. DAVIS CUP (As player)-1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955; Record 16-5 in singles, 11-3 in doubles; (As captain)-1953, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980; Record 14-3, 2 Cups. SINGLES RECORD IN THE MAJORS-Australian (4-2), French (18-2), Wimbledon (13-2), US. (23-5).
- Bio Courtesy Bud Collins