Aussie Legend Ashley Cooper Passes Away
Four-time singles Grand Slam champion Ashley Cooper AO passed away Friday, aged 83.
A winner of the Australian, Wimbledon and US Championships during an outstanding 1958 season, Cooper also won the Australian Championships in 1957.
Rod Laver said of his fellow Australian, "So sad to hear of Ashley's passing. He was a wonderful champion, on and off the court. And what a backhand! So many cherished memories. Farewell my friend."
“Ashley was a giant of the game both as a brilliant player and an astute administrator and he will be greatly missed,” Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said.
“His contribution to the sport went far beyond his exploits on the tennis court. His rich legacy includes the magnificent Queensland Tennis Centre, a project he was passionate about, nurturing the development from the very beginning, and resulting in the return of world-class international tennis to Brisbane.
“Ashley was also the most humble of champions and a great family man. Our hearts go out to his wife Helen and his family, along with his wide and international circle of friends, including so many of our tennis family.
“On a personal note, Ash was instrumental in our family moving to Australia and for that we will be forever grateful. He was a very humble advisor and great supporter of our transformation of Australian tennis. I will miss him.”
ATP Chief Writer James Buddell on Ashley Cooper
Ashley John Cooper, one of the great Australians off Harry Hopman's production line in the 1950s, was a serve-volleyer, renowned for playing solid tennis and his mental strength. In 1958 he was adjudged the world's premier player.
As a junior the Victorian worked hard to develop his volley, which had been the weakest part of his game, and his physical conditioning. He possessed a superb backhand return of serve and was considered the smoothest player ever developed in Australia.
Cooper won the 1957 Australian Championships with a 6-3, 9-11, 6-4, 6-2 win over left-handed Neale Fraser before suffering a devastating 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 loss to Lew Hoad in the Wimbledon final. He also lost the US Championships to Malcolm Anderson 10-8, 7-5, 6-4.
Cooper bounced back the following year. Aged 21, the Melbourne-born right-hander won three grass-court majors at the Australian Championships (d. Anderson), Wimbledon (d. Fraser) and the US Championships (d. Anderson). He was also a semi-finalist at Roland Garros, where he lost to Luis Ayala 9-11, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, 7-5.
En route to the Wimbledon title, Cooper came up against local hope Bobby Wilson in the quarter-finals. The match stopped at 5-all in the fifth set when Queen Elizabeth II decided to move from Centre Court to watch proceedings on Court One. "The Queen came in, everyone stood up and we bowed," Cooper recalled. "And then we continued to play and Bobby Wilson was shot to bits; he couldn't handle it."
Cooper progressed and in the third all-Australian final in as many years, he triumphed 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 13-11 over Fraser. He yielded seven sets in his seven matches and played a total of 322 games in all. This remains a record for any champion at the All England Club.
In a dominant Australian era, Cooper played in the 1957-58 Challenge Rounds against the United States. He won four major doubles titles, 1957-58 Roland Garros, 1957 US Championships and the 1958 Australian Championships.
He turned professional on 4 January 1959, joining Jack Kramer's pros and give Pancho Gonzalez a new contender. He had married Helen Wood, the Miss Australia of 1957, only the week before.
In retirement, Cooper served as a Player Development Administrator with Tennis Queensland and he also sits on the Board of Directors at Tennis Australia. In 1991, Cooper was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In the 2007 Birthday Honours List of Queen Elizabeth II, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for "service to tennis through a range of organisations that administer and promote the sport, and as a player, coach and mentor to junior players".
Profile Below Courtesy Tennis.com.au
Although born and raised in Victoria, Cooper considered himself a Queenslander and in his role as President of Tennis Queensland he oversaw the creation of the world-class Queensland Tennis Centre, including the jewel in the crown, Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane.
Cooper played in the golden era of Australian men’s tennis during which he won eight Grand Slam titles including the Australian, Wimbledon and US singles titles in 1958.
He was a right-handed, serve-and volley player who was especially effective against left-handed opponents.
Cooper began playing as a boy in country Victoria tagging along with his parents. When he showed some ability, his father bought a book by Don Budge on how to play tennis and instructed him in the classic form of the game.
In 1953 he was selected (with Roy Emerson) as the junior member of Australia’s overseas touring team overseen by Harry Hopman.
“For six months I practised every day against Hoad, Rosewall, Hartwig, Fraser and Rose so it was pretty tough practice, but you had to get better or get out,” he reflected.
It also built a camaraderie among the players, something illustrated when Cooper and Fraser shared a hotel room in London and ate breakfast together the day that they contested the Wimbledon final.
‘We were best friends off the court, then we tried to beat each other’s brains out and then when it was over, we were best friends again,’ he explained.
It was with Fraser that Cooper won three of his four Grand Slam doubles crowns.
In 1957 he led the Davis Cup team that included Mal Anderson and Merv Rose which defeated the United States in the Challenge Round at Kooyong.
The following year the result was reversed and Cooper was so upset by the loss he tried to withdraw from a professional contract he had signed with Jack Kramer because he felt he owed Australia.
His public profile rose even higher when he married Helen Wood, the reigning Miss Australia in 1959. Their wedding attracted more than three thousand spectators some of whom clambered onto the car trying to get a closer look at the golden couple.
After a short professional career, Cooper returned to Brisbane where he had a successful business career and then served Tennis Queensland and Tennis Australia as an administrator.
During his tenure the old Milton courts were demolished and a new tennis centre built on the site of an abandoned power station.
“We just kept working and working and working until we put it together,” he said.
Throughout his life Cooper was honoured for the roles he played including the Order of Australia, International and Australian Tennis Halls of Fame and Queensland Sports Hall of Fame. A walking bridge giving visitors access to the Queensland Tennis Centre is named in his memory.