Frank Froehling: 1942-2020
Four-time major finalist and long-time court contractor in Florida
Froehling first attended Trinity University in 1960, earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and all-American honours in 1964. He compiled a 46-5 singles record as the No. 2-ranked player for the 'Tigers' (behind 1963 Wimbledon champion Chuck McKinley) and won nine college singles titles. Trinity went undefeated in their 1962-64 campaigns.
In 1963, the year Lance Tingay of The Daily Telegraph judged him to be World No. 6, the lanky 21-year-old Coral Gables resident, nicknamed ‘Spiderman’, became the first American to reach the US Championships title match for eight years. With the sport’s biggest serve and a powerful forehand, he beat 1961 champion Roy Emerson 6-4, 4-6, 9-7, 6-2 in the fourth round in Forest Hills, but almost came unstuck against sixth seed Bobby Wilson in the quarter-finals — winning 9-7 in the fifth set.
Rafael Osuna proved too strong in the final, standing 10-12 feet behind the baseline to lob returns and break Froehling’s serve six times, in a 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 victory. Occasionally, Osuna stood in and chipped back to disrupt 6'3" Froehling’s powerful serve-and-volley game. Sadly, his mother, Elizabeth, a Christian Scientist, did not see the match, having died in Los Angeles shortly before Froehling stepped out at the West Side Tennis Club.
Arguably, his career-defining victory came over Ion Tiriac in the 1971 Davis Cup final against Romania. Prior to the tie, United States coach (and later captain) Dennis Ralston called for a challenge match between No. 2 Clark Graebner and No. 3 Froehling, who got the nod after Graebner walked off the court in their match at two-sets-to-one down. The 29-year-old Froehling vindicated his selection by beating Tiriac 3-6, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3, 8-6 in the second singles rubber, which was carried over to a second day due to bad light, to give the United States a 2-0 lead en route to a 3-2 overall victory with Stan Smith and Erik Van Dillen in Charlotte, North Carolina. "I was getting killed in that match," said Froehling, years later. "Those first two sets, mostly because of nerves, I couldn't do anything. It was embarrassing."
Smith, the 1971 US Open and 1972 Wimbledon champion, told ATPTour.com, "Frank was a special guy and a special player. He won a huge match under pressure against Ion Tiriac for us to win the Davis Cup in 1971. He was a great guy and he got a lot out of his tennis game."
Froehling, who at one time was coached by Chris Evert’s father, Jimmy, was also a semi-finalist at Roland Garros in 1971 (l. to Nastase). He partnered Charlie Pasarell to the 1965 US Championships doubles final (l. to Emerson/Stolle) and was twice a mixed doubles finalist with Australian partners at the major championship in 1962 (w/Lesley Turner) and 1965 (w/Judy Tegart).
After he retired from professional tennis in 1974, Froehling moved to Jensen Beach, Florida, and briefly got a teaching pro job at Sandpiper Bay before becoming a tennis-court contractor for more than 40 years. Working alongside his son, Sean, he resurfaced thousands of courts in Florida with Fast-Dry Courts & 10-S Tennis Supply in Pompano Beach, Florida. He also helped to design and build tennis centres in Daytona Beach and the Village of Wellington.
Regularly dressed in a hat, long trousers and sleeves when playing tennis, Froehling was a long-time member of the North River Shores Tennis Club in Stuart, Florida, where he lived.
Froehling passed away on 23 January at his son’s home, with his family — including his wife, Elizabeth — by his bedside, in Jensen Beach, Florida. First diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukaemia in 2000 and given one year to live in 2010, he received treatment at the University of Miami Hospital's Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Frank Arthur Froehling III, tennis player and tennis court contractor, born 19 May 1942, died 23 January 2020.