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William Franklin (Billy) Talbert

First name:
William Franklin (Billy)
Family name:
Talbert
Nationality:
United States of America
Gender:
M
Was:
80 years
Date of birth:
1918-09-04
Place of birth:
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States of America
Date of death:
1999-02-28
Place of death:
New York, United States of America

Memo(s)

   Bill Talbert was born on September 4, 1918 in Cincinnati, Ohio. At 10-years-old, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and soon after became fixated on the non-contact sport of tennis as a teenager. Before Talberts career was kicked off, he played for the University of Cincinnati, and later became among the first class to be inducted into the Cincinnati Tennis Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1967.
Now known as a famous American tennis player and administrator, Talbert has achieved many accomplishments throughout his tennis career. He ranked in the Top 10 thirteen times between 1941 and 1954; won nine Grand Slam double titles; and was a top winner out of all captains as a Davis Cup player. He was best known for playing the right side of his favorite partner, Gardnar Mulloy. Talbert and Mulloy won four of the six United States finals they reached, claiming titles in 1942, 1945, 1946 and 1948, the same year they captured the Davis Cup championship for the United States with a victory over the Australian team of Billy Sidwell and Colin Long. He also won the French doubles championship in 1950 with a fellow Cincinnatian, the 20-year-old Tony Trabert.
He was a tactician of the sport that helped him excel beyond the lifelong limitations enforced by diabetes, but eventually Talberts career as a professional tennis player came to an end. It was then that he wrote an autobiography, Playing For Life, and a history of the United States men's singles championships, Tennis Observed, with Pete Axthelm. He also wrote The Game of Singles in Tennis and The Game of Doubles in Tennis with Bruce Old. He also served as Tournament Director of the United States Open, and in 1964, Talbert became the executive vice president of the Banknote Corporation, a financial printing firm.
After sustaining a broken pelvis and shoulder and undergoing hip-replacement surgery as a result of a mugging at a La Guardia Airport taxi stand in 1992, Talberts health was declining. Talbert, a legendary doubles champion who gained 33 national titles over six decades of tennis standing, passed away at his home in Manhattan in 1999 at age 80.

Dlife
   But he went on to claim eight doubles titles at that event, and he became the Open's tournament director from 1971 to 1975 and from 1978 to 1987. He served in a transitional era, the Grand Slam event having moved from Forest Hills to the hardcourts at Flushing Meadows in 1978.

As an official, Talbert was instrumental in the adoption of the sudden-death tie breaker, an innovation that was initially unpopular with most players but received raves from spectators.

''I never knew a player who bought a ticket,'' he said in defense of his successful lobbying for the tie breaker.

As a singles player, as a doubles partner, as a Davis Cup team member and as the Davis Cup team captain for five years, Talbert was a stylish tactician of the sport that helped him transcend the lifelong limitations enforced by diabetes.

He was best known for playing the right side next to his favorite partner, the spirited Gardnar Mulloy.

''He played the forehand, I played the backhand, and if I was the power behind the partnership, he was surely the stylist up front,'' said Mulloy, who reached six United States National doubles finals, one short of a team record, alongside Talbert. ''Billy was the greatest doubles player we ever had, and he was a great friend; for 10 years there wasn't another American team that could beat us.''

Talbert and Mulloy captured four of the six United States finals they reached, claiming titles in 1942, 1945, 1946 and 1948, the same year they clinched the Davis Cup championship for the United States with a victory over the Australian team of Billy Sidwell and Colin Long.

Talbert collected nine major doubles titles, four of them in the United States mixed event with Margaret Osborne duPont, with whom he set a record by winning consecutive championships from 1943 to 1946. He won the French doubles championship in 1950 with the 20-year-old Tony Trabert, a fellow Cincinnatian for whom he served as mentor.

Talbert's Davis Cup career as a player began in 1946 and concluded in 1952-53, when he was the team's playing captain. He was 2-0 in singles and 7-1 in doubles. As a Davis Cup captain, a role he held until 1957, Talbert was 13-4, and his team won the championship in 1954.

Talbert was unapologetic about being a relatively unregimental captain.

''A party guy, a liberal captain, so I am,'' he said, ''but these guys are all adults, and they want to win as much as I do.''

''I admit I had a whale of a time when I played tennis,'' said Talbert, who never missed a tournament or a post-match celebration. ''I went to every party that they had.''

William Franklin Talbert 3d, a native of Cincinnati, entered the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1967. He was also active in parlaying his tennis contacts into the business world, becoming executive vice president of the United States Banknote Corporation, a financial printing firm, in 1964. He remained with the company until his death.

As the United States Open's tournament director, Talbert was involved in several colorful episodes, from the sublime to the absurd. It was Talbert who decided to put the ingenue Chris Evert onto the Stadium Court in 1971, and it was Talbert who removed the chair umpire, Frank Hammond, and reinstated Ilie Nastase from default during a riotous match against John McEnroe in 1979.

Talbert wrote an autobiography, ''Playing For Life,'' and a history of the United States men's singles championships, ''Tennis Observed,'' with Pete Axthelm. He wrote ''The Game of Singles in Tennis'' and ''The Game of Doubles in Tennis'' with Bruce Old.

He is survived by two sons, Pike and Peter, both of New York, and two grandchildren. His wife, Nancy Pike, a former editor at Vogue and Life magazines and a fashion model, died in 1995.

New York Times

Stats

Matches in database: 662
Victories in database: 478
Tournaments won in database: 47

Results

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Hartwig, Rex Noel/Fraser, Neale Andrew - Mulloy, Gardnar Putnam/Talbert, William Franklin (Billy)
6-4 6-2


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