Roche was a country boy, born in the New South Wales hamlet of Tarcutta on May 17, 1945, a son of the local butcher. His backhand volley-regarded by many authorities as the best ever-was taken right out of a textbook.
With most of a glorious career behind him, it was extremely satisfying for the rugged, self-effacing Anthony Dalton Roche to make his biggest hit for Australia at 31 as a Davis Cup retread in 1977.
In 1965 and 1967, alongside John Newcombe, he has won the Cup-clinching doubles, both years against Spain. Ten years later he was recalled for singles duty before his friends and neighbors in Sydney, and came through. In a stunning opening-day victory, he turned back Adriano Panatta (6-3, 6-4, 6-4), who had led Italy to the 1976 Cup. That set the tone for a 3-1 Australian victory.
They won Wimbledon five times (1965, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1974), the best showing of any 20th-century male pair until Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde and won a sixth in 1997. Roche, with his wicked left-handed serve and magnificent volleying, took 13 major doubles, 12 with Newcombe, setting a team record. But Tony, broad-shouldered and barrel-chested, had the groundstrokes to succeed on clay, winning the difficult Continental double in 1966, the Italian and French singles.
Paradoxically he lost three major finals on his best surface, grass, and to older countrymen whom he has idolized: Wimbledon, 1968, and the U.S., 1969, to Rod Laver; U.S., 1970, to Ken Rosewall.
Shoulder and elbow trouble curtailed a career that spanned the amateur and open eras, but he was in the World Top Ten in both, six straight years from 1965, No. 2 in 1969, and won 12 pro titles in singles, 27 in doubles. In 1968 he turned pro, signing with World Championship Tennis as one of the so-called ;Handsome Eight; along with other rookies Newcombe, Cliff Drysdale, Nikki Pilic and Roger Taylor. His prize money amounted to $529,199.
After completing his playing career Roche has developed a highly successful career as a tennis coach. He was the coach of the Denver Racquets who won the first World Team Tennis in competition 1974.
Ivan Lendl hired Roche as a full-time coach for Roche's advice on volleying. (Lendl dreamed of winning Wimbledon, and because Roche had been a fine grass court player, he sought his tutelage.)
Roche also coached former world no. 1 Patrick Rafter from 1997 to the end of his career in 2002.
Roche coached world no. 1 Roger Federer from 2005 to 12 May 2007. It is reputed this was on a "handshake agreement" with no contract; Roche was paid by the week. Federer hired Roche for the opposite reason that Lendl hired him: to work on his clay-court game (as Roche had won the French Open).
He also coached two-time Grand Slam singles titlist Lleyton Hewitt, who was aiming to get his career back on track after a number of unsuccessful years on the ATP Tour. On the day of her first round match against Alisa Kleybanova at the 2010 Australian Open, which she eventually lost in straight sets, former world no. 4, Jelena Dokić, requested an hour-long session from Roche as last minute training. Roche was also a superb Australian Davis Cup coach.
Tony Roche also coaches many junior players at Sydney Olympic Park, in preparation for their ATP junior qualification pro tours, starting in November.
He entered the International Tennis Hall of Fame alongside doubles partner and close friend John Newcombe in 1986.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *