To Rod Laver's eye, tennis was more
attractive back when he was becoming the only player to win the
Grand Slam twice.
"There was more variety in the strokes and the rallies that we
played," Laver said Sunday after he helped christen the newest
court at the Australian Open.
When rackets were wooden and he was young, the 62-year-old Laver
said, "Seems like the drop shot became very important because you
just couldn't do so much with the rackets."
For recreational tennis players, he added, "it used to be when
you had a tiny wooden racket it would come back and hit you in the
eye. You'd say, 'I don't like this game.'"
Aside from racket technology, "I get the feeling that the
courts are quicker, maybe the ball is quicker," he said.
The 15,000-seat center court at Melbourne Park was named Rod
Laver Arena last year in honor of the Australian who won the four
major tournaments of tennis in both 1962 and 1969.
Laver, who has 11 titles from Grand Slam tournaments, said he
did not expect today's younger players to dominate tennis the way
Pete Sampras has, winning a record 13 singles titles at Wimbledon
and the Australian and U.S. Opens.
There are "just so many young players out there that can rise
up and play their best tennis," he said.
He mentioned U.S. Open champion Marat Safin, a 20-year-old
Russian now No. 2 in the rankings, and Lleyton Hewitt, a 19-year-old
Australian who won last week's ATP tournament in Sydney and is
seeded seventh for the Australian Open.
Laver might have won more Grand Slam
tournaments, possibly surpassing Sampras' total, if they had been
opened sooner to professionals.
"I am very, very happy that Pete is the record holder. ... You
don't see him play just average matches. He is always playing at