Australian Open And Wimbledon Champion Dick Savitt Dies At 95!
Dick Savitt, a member of the Tennis Hall of Fame who won the men’s singles titles at the 1951 Australian and Wimbledon Grand Slam events before quitting competitive tennis a year later at the peak of his abilities, passed away on Friday at his Manhattan home. He was 95.
His son Bob announced his passing.
Dick Savitt became the second American to win the men’s championships at Wimbledon and Australia in the same year. The accomplishment was done in 1938 by Don Budge. Only Pete Sampras (1994 and 1997) and Jimmy Connors (1974) have come close to matching them.
Even though he limited his Grand Slam tournament play after 1952 to the United States Nationals in Forest Hills, Queens, Dick Savitt was ranked among the top 10 American players six times in the 1950s and among the top 10 globally four times. While pursuing a career in business, he defeated top American competitors in domestic competitions.
In 1976, he was admitted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
In the Australian championships in 1951, Savitt defeated Australian Ken McGregor. In an interview with the International Tennis Hall of Fame 60 years later, Savitt said, “The Australian was a great shock to the tennis world.” It helped me gain notoriety.
In the 1951 French championships, he advanced to the quarterfinals but fell to Jaroslav Drobny, who went on to win the singles title. In the Wimbledon singles final, he took 61 minutes to overcome McGregor again, making him the first Jewish winner of the tournament.
- Bookseller Who Defended Readers’ Rights, Joyce Meskis Dies At 80!
- After A Flag Football Match At Desert Oasis High School, Ashari Hughes Dies At 16!
On the eve of the U.S. Nationals, the precursor to the U.S. Open, Savitt was featured on the cover of Time magazine’s edition from August 27, 1951. What he has, according to Time, is a direct, overwhelming attack that includes a smashing serve and deep, hard-hit ground strokes that keep his opponent on the backcourt and the defensive.
Dick Savitt, a powerful 6-foot-3 man who frequently exhausted his opponents, advanced to the semifinals at Forest Hills. He was hindered by a knee ailment and fell to Vic Seixas, another American.
rip dick savitt. 1951 wimbledon and australian open champion.
a quick story about mr. savitt: pic.twitter.com/X8ljnJayde
— Jason Gay (@jasongay) January 6, 2023
Dick Savitt was chosen for the 1951 U.S. Davis Cup team, which aimed to exact revenge on Australia for defeating the United States in the challenge round of the 1950 cup finals. The No. 1 player on the team, Savitt, prevailed in early singles matches. But after that, the team’s non-playing captain Frank Shields replaced him with Ted Schroeder, who had been in semi-retirement, and removed him from cup play. Shields claimed he had been dissatisfied with Savitt’s performance in general during the preceding few months.
Dick Savitt and several American teammates were in disbelief when he was passed over, but Savitt declined to comment. In the challenge round, Australia defeated the United States 3-2.
The Australian championships the following year saw Savitt go to the semifinals. He announced stopping the global tour after falling to McGregor there.
But he was the first athlete to win the U.S. National Indoor Championships three times, in 1952, 1958, and 1961. He won gold medals in singles and doubles in the Maccabiah Games, the Jewish Olympics held in Israel in 1961. Later, he worked on creating tennis facilities there.
Richard Savitt, the sole child of Morris and Kate (Hoberman) Savitt, was born on March 4, 1927, in Bayonne, New Jersey. His father was a food broker who worked for a company that sought chances for farmers to promote their goods.
In his early teens, while working as a ball boy at the Berkeley Tennis Club in Orange, New Jersey, he taught himself how to play tennis primarily by seeing some of the sport’s finest competitors, such as Jack Kramer, Bobby Riggs, and Pancho Segura, compete there in New Jersey state championships.
Savitt said in his interview for the Hall of Fame, “I had never seen tennis like that before. “I instantly purchased Don Budge’s tennis book to master proper stroke technique.”
But basketball was Savitt’s, first love. He was an all-state high school basketball player when his family relocated to El Paso in the early 1940s, hoping the warmer climate would help his mother’s skin issues. He nevertheless persisted in playing tennis and achieved excellent national rankings at the junior level.
Dick Savitt was given a basketball scholarship to attend Cornell University in 1946 after serving in the Navy during World War II. He was responsible for playing on basketball teams to amuse the troops. Injury setbacks forced him to return to tennis, where he won both the singles and doubles titles at the Eastern Collegiate level. He received his economics degree in 1950.
Savitt is survived by his son and three grandchildren from his marriage to Louise Liberman, which ended in divorce in 1963. Annelle Warwick Hayes, his second spouse, passed away in 2013. In 1981, Savitt and his son Bob, who had competed for the College of Wooster tennis team in Ohio, won the U.S. Father and Son Doubles Championship.
After giving up playing tennis full-time, Dick Savitt worked on oil drilling rigs in Texas and Louisiana before starting a long career as an investment banker in New York.
In amateur tennis, where he excelled, winners received trophies but no cash awards.
In 2011, Savitt told The Star-Ledger of Newark, “You either kept playing and receiving under-the-table type fees, or you ended up teaching at a club.” I wasn’t planning on doing that. I had to choose whether to quit the sport and get employment in a regular role or continue playing for a few more years. I took that action.