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Sedgman’s doubles mark lives on for another year

September 6, 2013

Frank Sedgman was just waking up at 6 a.m. Friday when he received a text message from his daughter Roxy — Americans Bob and Mike Bryan had lost their doubles match in the U.S. Open semifinals. The now 85-year-old Australian’s 62-year-old record was safe for at least another year, and maybe forever.

In 1951, he and Ken McGregor won all four Grand Slam doubles titles in the same calendar year. The Bryan brothers were trying to become the only players to equal that feat but fell two matches short when they were beaten 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 by Leander Paes of India and Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic on Thursday in New York.

“I was already awake when I got the text, and my daughter knew I’d be interested,” Sedgman told The Associated Press from his home in Melbourne on Friday.

“I’m not sure it was relief, but it was good to see doubles back in the news again. Doubles seems to be a bit watered down these days, back then we always used to play five sets.”

It was a fifth set that nearly enabled McGregor, who died in 2007, and Sedgman to win two years’ worth of Grand Slam doubles titles. The Australian pair won seven major doubles titles in a row, but fell just short in the final of the U.S. Open in 1952.

“Lost 7-5 in the fifth set to Mervyn Rose and Vic Seixas,” Sedgman recounted like it was yesterday. “We came that close to doing it two years in a row.”

Sedgman, who said he might try to watch a replay of the Bryans’ match later Friday, paid tribute to the Americans.

“Obviously they will go down as one of the best ever doubles pairings,” Sedgman said. “I really thought they had a good chance to break it.”

Sedgman was no slouch in singles either, winning five Grand Slam singles titles, including Wimbledon in 1952 and the U.S. Open in 1951 and 1952. He also led Australia to three consecutive Davis Cup titles.

Former American great Jack Kramer, who died in 2009, flew from the United States to Melbourne to attend Sedgman’s 80th birthday in 2007, and compared him then to Roger Federer.

“If he had the same equipment, he would be all over Roger’s backhand, he’d make all those passing shots,” Kramer said then. “Frank Sedgman was the quickest man around the court, he had great anticipation, you couldn’t lob to him, and he was a super volleyer. He might have had a shot at Roger. It would be wonderful to watch.”

These days, Sedgman doesn’t play any tennis but is on the golf course — Royal Melbourne — two or three times a week. He laments that his handicap has gone from 2 or 3 when he stopped playing tennis to 22, “but it’s still good to get out.”

Last Sunday, he spent Father’s Day in Australia with his family — he has four daughters, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“I was telling my kids and grandkids last week that we had set that Grand Slam record that many years ago, and some of them were hearing that for the first time,” Sedgman said. “I told him the record might be broken next week. But maybe another year.”