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Rod Laver: His 200 singles titles are the most in tennis history and he holds the all-time male singles records of 22 titles in one season, also in 1962. Photo Sharyn O'Neill / The Morning Bulletin
Rod Laver: His 200 singles titles are the most in tennis history and he holds the all-time male singles records of 22 titles in one season, also in 1962. Photo Sharyn O'Neill / The Morning Bulletin Sharyn O'Neill

Rod Laver: why he's a national treasure

As we head towards Australia Day and remember this country's legends, our friends at Bundaberg Rum give you the chance to put forward your memories of our sporting greats. Hit us up in the comments field below and tell us your favourite Rod Laver story.

Meanwhile you can nominate your own local sporting legend and win prizes for yourself and them. More info here.

Rod Laver is one of our greatest ever sports stars. He sits in the rarefied air of a Don Bradman. An absolute legend without question and most Aussies, no matter what age, would either know of his achievements or have heard of the great man.

Even the Americans love him, and they rarely admit to liking plucky Aussies who kick their butts in the sports they love to dominate.

To reflect on how good the rocket from Rockhampton was, we have to rely on black and white footage to judge for ourselves - or we could just look at his long list of achievements, which really do speak for themselves.

Rod Laver in Wimbledon, 1962. (AP Photo)
Rod Laver in Wimbledon, 1962. (AP Photo)

Laver is the only player to twice achieve the calendar-year Grand Slam - 1962 and 1969.

His 200 singles titles are the most in tennis history and he holds the all-time male singles records of 22 titles in one season, also in 1962.

Plus, he helped Australia win five Davis Cup titles in an era when Davis Cup was as big as the Grand Slams.

All this while playing the game with one of those heavy wooden rackets and for bugger-all prize money - compared to today anyway.

Unrivalled record. No question. But there were plenty of other extra Aussie-isms that help make him more of a legend in our eyes.

Laver was a lovable little redhead from cattle country up in Rockhampton on the central coast of Queensland.

He was an aggressive player, a leftie who had all the shots in the book, could play on any surface and had the endurance to battle through a tough five-setter.

But he had class too. He was pretty much the left-handed '60s version of Roger Federer, or probably better: Even Federer continually bows to his greatness.

The Swiss master broke down in tears when his idol presented the 2006 Australian Open trophy to him. That's more than respect. That's adulation.

Laver has made some famous friends over the years. He was best buddies with late Hollywood legend and tennis fan Charlton Heston.

He even used to stay in Heston's three-floor New York City penthouse when he played at the US Open.

Laver also found some weird ways to treat recurring injuries in an era well before players started taking their own physios on tour.

He was known as "the pots and pans man" for his love of buying pots in every city he played in so he could boil water for the canvas elbow pad he used to help ease the pain of his chronic tennis elbow.

There are many honours to Rod Laver, like statues and bridges, but the big one is the Melbourne arena that adorns his name.

Rod Laver is a true Aussie legend and national treasure.

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