Australian Open: Rod Laver's no fan of on-court coaching

Australian tennis legend Rod Laver attending an event for the 50th anniversary of his second Grand Slam, in Melbourne, Australia, on Jan 14, 2019.
Australian tennis legend Rod Laver attending an event for the 50th anniversary of his second Grand Slam, in Melbourne, Australia, on Jan 14, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MELBOURNE - The 80-year-old evangelist is in the midst of story-telling. He's had a press conference, spoken to TV, answered to radio and now is doing his last round-table with print writers. If it's tennis, he's always ready to tell a tale.

The king is Rod Laver (you thought Federer? Come now) and there's a small celebration happening on the 50th anniversary of his Grand Slam in 1969. The second time he won all four Majors in a calendar year.

Some stories like that don't get old. And some old stories should always be told. Like the amount of rackets he used to carry to tournaments. These days it's six-seven-eight to a match. In his time, he says, he was given four.

But wait.

"They took me through the year."

Tennis is tough now, all these endless rallies and kilometres covered, but it wasn't a Sunday fiesta back then either. No ice towels and rehydrating drinks. No chairs and tie-breakers. No umbrellas and endless string changes.

"I played Wimbledon with one string job," said Laver. "Playing with a wooden racket, if you hit the centre of the racket all the time you got timing. And if you got timing, you got speed."

In his time they didn't count Grand Slam singles titles, didn't reduce tennis to mathematics, didn't have a breathless media measuring players by a single number. But now it's all we want to know. Even from the king.

Fed has 20, Rafa 17, Djoko 14. So who's going to end up with the most?

"I'm not sure that Roger can win too many more. He certainly could win Wimbledon cause he's a grass court player."

Then he pauses.

"Novak certainly could win more than anyone else. Rafa's got a few more years but his game is so tough on his body."

Laver speaks gently but he's firm and when the subject turned to on-court coaching and whether he believes it should be allowed, he was clear.

"To me, no."

"It's a one-man sport... for me it's a single-handed championship."

Not necessarily played with a single hand, but won with no one else lending a hand.