Tennis great Rod Laver has been honoured with the unveiling of a statue in his likeness at Melbourne Park ahead of the Australian Open.
Laver, the only man to twice achieve a calendar year Grand Slam — winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open in one year — is revered by modern greats like Swiss star Roger Federer.
With this year’s Australian Open just two weeks away, the Rockhampton-native was back at Rod Laver Arena to view the bronze statue of him in action.
“I think it’s very much a likeness and brings me back to the sixties, I guess, when my competing days were in full swing,” he said.
“It brings back memories … seeing my name up there in lights on the stadium, it’s … almost overpowering to know that this has happened in a career span.”
The statue captures him in mid-backhand, the stroke he was famous for.
“I guess I was known for my backhand whether it be a backhand drive or volley, I think that was the thought that I wanted when they started making pictures and finding what was suitable,” he said.
“When you look back at all the great champions we’ve had here, who have come along with me, I’m thrilled to know that through them I became a player.
“I was one of the smaller players and the great thing about retirement is that the writers and the artists enlarge your reputation,” the typically humble Laver said.
The artist tasked with producing Laver’s likeness was Melbourne-based sculptor Lis Johnson.
“Rod Laver’s international iconic status is daunting and I was anxious about creating a worthy tribute,” Johnson said.
“Meeting Rod Laver has been both an honour and a great pleasure. I’m so excited he’s happy with the final result.”
“Rod welcomed me into his home, helped me with my research, answered all my queries, let me measure his head with my strange instruments and generously gave me access to all his photos.
Laver will be further honoured in September when a tournament named in his honour — featuring the stars of Europe against the rest of the world — will take place in Prague.