Why Rod Laver Can’t Get Enough of Palm Springs

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Jan 16, 2018

by DI WEBSTER, Managing Editor

As one of the greatest players in the history of tennis, “Rocket” has seen the world. When it comes to Australia and his adopted Californian home, the score is love all.

Australia

ROCKHAMPTON, QLD

My tennis career started on a court that my dad and brothers made in our Rockhampton backyard. The surface was silt from the bed of the Fitzroy River. Our house was eventually sold and relocated but the tennis court is still there. I don’t know if it has my name on it. I played on it with my nephews the last time I went to Rockhampton, in 2015. It hadn’t been watered very well so it was dusty and dry but we went out there and hit some balls. I thought about people like Charlie Hollis, my coach, and my brothers, Trevor and Bob. They were always on the court, too – sometimes to tutor me and sometimes to kick me off because they wanted to play. I found out where the old house had been moved to and went to have a look. There was someone there and I said, “Can I walk around?” They knew who I was so that probably helped a bit. They knew I wasn’t trying to steal anything. 

United States

COACHELLA VALLEY, CA

In the ’70s, when my son, Rick, was six or seven, we’d spend most weekends in Palm Springs. It was fun. You can’t stay there in summer with my complexion so we always went in winter. There’s so much to do: golf and tennis, plus you can take a tram from just outside Palm Springs up the San Jacinto Mountains. There’s snow up there and you can see over the entire valley. It’s magical. Frank Sinatra used to hold celebrity tennis tournaments and I met him through those. We saw each other quite often. [Oracle co-founder] Larry Ellison now owns the 16,100-seat stadium at Indian Wells, about 25 kilometres from Palm Springs, where the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament is held. It’s fantastic; I go every year.

Australia

TASMANIA

After the Australian Open last year, my stepdaughter, Ann [Bennett], her husband, Kipp, and I went to Tasmania. I hadn’t been in decades. We were there for 10 days and had a great time. We went to Port Arthur, up the east coast, over to Launceston and back down to Hobart, which has a beautiful harbour. We went on some yachts at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival. We went fishing for flathead near Swansea. You’d drop a line over and catch two at a time! I’m a keen fisherman but I wouldn’t say I’m a very good one. At Hollybank Treetops Adventure Park, near Launceston, we went zip-lining through the trees, about 30 metres off the ground. The redwood trees were brought from California 80 years ago. They’re huge things. Tasmania has grown a lot. There’s great beer down there, too: James Boag. We did a tour of the brewery. At one time, you could buy Boag’s beer here in Carlsbad [California] but lately we haven’t been able to find it. 

SEE ALSO: Travelling with Ian Thorpe