Five times Wimbledon champ Bob Hewitt thanked Dubbo’s sporting culture for helping him ace the international doubles scene in the 60s.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee, who now lives in South Africa, returned to his home town yesterday to show his family the providence of a career which boasts all four Grand Slam Doubles titles.
“When I was in Dubbo I used to play all sports ... but my first love was tennis,” he told the Daily Liberal.
For nearly 50 years Dubbo hosted the NSW hardcourt championships bringing some of the best out west.
Greats like Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, George Worthington , Mervyn Rose, Don Candy provided a steady source of inspiration to a young Hewitt.
“They came out here and we used to sit in the stands ... we just watched,” he said.
“It was terribly exciting for us and the sporting heritage of this town, which was 10,000 people in those days, was phenomenal and I think that went a long ways towards what I achieved.”
Hewitt claimed Wimbledon doubles’ titles in 1962, 1964, 1967, 1972 and 1978 and at one stage was ranked number five singles player in the world.
The 71-year-old also won the French doubles in 1972, the US doubles in 1977 and the Australian doubles in 1963 and 1964.
Another highlight was securing South Africa’s only Davis Cup title in 1974, a result almost eclipsed by controversy.
South Africa’s opponents in the final boycotted the game because of the nation’s policy of racial segregation known as apartheid.
However, relations between the players were often more amicable than their governments.
“We told the Indian players they refused to play us because we would have beat them and of course they said ‘bull dust we would have beaten you’. We were all very good friends,” he said.
South Africa’s political system is just one of many things that have been transformed since then. “I used to love to have a steak with egg and chips four hours before I played.
“If I told that to Federer he would die,” he said.
Hewitt is full of respect for the game’s modern day greats saying most deserve their large pay packets.
“The first time I won the Wimbledon doubles I got a five pound cash voucher,” he said.
“Nowadays they are being paid extraordinarily large sums which generally the top five or six deserve.”
Weaker players who “who don’t put bums on seats ... don’t deserve to make as much as they are making. But that might just be a little jealousy there from me”.
Hewitt believed Australia’s drop in tennis ranks was “not speculation it’s a reality”.
“And that hurts. If they could just come back I think it would be marvellous not just for the country but also for world tennis.
Hewitt said he had enjoyed showing his children around Dubbo.
“I just want to show them a bit of Bob Hewitt’s history, you know, the old man.”