Former Australian doubles legend Owen Davidson – who in 1967 completed the mixed doubles Grand Slam – has passed away, aged 79.
Below is a summary of his career courtesy of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, into which he was inducted in 2010. At full tribute will follow later this weekend.
When Owen Davidson stepped onto a doubles court, particularly with Billie Jean King in mixed, the message was abundantly clear: You’ll have to play your best game – and then some – to come away victorious.
A champion of 11 major mixed doubles titles, eight with King, Davidson was only the third player in history to win a calendar year Grand Slam in mixed doubles. Overall, Davidson won four mixed doubles majors at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships. His four Wimbledon triumphs are the most mixed doubles crowns at the All England Club for a male player.
After all the basketball, it was so great to visit with one of our dearest friends and my mixed doubles partner, Owen Davidson.
Owen Davidson and I won 8 Grand Slam Mixed Doubles titles, 4 of them at #Wimbledon (1967, 1971, 1973, 1974). pic.twitter.com/eGOYROxYBf
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) April 5, 2023
In 1967, he dominated mixed doubles, first teaming with Aussie Lesley Turner to win the Australian Championships and then collaborating with King to sweep through the French, Wimbledon, and U.S. Championships. In their 8 mixed doubles championships from 1967 to 1974, the pair virtually ran the table, losing only the middle set of the 1973 U.S. Championships final against Margaret Court and Marty Riessen. The pairing of Davidson and King produced flawless doubles and won one French, four Wimbledon titles, and three U.S. titles. Davidson was the King of the Volley, and Billie Jean was a top five all-time female player. The 6-foot-1 Davidson presented a huge obstacle at net – his arm span and volleying acumen both delicate and forceful – and swift reflexes were as polished as any player in history. The duo left precious little space uncovered and were constantly on the attack. They were methodical and business-like on court and produced nearly perfect tennis chemistry. They lost only one major final opportunity, the 1968 French Championships to hometown favorites Françoise Dürr and Jean-Claude Barclay who ratcheted their game a complete notch at Roland Garros, winning 6-1, 6-4.
Before Davidson teamed with King at the French in 1967, he had already won three mixed doubles crowns, sharing the Australian in 1965 with his partner Robyn Ebbern and with Court and John Newcombe in a final that wasn’t played; the U.S. Championships in 1966 with Donna Floyd Fales over Carol Hanks Aucamp and Ed Rubinoff, 6-1, 6-3, and the 1967 Australian with Turner over fellow natives Judy Tegart Dalton and Tony Roche, 9-7, 6-4. Davidson and King’s three Grand Slam victories in 1967 were the most impressive of a 7-year partnership. At the French, they defeated Ann Haydon Jones and Ion Ţiriac 6-3, 6-1; Wimbledon was a 7-5, 6-2 triumph over Maria Bueno and Ken Fletcher 7-5, 6-2 and the U.S. Championships was an impressive 6-3, 6-2 triumph over Rosie Casals and Stan Smith.
Known as “Davo,” Davidson was a men’s doubles champion twice. He partnered with Ken Rosewall to nab the 1972 Australian Open over compatriots Ross Case and Geoff Masters, 3-6, 7-6, 6-3. Davidson’s last two major finals were at the 1972 and 1973 U.S. Championships where the results were split. In 1972, he and Newcombe lost to Cliff Drysdale and Roger Taylor, 4-6, 6-7, 3-6. In 1973, he and Newcombe had a sensational victory over Rod Laver and Rosewall, 7-5, 2-6, 7-5, 7-5.
In singles play, Davidson advanced to the Australian Championship quarterfinals five times (1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1967), the Wimbledon semifinals in 1966, and the U.S. Championships quarterfinals twice (1966, 1967).
Davidson, who coached the British Davis Cup team from 1967 to 1970, was inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame in 2011.