Officially launched in the lead-up to Australian Open 2012, The Wizard provides a fascinating insight into the life and times of Sir Norman Brookes, the man generally regarded as the founding father of Australian tennis.
Speaking today at Melbourne Park, author of The Wizard, Richard Naughton, said the book was written to help people understand the importance of Brookes’ legacy within the sport of tennis in Australia and to make them aware of his long list of achievements on and off the court.
In fact, until now, despite being referred to in any number of tennis-related publications, a book dedicated solely to the great man was not in existence.
“There was a bit of an untold story,” Naughton said on his reasons behind writing the book. “And it’s so important for us to understand the history of our sporting legends.”
From winning Grand Slam and Davis Cup titles through to his long tenure as president of the Lawn Tennis Association, the story of Norman Brookes is most definitely one worthy of telling.
As the first foreigner to win Wimbledon, in 1907, he put Australian tennis on the map by ending the seemingly impenetrable dominance of the Americans and the British.
Following that success, Brookes then turned his attention to representing his country with distinction in the Davis Cup, lifting the trophy on several occasions. He also won the Australian Open in 1911 and in 1914 was again victorious at Wimbledon, this time claiming both the singles and doubles titles.
Of particular interest is his long-standing partnership with New Zealander, Anthony Wilding, who he partnered to Wimbledon and Davis Cup success (when the two nations competed as one) and actually played against him in the 1914 Wimbledon final. Together, these two men provided a force to be reckoned, arguably the two best players in the world at that time.
Following his playing career, Brookes was appointed president of the Lawn Tennis Association in 1926, a post he went on to hold for 28 years during a period when Australia was clearly the best tennis nation in the world in the forties and fifties.
“The fact that the Australian Open forms part of the Grand Slam can probably be credited to Brookes and what he achieved in that role,” Naughton said.
In fact, Brookes’ influence on the event is forever immortalised as, since 1934, the men compete each year at the Australian Open for the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup.
Perhaps one of the greatest compliments, though, comes from American Bill Tilden, who himself is regarded by many as one of the greatest players of all time. “Big Bill’ described Brookes as “the greatest tennis genius the world has ever known.”
But Naughton suggests perhaps Brookes’ biggest contribution is the fact he left Australia with the base to build mass popularity for the sport of tennis; a solid foundation which continues to grow today.
Brookes was inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame in 1996 and was honoured in the International Hall of Fame in 1977.
Norman Gengoult-Smith, Brookes’ grandson, is a great supporter of the book. The Brookes family provided access to documents and family memorabilia that added greatly to the telling of the story.