March 1, 1946, Prague, Czechoslovakia|
Citizenship: Czech Republic
the grim-faced Jan Kodes, who clawed and battled to many a victory, though
seemingly exhausted. As a sportsman he was even more a hero to many of his
countrymen for his refusal to leave the repressed country as Jaroslav Drobny,
Martina Navratilova and Ivan Lendl had done. Thus they shared more fully in
his major triumphs: Wimbledon of 1973, and the French of 1970 and 1971.
A compact, muscular 5-foot-9
right-hander, Kodes was a standout and dogged groundstroker. He volleyed well,
too, but was disdainful of grass even though he signaled his ability there in
1971 by knocking top-seeded John Newcombe out of the U.S. Open in the first
round, 2-6, 7-6 (5-1), 7-6 (5-1), 6-3. Nothing like that had happened since
1930 when Berkeley Bell grounded top foreign seed Jean Borotra in the opening
Pushing upward and onward, all
the while moaning about "this joke tennis, this grass," Jan, beaten
in the first round at Wimbledon, next escaped Pierre Barthes, (2-6, 5-7, 6-4,
6-4, 6-4), who served at 4-3, 40-30 in the fifth. In the semis he startled
third-seeded Arthur Ashe, 7-6 (5-3), 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, to become an unseeded
U.S. finalist. He didn't break in tiebreakers (four-for-four) until the last
one finished his astonishing journey: Stan Smith beat him in the final, 3-6,
6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (5-3). Two years later he was the Wimbledon champ, defeating
Alex Metreveli, 6-1, 9-8, 6-3 in straight sets. Historically, this was the
first ever tie-breaker in the Wimbledon final.
Two months later at the US Open,
after his wins over Alexander and Pilic, he defeated no.1 seed Stan Smith at
the semifinal, 7-5, 6-7, 1-6, 6-1, 7-5. Then he fought Newcombe through a
brilliant five-set U.S. final, losing 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 2-6, 3-6.
Kodes, seventh-seeded, easily
beat Zeljko Franulovic, 6-2, 6-4, 6-0, to win the French in 1970. The
following year defended the French title where countered the artistry of Ilie
Nastase, 8-6, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5, but fell to Patrick Proisy in the 1972 quarters,
3-6, 8-6, 6-2, 2-6, 1-6 when the last two sets where played on the next day
due to darkness.
As a devoted Davis Cupper, he
played 15 years and 39 series for Czechoslovakia beginning in 1966, and was
among the top 20 players in matches played (95) and won (60): 39-20 in singles,
21-15 in doubles. He led the team to the 1975 Cup round, a 3-2 defeat by
Sweden at Stockholm, and played a cameo doubles role along the way in 1980 as
he realized a dream-the Cup for Czechoslovakia, Lendl-powered.
Besides his three majors he won
nine pro titles in singles, 17 in doubles and accumulated $693,197 in career
prize money. Jan was in the World Top Ten in 1971 and 1973. Born March 1,
1946, in Prague, he has served as his country's Davis Cup captain (1982-1987),
president of the Czech Tennis Association (1994-1998), tournament director of
ATP Czech Open tournament (1987-1998), and entered the Hall of Fame in 1990.
In 1988 he was awarded ITF Award for Services in the Game.