September 20, 2020

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RIP Ashley Cooper, 1936-2020

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Australian tennis legend Ashley Cooper was a French Championships away from winning a calendar Grand Slam in 1958 – four years before countryman Rod Laver did it.

Handsome devil.

He made the semifinals in Paris, up two sets to none before Luis Ayala beat him 7-5 in the fifth set.

After winning the US Open that year, he didn’t play in another Grand Slam – one of the players who had to turn pro to make a living but in the process, lost the 10 prime years of his career.

In all, he won four Grand Slam singles titles and four more in doubles.

One of the many accomplished graduates of the infamous Harry Hopman boot camp in the Aussie’s golden era, Cooper died Friday at the age of 83.

He turned pro on Jan. 4, 1959 with the Jack Kramer group, a week after he married the reigning Miss Australia Helen Wood.

Once the game went pro, he only played a couple of events – the French Open in 1968 – where he never hit a ball, winning the first round by walkover and then losing by walkover – and one match at a tournament in Hong Kong in 1973.