Owen Davidson, Who Won 8 Grand Slams With Billie Jean King, Dies at 79-News

Owen Davidson, the Australian tennis player who formed a major mixed team with Billie Jean King in the 1960s and 70s, won eight Grand Slam titles with her, and five titles with other partners, died on Friday in Conroe, Texas. , the city of Houston. He was 79 years old.

The cause was cancer, former friend Isabel Suliga said.

Davidson came of age during the Australian tennis era, with friends such as Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson, John Newcombe and Margaret Court.

Unlike those players, Davidson did not have much success in singles tennis, never reaching the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament. But his birth, athleticism, attention-grabbing and volleying skills made him one of the most powerful players in the game.

From 1965 to 1974, he won 11 major titles including two men’s doubles titles. In 1967, she swept every major mixed event, winning the Australian Open with her mother Lesley Turner Bowrey and winning the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open with King.

Davidson and King trained together from 1964 in Melbourne with the Australian master. Mervyn Rose. On his first day in prison, King heard that he was being sent around the court “like a pinball” shooting Davidson, he recalled in his 2021 biography, “All In.”

“I’ve always said that Australian men made me number 1, and the sessions were the most important part,” he wrote.

The pair won their first Grand Slam in 1967 at the French Open.

“I played with a lot of great players, but I didn’t win with them,” King recalled in a telephone interview, referring to the leading men he teamed up with, such as Newcombe and Dennis Ralston.

He and Davidson, by contrast, shared his optimism and competitiveness as well as his poise and humility. “He was not a Happy Father,” he said. “He’s a regular Eddy.”

Davidson’s athletic strengths included his strong head on his weak right side; his service, which the King compares to a cricket bowler of giving; and his team plays on the net.

“He let me take a lot of volleys that a lot of guys wouldn’t,” King said. “He went in and tried to take the volley first.”

This was especially useful in the pair’s big match against Court and Marty Riessen at Wimbledon in 1971.

Davidson and King lost the first set 3-6 and won the next 6-2. The final set remained undecided after 27 games.

“All four of us can be at the net, just hanging out,” King said.

Wimbledon rules then stated that the final set must be won in two games. King saw that the sun was starting to set, he threatened to delay the end of the next day.

“I told him, ‘Owen, we have to finish this, we can’t wait until tomorrow,'” King recalled. “I’m like a cheerleader. He said, ‘Okay. Let’s go.'”

Davidson and King won the final set 15-13.

Owen Keir Davidson was born on Oct. 4, 1943, in Melbourne.

As a singles player, he won the first match of the so-called Open Era, when major tennis tournaments welcomed both players and professionals.

In that gamein April 1968 at the West Hants Tennis Club in Bournemouth, a seaside town in the south of England, Davidson, then a professional, beat British player John Clifton, 6-2, 6-3, 4-6 , 8- 6. Lost in the quarterfinals to Rosewall.

He also reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 1966, which upset Emerson but lost to the Spanish player. Manuel Santana.

Davidson’s first marriage, to Angie Davidson, ended in divorce. His second marriage, to Arlene Davidson, lasted nearly 20 years, until her death nearly a decade ago.

She is survived by her son from her first marriage, Cameron, and her brother, Trevor. He lived near Conroe in The Woodlands, an area where his hometown team Davidson had worked as a professional tennis player since 1974.

With King urging him on, Davidson was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2010.

Whenever King called Davidson, he appeared to be watching the Tennis Channel. “What do you think of this player or that player?” he remembered asking. The king said, “he had a good eye for who can do well and who can’t.”

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