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'Rod Laver' premieres January 21

LOS ANGELES — Tennis Channel will celebrate the remarkable career of Australia’s greatest player - Rod “The Rockhampton Rocket” Laver - with Signature Series: Rod Laver during the 2012 Australian Open. The latest installment of the network’s original Signature Series documentary line will debut Saturday, Jan. 21, at 9 p.m. ET. A complete schedule of episode airdates can be found on the channel’s Web site at www.tennischannel.com/schedule.

Signature Series: Rod Laver is narrated by Laver’s fellow Hall of Famer John McEnroe, who has called the Australian superstar his idol and the inspiration for his own initial desire to pick up a racquet. A contrast to the brash, Queens, N.Y.-bred image held by McEnroe, the soft-spoken, modest Aussie recounts his rise to stardom, career bridging tennis’ amateur and “Open” eras, and highlights in a resume of on-court brilliance that is unlikely to be surpassed. Many consider Laver to be the greatest tennis player of all time.

While dominating the sport for more than a decade, Laver accomplished the signature feat for which he is most widely associated: the collection of not just one, but two “Calendar Slams” (the winning of all four tennis majors in a single calendar year). For perspective, not only has no other tennis player ever done it twice, only one other men’ tennis player - Don Budge in 1938 - has ever done it at all. What makes Laver’s accomplishment even more extraordinary is that his Calendar Slams are separated by almost a decade, with the first in 1962 and the second in 1969, despite seven years of aging on his part in between. This, coupled with the fact that much of his prime took place before tennis’ “Open Era” began in 1968, a time when professional players were barred from competing in any of the four majors, has left both tennis enthusiasts and sports historians wondering how many Wimbledon, US Open, French Open and Australian Open crowns Laver might have ended up with, were he competing under today’s less-stringent rules.

“Rod Laver’s career straddled tennis’ transition from the traditional, amateur era to the big business, ‘Open Era’ that exists today, and he excelled in both,” said Laura Hockridge, vice president, original programming, Tennis Channel. “Signature Series sheds new light on this great champion and how his dominance and unparalleled achievements helped spawn the tennis boom of the 1970s.”

Laver won 11 Grand Slam singles championships before being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1981. Today, the largest stadium at the Australian Open is named Rod Laver Arena.

As opposed to the array of talking heads that wax poetic throughout typical documentaries, Laver and McEnroe narrate this entire Signature Series feature. The film was shot and produced in high definition with hundreds of archival photos and rare video highlights including: the winning points from Laver’s 1962 and 1969 Calendar Slams; his appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and all-around sports-competition series Superstars; his “passing of the torch” showdown against the younger Jimmy Connors at Caesars Palace; and his return to Davis Cup play for Australia in 1973.

Signature Series: Rod Laver is the sixth edition in Tennis Channel’s ongoing Signature Series line, which debuted in 2009. Other tennis personalities and subjects have included Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Rene Lacoste, Vitas Gerulaitis and the sport’s centuries-old origins.

 

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