Sport: The Respectable Rocket

In 1963, after blasting every amateur in sight off the courts, Rod Laver decided to cash in on what he thought were the riches and glamour of the professional tennis circuit. He soon had second thoughts. In his U.S. pro debut he met Barry MacKay on a canvas court that had been spread across the undulating wood planking covering the Boston Garden ice-hockey rink. "Trying to return Barry's big serve on that bumpy court," recalls Laver, "was like trying to swat jackrabbits with a broom. 'Jesus,' I thought, 'so this is the pro tennis tour?' "

Laver lost 19 of his first...

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