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The tennis player (Ken Rosewall), 2010

Sinead Davies

oil on canvas (support: 185 cm x 185 cm)

Ken Rosewall AM MBE (b. 1934), though never the world’s number one tennis player, is often cited as the one who performed the best for longest. Coached in Sydney by Harry Hopman, nicknamed ‘Muscles’ on account of his slight stature, he won his first major titles, the Australian and French singles, in 1953 at the age of eighteen. At the close of the 1977 season, aged forty-three, he was still ranked number 12 in the game. Altogether, Rosewall won 18 major titles in singles, doubles and mixed, the sixth-highest male total. He won the US open in 1956 and again in 1970. There were twenty years between the first of his four Wimbledon finals, in 1954, and his last, in 1974, and nineteen years between his first Australian title in 1953 and his last in 1972 (he remains both the youngest person to win the title, and the oldest). Rosewall turned professional in 1957 and in due course became the second player (after Rod Laver) to earn more than a million dollars from tennis, but the ban on professionals from 1957 to 1967 precluded his participation in many Grand Slam events. Wimbledon was the only big singles title that eluded him, although he won the doubles with Lew Hoad in 1953 and 1956 (in 1968 the Wimbledon men’s doubles was an all-Australian event, with Rosewall and Fred Stolle up against John Newcombe and Tony Roche; the younger men triumphed). In Newcombe’s opinion, Rosewall is ‘probably the most accurate hitter of the ball that has ever been’. Between 1953 and 1972 Rosewall won four Australian, two French and two US singles championship titles. Asked about tennis in 1977 he said ‘it’s something I enjoy and find I still do well’. Rosewall was inducted into the international Tennis Hall of Fame in 1980, and its Australian counterpart in 1995. In 2008, the centre court of the Sydney Olympic tennis venue was named in his honour.

Sinead Davies, born in Ireland, studied at the Byam Shaw School in London from 1976 to 1980, winning the Byam Shaw Scholarship in 1978 and the British Foundation Institute Award of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1980. She moved to Australia in 1983 and worked as a design consultant before returning to art full-time in 2006. Hers is the first painted portrait of Ken Rosewall.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2010

Accession number: 2010.162

Currently on display: Gallery Six (Tim Fairfax Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Sinead Davies

Ken Rosewall AM MBE (age 76 in 2010)

Subject professions

Sports and recreation

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