‘A wonderful champion’: Australian tennis mourns passing of Ashley Cooper

Rod Laver has led the tributes for fellow Australian tennis great Ashley Cooper following his death at age 83 after a long battle with illness.

Laver took to Twitter to express his sadness, as he remembered the four-time major singles champion and Davis Cup winner.

“He was a wonderful champion, on and off the court. And what a backhand! So many cherished memories. Farewell my friend. My thoughts are with Ashley’s wife, Helen, and his family,” Laver posted after offering a statement to TA.

“You learn from the top. I am looking at Frank Sedgman and Ken McGregor and Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall and Ashley Cooper and all these guys.

“Neale Fraser, and they ruled the world in tennis, a whole group from the 50s to the 70s I guess and that was something that was part of the whole mould.

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“Everybody respected everybody’s ability on the court and gave everybody the chance. If you win, you shake their hand. And if you lose, well then that is what happened.”

Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said Cooper deserved to be described as a legend of the sport.

“Ashley was a giant of the game both as a brilliant player and an astute administrator and he will be greatly missed,” Tiley said.

Competing in Australia’s halcyon days against legends like Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall and Neale Fraser, Cooper won three of the four majors in 1958 — the Australian, Wimbledon and US Championships.

He collected two Australian titles, as well as four major doubles crowns.

Cooper led Australia’s 1957 Davis Cup team, which included Mal Anderson and Merv Rose, to victory over the United States in the Challenge Round at Kooyong.

The following year the result was reversed, and Cooper was so upset by the loss he tried to withdraw from a professional contract he had signed with Jack Kramer because he felt he owed Australia.

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His public profile rose even higher when he married Helen Wood, the reigning Miss Australia in 1959.

Their wedding attracted more than 3,000 spectators, some of whom clambered onto the car trying to get a closer look at the golden couple.

After a back injury cruelly cut short his professional career, Cooper returned to Brisbane where he had a successful business career and then served Tennis Queensland and Tennis Australia as an administrator.

Throughout his life Cooper was honoured for the roles he played, including with the Order of Australia.

He was also inducted into the International and Australian Tennis Halls of Fame plus the Queensland Sports Hall of Fame.

A walking bridge giving visitors access to the Queensland Tennis Centre is named in his memory.

AAP