December 14

This Day in History

Sports

Dec 14, 1946:

Stan Smith is born

On this day in 1946, the American tennis champion Stan Smith is born in Pasadena, California. A three-time All-American at the University of Southern California (USC), Smith captured the NCAA singles title in 1968 and the doubles title in 1967 and 1968. With his USC doubles partner, Bob Lutz, Smith went on to form one of the most successful teams of all time, winning more than 50 titles, including the U.S. Open four times (1968, 1974, 1978 and 1980) and the Australian Open once in 1970.

Smith also had an impressive singles career, and is particularly known for his stellar performance for the U.S. Davis Cup team. Over an 11-year Cup career, Smith contributed significantly to seven U.S. victories (1968-72 and 1978-9). He won the clinching point for his team 16 times--three times in singles, and 13 times in doubles (with Lutz and Erik van Dillen). In 1971, Smith was the runner-up at Wimbledon, where he lost in five sets to John Newcombe of Australia. Later that year, he took the U.S. Open singles title, beating the Czech player Jan Kodes in a four-set match that was the first to end in a tie-breaker. Smith’s 1972 Wimbledon victory, over the volatile Ilie Nastase, is remembered as one of the great Grand Slam finals. Also in 1972, Smith scored each of the three U.S. points in a match against Romania, beating Nastase and Ion Tiriac in singles and teaming with van Dillen to defeat a Nastase-Tiriac team in doubles, for a fifth straight U.S. Davis Cup victory.

Early in his career, Smith was drafted into the U.S. Army, and served a two-year tour of duty (1970-72). During this time, he continued to focus on his tennis, and was used by the Army on recruitment tours and visits to hospitals to build morale. Ranked in the world top ten for six straight years from 1970, Smith ended the 1972 season ranked number one in the world. His career spanned the amateur and open eras of tennis, and he won more than 100 titles overall in singles and doubles. After retiring from tennis, Smith became active in the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and eventually opened his own training academy in Hilton Head, South Carolina. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987.

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