Billie Jean King leads tributes to Gordon Forbes

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CAPE TOWN – South African tennis legend Gordon Forbes, one of the world’s leading tennis doubles players in the 1950s & ’60s, died in the Garden Route seaside town of Plettenberg Bay on Wednesday.

He played in all the Grand Slam events, and very often in all three disciplines of singles, doubles and mixed doubles. His doubles partnership with the late Abe Segal was one best in the world and reached the French Open final in 1963.

His only Grand Slam win came in 1955 when he partnered American Darlene Hard and won the French Open Mixed Doubles title.

Forbes belonged to an era where SA tennis attracted the world’s best players for the annual SA Open. As a result, it was known as the ‘World’s Fifth Major’ for a while and it was not unusual for the SA Open to feature at least six or seven world top-tenners.

After his playing days, Forbes served national tennis for a few years in various administrative capacities. He was part of the unification process of SA tennis in the early 1990s.

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One of the first luminaries to pay tribute to Forbes was former World No 1 and four-time Wimbledon winner American Billie Jean King.

“Gordon Forbes was a terrific South African tennis player, and also a gifted writer. I loved his book on tennis ‘ A Handful of Summers’.

“Our condolences to his son Gavin and the rest of his family.”

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Tennis player Gordon Forbes demonstrates his backhand during practice at Ellis Park in the 1960s (exact date not known) Photo: Sunday Tribune Archives

Craig Tiley, one of the worlds foremost tennis administrators, said Forbes had offered him great support during his career. The SA-born Tiley is the CEO of Tennis Australia and Director of the Australian Open.

Tiley’s tribute read: “Thinking of the great Gordon Forbes. I will be forever grateful for his support. I cared for him deeply.

“Gordon’s life was full of accomplishments, too many to list. A Handful of Summers is my favourite book of all time. My thoughts are with Gordon’s family at this sad time.”

Another former SA tennis star Leon Norgarb said Forbes’ playing style was greatly admired by his peers.

“Here was a player who experts described as ‘flawless’ because you could not pinpoint a weakness. He had a strong mind which helped him to remain calm under pressure,” said Norgarb.

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Tennis legend Billie Jean King. Photo: Reuters

Forbes, 86, is survived by his wife Frances, son Gavin and daughter Ashley.


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