Bored this evening, my thoughts turned to the summer and the pleasures of Wimbledon. With that came a serious surf for information on John Lloyd. The results of this effort was this piece for Wikipedia which I hope does the man justice:
John Lloyd is a British professional tennis player, who’s finest moment came in December 1977 when he was the finalist in the Australian Open, losing to Vitas Gerulaitis (USA) in five sets, after trailing two sets to love. To date (January 2005) he remains the only British man to reach the final of a grand-slam singles tournament in the open era.
Born on the 27th August 1954 in Leigh-on-Sea, England, Lloyd reached his official peak aged nearly 24 with a ranking of 21st in the world in July 1978. A thoughtful and somewhat temperamental player, Lloyd found the pressures of the fanatically patriotic Wimbledon crowd hard to handle. Despite grass being his best surface he was unable to gain strength from “home advantage” and never progressed beyond the 3rd round in tennis’ most famous tournament. On the grass in the more laid-back atmosphere of the Australian Open 12,000 miles from home, he was able to relax and express himself to much greater effect.
A classical serve and volley player, Lloyd had superb “touch” and a range of volleys that made him deadly close to the net. His stroke play was a pleasure to watch, being correct and seemingly effortless – like many a top athlete he often made the most difficult shots look easy. By the elite standards of grand-slam tennis, the rest of his game was competent, although his serve was only ever adequate. Sadly, the mental side of his game was never a strong point, and against the very best he had a tendency to over-analyse and “choke” under extreme pressure.
Teamed with the Australian Wendy Turnbill, Lloyd gave the Wimbledon crowds something to cheer about in the early 1980s, winning the mixed doubles tournament in 1983 and 1984. He also competed for Great Britain in the Davis Cup for 11 years, and has also been the non-playing team captain more recently.
Somewhat unexpectedly, Lloyd found himself transformed from a national to international celebrity in 1979 when he married. His bride was American tennis legend Chris Evert who became Chris Evert-Lloyd. The media styled “golden couple” of tennis enjoyed several years in the limelight before a separation, a short-lived reconciliation, and eventual divorce in 1987. Lloyd was obviously never happy being a celebrity, despite his good looks and easy charm. Ever the gentleman, after the divorce he refused offers of obscene amounts of money from the British tabloids eager for the “dirt” on his ex-wife.
As his career came to an end, John Lloyd has stayed within the tennis world, finding work as a coach, a television commentator, and a popular figure on the veterans circuit.
While he lacked the mystical “something” that distinguish the best players from the very-good, at his peak in the late 1970s he was equal to almost anyone across a tennis net, especially on grass.