Australian tennis player Owen Owen, who formed a dominant mixed doubles team with Billie Jean King in the 1960s and 70s, winning eight Grand Slam titles with her and five doubles titles with other partners. Davidson died Friday in Conroe, Texas. Suburbs of Houston. he was 79 years old.
According to longtime friend Isabel Zuriga, the cause was cancer.
Davidson came of age in the same Australian tennis heyday as Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson, John Newcombe and Margaret Court.
Unlike those players, Davidson never achieved any notable success in singles tennis, never progressing beyond the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament. But his easygoing personality, sportsmanship, and prowess with lob-inducing serves and volleys have made him one of the sport’s strongest doubles players.
Between 1965 and 1974, he won 11 mixed doubles major titles and two men’s doubles titles. In 1967, he swept the major mixed doubles tournaments, winning the Australian Open with fellow countryman Leslie Turner-Bowley, then the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open with King.
Davidson and King began training outside Melbourne in 1964 with Australian great Marvin Rose. On the first day of camp, King felt a shot from Davidson fly “like a pinball” around the court, she recalled in her 2021 autobiography, All In.
“I’ve always said that Australian guys made me No. 1, and those sessions were a big part of that,” she wrote.
They won their first Grand Slam title at the 1967 French Open.
In a phone interview, King said of the high-profile players he’s partnered with, including Newcombe and Dennis Ralston, “I’ve played with a lot of great players, but not with others. I couldn’t win,” he said.
Conversely, she and Davidson struck a harmonious balance between her optimism and competitiveness and Davidson’s steadfastness and humility. “He was not Mr. Exsberant,” she said. “He’s more of a Steady Eddy.”
Davidson’s physical strengths included a strong overhead on the weak right flank. King likened his serve to that of a cricket bowler. And his team will play at the net.
“He let me hit a lot of volleys that most players don’t,” King said. “They will go in and try to hit the volley first.”
This was especially useful during their epic showdown against Court Riesen and Marty Riessen at Wimbledon in 1971.
Davidson and King lost the first set 3-6, but won the next 6-2. The final set was inconclusive after 27 games.
“All four were in the net and just punching each other,” King said.
Wimbledon rules then stipulated that the final set must be won by two games. King saw the sun beginning to set and threatened that the match would be postponed to the next day.
“I said to him, ‘Owen, we have to get this done. We can’t wait until tomorrow,'” recalls King. “I’m like a cheerleader. He said, ‘Okay.’ Alright, let’s go. ‘”
Davidson and King won the final set 15-13.
Owen Kier Davidson was born on October 4, 1943 in Melbourne.
As a singles player, he won the first match of the so-called Open Era, in which both amateurs and professionals entered a major tennis tournament.
In April 1968, at the West Hunts Tennis Club in the coastal town of Bournemouth on the south coast of England, professional Davidson beat English amateur John Clifton 6-2, 6-6. 3, beat 4-6. , 8-6. He lost to Rosewall in the quarterfinals.
He also reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 1966, upset Emerson, but lost to Spanish player Manuel Santana.
Davidson and Angie Davidson’s first marriage ended in divorce. His second marriage to Arlene Davidson lasted for almost 20 years until her death about 10 years ago.
He is survived by a son from his first marriage, Cameron, and a brother, Trevor. He lived near Conroe in Woodlands. Woodlands was a planned community, and Davidson had worked intermittently as a tennis professional at the country club since 1974.
As a result of lobbying on King’s behalf, Davidson was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2010.
Every time King called Davidson, it seemed like he was watching the Tennis Channel. “What do you think of this player, that player?” she remembered him asking. King had “a good eye for who did well and who didn’t,” King said.