Fred Stolle had his Wimbledon singles frustrations, but overflowed with success everywhere else as one of the overpowering Australian group in the 1960s and 1970s. He was known as “Fiery Fred” or “Fiery” to his teammates for his outspoken competitiveness.
He became known as the “Old Hacker” at the US Championships of 1966. A proven grass-court player for some time, member of winning Australian Davis Cup teams, and three times Wimbledon runner-up (1963, 1964, 1965), he was outraged on arriving at Forest Hills, fresh from winning the German title, to find himself unseeded. “I guess they think I’m just an old hacker,” he said, almost 28. Then he proceeded to win the title, the second unseeded man to do so, over unseeded John Newcombe, 4-6 12-10 6-3 6-4, chortling, “Well, I guess the old hacker can still play a bit.” Stolle had lost the 1964 US Championships to Emerson 6-4 6-2 6-4.
Like the great German Baron Gottfied Von Cramm, Stolle had the rare distinction of being runner-up in three successive Wimbledon singles championships from 1963 to 1965. In 1963 Stolle lost to American Chuck McKinley, 9-7 6-1 6-4, and for the next two years to fellow Australian Roy Emerson. In 1964, he pushed Emerson hard to go down 6-1 12-10 4-6 6-3 in a match that is remembered as one of the better Wimbledon finals. In 1965 he lost in straight sets to Emerson 6-2 6-4 6-4.
At the Australian championships, Stolle was runner up to Emerson in 1964 and 1965. It was in straight sets, 6-3 6-4 6-2, in 1964, but Stolle pushed Emerson to the end with a grueling five setter in 1965, 7-9 2-6 6-4 7-5 6-1.
He won the French in 1965 beating fellow Aussie Tony Roche, 3-6 6-0 6-2 6-3, showing that he could be patient at the baseline, too, although his strengths were a high-velocity serve, stinging volleys and a splendid backhand. These paid off in his 15 major doubles titles. He is one of 11 men to win all four doubles majors. He won the Australian doubles in 1963, 1964, and 1966 and the mixed in 1962 and 1969. At Wimbledon he won the doubles in 1962 and 1964 and the mixed in 1961, 1964, and 1969. He won the French doubles in 1965 and 1968, and the US doubles in 1965, 1966, and 1969. He also won the Italian doubles in 1963, 1964, and 1966 and the mixed in 1962.
As a member of three victorious Australian Davis Cup teams, 1964, 1965 and 1966, he scored his most memorable win the first year in the Cup round at Cleveland, 7-5 6-3 3-6 9-11 6-4, over Dennis Ralston. Down a break in the fifth, with his side trailing 2-1, Stolle pulled it out so that Emerson could win the Cup-lifting clincher over Chuck McKinley. Perhaps his lead-off win in the following year’s Cup finale meant more since it was in his hometown, Sydney, and he had to dig himself from a very deep hole to beat the Spanish ace, Manolo Santana, 10-12 3-6 6-1 6-4 7-5, to send the Aussies on their way.
His career spanned the amateur and open eras, and he was in the World Top Ten for four years from 1963 to 1966, reaching number two in 1964. He turned pro in 1967, and as a pro won two singles and 13 doubles titles, and about $500,000 in career prize money. He had his last game in the US in 1972, at 33, beating 5th and 11th seeds Newcombe and Cliff Drysdale to make it through to the quarters, where he lost to the champ, Ilie Nastase, 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-2.
Stolle worked as a teaching pro, was player-coach of the title-winning New York Apples of World Team Tennis in 1976 and 1977, and of Australia ten times in the now disbanded World Cup against the US, from 1970 to 1979.
Fred has been a commentator for Channel Nine at Wimbledon since 1979 and with ESPN in the USA. He is also president and founder of Grand Slam Sports Marketing, a company owned by ten other Grand Slam tennis champions.
In 1985 he was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame at Newport, Rhode Island, USA. Stolle was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2005 for service to tennis as a player, coach and media commentator, and to promoting Australian sport and culture internationally.