Lorne Main once revealed the secret of his success in seniors tennis.
“It starts with the serve,” he explained. “It doesn’t have to be a rocket but if it’s well-placed, you’re halfway there.”
Main, who died last October at the age of 89, had more than a well-placed serve going for him as he dominated seniors tennis like no other individual .He won more than 40 world championships in singles, doubles, mixed doubles and team events.
The International Tennis Federation recognized his contributions to seniors tennis this month when it decided to name the men’s 85 and over world championship team event the Lorne Main Cup.
It was the second time the ITF honoured Main. In 2012, he became the first winner of the ITF Outstanding Achievement Award.
Main’s tennis career spanned 80 years and consisted of two parts. In his younger days, he appeared in 13 Grand Slam tournaments, represented Canada in Davis Cup competiton and in 1954 became the first Canadian man to win a major international tournament when he defeated American Tony Vincent in the final of the prestigious clay-court event at Monte Carlo.
Bud Collins, the TV commentator and tennis historian, credited Main with being the first player to hit hid forehand and backhand with two hands.
That was in the days before prize money and Main quit the circuit to work in advertising and support his family.
His first wife, Ivy died of alcohol-related problems and Main himself struggled with alcoholism. When he died, he had been sober for 46 years.
Main returned to tournament tennis at the age of 56, winning a world championship in his first attempt. Main, who was now hitting one-handed shots on both sides, would go on to win world singles titles in every age group from 55 to 85.
When he played in North America, he would travel in his 1998 Chrysler Sebring convertible. Whenever possible, he would avoid super highways for secondary roads which took him through towns big and small. One of his favourite roads was U.S. Route 66 which runs from Chicago to Los Angeles.
He picked up a mixed doubles partner along the way. He met Australian player Adrienne Avis at a tournament in Austria in 2010. Main had to drop down a few age groups to play with her but they won a number of tournaments including the Australian seniors on grass.
He was proud to be a Canadian and proud to be an inspiration to those for whom tennis is a game for a lifetime.