Noel Callaghan - The Player

Noel Callaghan as a 6 year old
Noel Callaghan with Roche and Bowrey

At the age of nine Noel won a couple of prestigious u/11 events including the Illawarra Open Junior Championships and now a whole year older was starting to win a lot more matches in the u/13 events.

With lots of attention focused on the now 10 year old, Noel was approached by Fox Movie Tone to star alongside Tony Roche and Bill Bowrey in a Dunlop Cinema Production which was aired in the movie theatres around the Country. Noel was now sponsored by Dunlop. Noel was selected to represent North Western Suburbs Tennis Association in the u/14 Inter District Team. Together with sister Paula they cleaned up all the u/13 events in the North Western Suburbs District Championships. This same year Noel's father started driving Noel to Gosford on a Saturday morning to have 'group' lessons with the great Charlie Hollis. Charlie was pobably around 60 years of age and coached Rod Laver at a young age to greatness. Charlie was an absolute character, swore like a trooper and raved about the World Champions of his era like Donald Budge and Ellsworth Vines. Charlie was a great coach...

Just before Noel's 12th birthday in 1967 he had the wonderful privilege of playing with the great Lew Hoad. Lew had had back troubles and was getting ready to leave for Spain to start his Tennis Camp in Fuengirola, near Malaga.  Lew, who had heard of this new wonder kid, spent an hour with Noel with all the local kids watching on. Lew was one of the true Legendary characters of the game whom Noel had the great fortune to catch up with again later as a young touring Pro, what a wonderful memory.

Noel Callaghan started playing tennis at six years of age, just like his four older siblings Noel was coached under the guidance of well known local coach Peter Newman in the North Western suburb of Sydney called Gladesville.

At the age of seven Noel won his very first tournament, a "B" grade doubles event with his big brother Kerry who was 13 at the time. It was held at Sid Drake's coaching courts at Bayview, a suburb along Sydney's Northern Beaches.

From the age of eight Noel was competing in most of the local Sydney tournaments including the State Championships. Most of the events were u/13 where Noel (giving away five years) would win only some of his matches. Big sister Paula (10) and Noel were Runner up in the Parramatta School and Age u/11 Mixed Doubles. Paula and Noel and some of their friends also won the local Saturday afternoon adult
C2 Grade Competition.

For the next few years Noel didn't lose a match in his age group. From the age of 11 through to 17 he collected 25 Metropolitan, State or National Titles only losing occasionally to older players. He won the Qld State Championships only losing three games in six matches and just for good measure also took out the Doubles Crown. Noel represented New South Wales in the Linton Cup Teams event (u/19) which they won and also collected the Australian Hardcourt u/19 Doubles Championships with good pal Chris Kachel.

At 13 years of age Noel was sitting at Centre Court, White City with coach Charlie Hollis watching Rod Laver destroying Ray Moore from South Africa in The NSW Open Championships (now known as The Sydney International). As they shook hands Charlie turned to Noel and said, "come on lets go and meet the Rocket". Charlie and the very excited young Noel met up with Rod as he's signing autographs under the Northern Grandstand at White City in the tunnel. "Rocket", says Charlie, "this is that kid I was telling you about, Noel Callaghan meet Rod Laver". Noel was in awe of meeting his idol, the Great Rodney "Rocket" Laver, after polite banter between the two Rocket says to Noel, "let me go and change my shirt and we'll hit some balls". Within minutes they are on an outside grasscourt sharing with two other tournament players and hit together for 30 minutes. This man was No.1 in the world and you would have to ask yourself - would you see this today?  So excited was Noel to have this wonderful memory which was truly one of the greatest tennis highlights of his life.

At the age of 17 Noel bit the bullet and started travelling as a professional player, his first trip was with his parents and Paula which turned into a holiday for them and work for Noel. This was a wonderful trip travelling that year with mates Terry Saunders, Mark Edmondson, Chris Walsh, Steve Wright and Rick Garey.

 

It was 1973 the first year of The ATP which players knew very little about since everything was transmitted in those days in literature, no internet of course. Noel had nothing to do with ATP that first year as there was little prize money involved so concentrated on 'Money Tournaments' which took him all over Europe before heading back to Australia.  This trend continued for many years, Noel travelling with his great tennis buddies all over Europe but now adding some ATP events in the mix.  ATP prize money was nothing like it is today so players were rewarded much better from money tournaments. In those days with the ATP Newsletter being their only source of news, Noel's ranking was once published at 250, but by the time computers and more efficient processes were put in place a lot of players weren't recognised for those early day tournaments which resulted in many true records missing.

In any case over those wonderful touring years Noel chalked up titles in Ireland, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Spain and Switzerland. He competed at Wimbledon five times whereby both Noel and fellow Aussie Jenny Walker made the round of 16 in 1976, losing a tight 3 setter on Centre Court. They collected five pounds each for their efforts. Those years were full of some of the most wonderful and funny memories for Noel as he is in an exclusive category for a player to have experienced a Wimbledon Centre Court Match - one of the highlights of his career.

NOEL  as a six year old

Shooting MOVIETONE Newsreel

Noel Callaghan and siblings

The CALLAGHAN siblings

Noel Callaghan and Lew Hoad

11 year old NOEL with LEW HOAD

Noel Callaghan with Ken Rosewall

At BP clinic with KEN ROSEWALL

Basing himself in Germany from 1978 to 1984 was a great central point of Europe. Noel could continue to play ATP, Money Tournaments, German Club tennis and started his hand with coaching. Noel became the Central Rhine State Champion and was ranked No.1 in the State. He went on to play German Club Tennis for The Kurhaus Tennis Club in Aachen before playing several years of the prestigious 'Bundesliga' for The Tennis Club Weiden in Cologne.  Whilst in Germany, fellow Australian Ken Hiskins and Noel entered the Guiness Book of Records for staging 'The Longest Point' where they rallied for 3 hours 8 minutes which comprised of around 7,000 shots.

Over the years of playing Noel had the great pleasure of competing against some of the World's best players, these include top 10s : Arthur Ashe, Tony Roche, Roscoe Tanner, Owen Davidson, Stan Smith, Bob Lutz, Ilie Nastase.

Upon Noel's return to Sydney, Australia in the mid eighties Noel played his first and only Over 35s Seniors event winning the NSW State Championships Singles and doubles together with Mark Edmondson. This propelled Noel into the Australian Team where together with Peter McNamara, Paul McNamee and Rob Casey they won the Italia Cup for Australia in Melbourne in 1991. Noel competed in a further three Italia Cups in Italy, Argentina and Germany as by this time his coaching commitments were in demand on a global scale.

Noel Callaghan playing Ashe and Tanner in Beckenham

Beckenham lead up to Wimbledon