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Tribute to Ross Sheriff


Ross Sherriff, an outstanding tennis personality and a legendary coach passed away on the 11th April, 2007. He was well known to the whole tennis community in Australia and overseas.


In 1938, Ross, then a teller in the Commonwealth Bank in Cowra, NSW, was transferred to Sydney after being selected in Australia's Davis Cup Squad. Shortly after this, he married his childhood sweetheart Doss Dickson, also from Cowra, and they took up residence in Coogee. Soon after, an opportunity presented itself in 1950 to purchase 4 tennis courts at Crinan Street, Hurlstone Park. His career spanned more than 57 years as both a player and a coach. He is probably best known for developing some of the greatest tennis talent from Australia, many of whom are mentioned below.


Ross was a very successful player in his own right. Career highlights included defeating Rod Laver and Lew Hoad during the 1950's. He also won many country and metropolitan singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles. Numerous times he won the Canterbury Bankstown District Open Singles and Doubles Championships.


As a tennis coach, he touched the lives of many young Australian players. Arguably, Ross has probably coached more prominent players over the decades than any other coach in Australian history. Among these players was Martin Mulligan. Martin became the 3 times singles winner of the Italian International Championships, runner-up at Wimbledon and in the 1960’s he became the runner-up in the Australian Singles Final, losing to Rod Laver.


Phil Dent was coached by Ross from the age of 9. In the 1970’s, Phil achieved prominence by reaching semi final status at Wimbledon and the French Singles Grand Slams. He was a finalist in the Australian Open Singles losing to Jimmy Connors. Partnering John Alexander, Phil also won many doubles titles.


Ross's three children distinguished themselves with success in the tennis world. Firstly Fred became a top line international player and coached for many years in Grafton & Northern Tablelands.


Gail represented Australia once in Fed Cup. After marrying a Frenchman, she took up residence in Paris competing ten times in Fed Cup for France. She won the French Open Doubles title 4 times with 2 different partners and under three different names at Roland Garros (Sherriff, Chanfreau & Lovera). Her second husband Jean Lovera was the architect who created the "new look" extension to Roland Garros Tennis Stadium.


Carol reached a semi-final of French Open Doubles at Roland Garros and quarter finals of Wimbledon Doubles Championships. She also holds many ITF World Singles and Doubles Titles in Senior events.


Gail & Carol are the only sisters to have played against each other in the Wimbledon Singles in the 20th Century.


Tony Roche, well known Aussie tennis personality, also had a close association with Ross and family. At 15, Tony moved from the tiny NSW town of Tarcutta to Lakemba, Sydney. Tony trained every day on the Hurlstone Park courts over the next two years, improving his game and later became one of Australia's top players. Tony is currently coaching Roger Federer, the No.1 player in the world.


Other local players include Jean Leonard (O’Brien), Catherine Barclay, Debbie Freeman, Trudi Musgrave, Pat Serrett and Rodger Waugh, father of Stephen and Mark the celebrity cricketing twins. All these players excelled by winning many tournaments locally and overseas.


Ross captained/managed many winning Linton Cup teams and was an official umpire for a number of years right through to when he was in his late 70’s.


Ross’s reputation was founded on his great enthusiasm and love of the game and his teaching style was not only based on the technical side but he excelled as a great tennis strategist. Stories abound from Ross’s former pupils, one of whom reminisced about the time when his lesson was to take place but half the court was under water. But this didn’t faze Ross. "No problem," he said, "the other half is perfectly playable!!!" That was Ross.

Amongst other things, he will be remembered for his famous words uttered to his up and coming players: "I think you have potential".


Ross is survived by his wife Doss who continues to live in Strathfield, Sydney. They had been married for 64 years. They have three children, 9 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren sprinkled around the globe.


Ross was given a wonderful send off at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium on April 16th. Over 120 people attended and celebrated his life during the afternoon tea at the home of his daughter Carol and husband Chris Campling in Denistone. Ross’s final wish was to have his ashes scattered on Billy Goat Hill at Cowra where he grew up.


Compiled by:- Gail Benedetti, Carol Campling, Lynne Abbott, Dick Crealy and Adrian Cotter.