Just two teams featured in the Davis Cup finals in the 1960s – the USA and Australia.
A grand total of four nations featured in the finals in the first 60 years of the Davis Cup: the USA, Australia (or Australasia as it was between 1905 and 1922), Great Britain (or the British Isles from 1903 to 1912) and France.
The 1960s marked the end of this period of dominance. Even though during these ten years just two teams – the USA and Australia – lifted the trophy, the decade marked a change in focus with new nations appearing on the world stage to contest the final, including Italy, Spain, Romania and India.
The first three finals of the decade were won by Australia, under the watchful eye of captain-coach Harry Hopman, who was soon to enter the record books, amassing a total of 16 Davis Cup titles during his periods in charge from 1939 to 1967.
All three of these first finals – the Challenge rounds where the interzonal winners won the chance to challenge the defending champions – were on home soil for the Australians, in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane respectively. The first two were against Italy.
In 1960, a formidable Australian line-up of Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Neale Fraser took on an Italian team that included Nicola Pietrangeli – who just that year had won his second consecutive Roland-Garros title. Pietrangeli and compatriot Orlando Sirola were no match for the Australians however, and it was only in the last match that Pietrangeli prevailed to take a consolation point for Italy: the Australians winning 4-1.
There was a similar story in 1961. The characters – both the Italians and the Australians - were the same, but this time the Italians couldn’t make it on to the scoreboard, with the Australians taking the title 5-0.
1962 welcomed a new challenger. Mexico travelled to Brisbane, where Rafael Osuna (who would reach the world No.1 ranking the following year) and compatriot Antonio Palafox – the pair having won the doubles title at the US Open that year – attempted to break the Australian stranglehold on the competition.
Laver: Calendar year Grand Slam winner turned professional
But 1962 was a special year for the Australians. Laver had just completed the calendar year Grand Slam, beating Emerson in the Australian Open, Roland-Garros and US Open finals. Laver, Fraser and Emerson were just too strong for the Mexicans: only Fraser’s singles match against Osuna went the full five sets.
At the end of the year, Laver turned professional, ruling him out of future Australian Davis Cup teams (he would not compete again in the competition until 1973, when the Davis Cup allowed professional players).
Australia were in the final again in 1963, but this time had to make do with the runners-up spot to the USA. Played in Adelaide, and with a young John Newcombe joining the team, America’s Chuck McKinley and Dennis Ralston took the fight to the Aussies, eventually prevailing 3-2.
But 1963 was just a blip, and the Australians were back to winning ways in 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1967, first over the Americans in Cleveland, and then on home soil against Spain, India and then Spain again.
Spain's entry to top tier of world tennis
The 1965 and 1967 finals marked Spain’s entry to the very top tier of world tennis. In the first meeting, the Spaniards travelled to Sydney, where only Manuel Santana, with two Roland-Garros and one US Open titles to his name, could take a point for his nation.
Two years later, Spain welcomed the Australians to Barcelona. Santana had added a Wimbledon trophy to his cabinet, and he and a young Manuel Orantes took on the might of Emerson, Newcombe and Roche. But once again, the scoreline was 4-1 to Australia.
The 1966 final was the first of three occasions in the history of the Davis Cup that India would make the final. On this occasion, travelling to Melbourne, the doubles pairing of Ramanathan Krishnan and Jaidip Mukerjea got the better of John Newcombe and Tony Roche, but it wasn’t enough to take the title and they returned to India after a 4-1 defeat.
The United States firmly dominated the end of the decade with a win over Australia in 1968, heralding a run of six consecutive titles, including a 5-0 victory over Romania in Cleveland to close out the decade.