Robert Bédard (tennis)
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Robert Bédard (born 13 September 1931 in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec) is a lifelong tennis player who was the Canadian #1 ranked singles player for most of the 1950s and early 1960s. He began playing tennis at the relatively late age of 15.
Bédard competed in (the main draw at) the French Championships twice, Wimbledon four times, and the U.S. Nationals eleven times. His best showing at a grand slam event was reaching the round of 32, which he did once at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon, both in 1954, and four times at Forest Hills, in 1955, '56, '59, and in 1961.
As the #1 seed Lew Hoad disposed of Bédard in the third round at the French in three close sets, 5–7, 6–8, 3–6. Then a month later in London, Hoad, the No. 2 seed eliminated Bédard in the same round in four sets, 3–6, 0–6, 6–1, 1–6.
After a first round exit in 1954, Bédard reached the third round at Forest Hills for the first in an eventual four the following year, but again it was Hoad that he came up short against. This time the No. 4 seed won the encounter 6–4, 6–4, 6–4. In 1956 he duplicated the feat, this time bowing out to unseeded American Hugh Stewart, 11–9, 2–6, 4–6, 4–6. After going out early in the next two U.S. Nationals, he once again reached the third round in 1959, when he lost to No. 6 seed Luis Ayala, 6–8, 5–7, 6–2. He reached the same round once last time two years later, just shy of his 30th birthday. He came closest to advancing in this, his sixth attempt, going up two sets on fellow unseeded player Crawford Henry before succumbing, 7–5, 13–11, 1–6, 4–6, 2–6.
Bédard was a quarterfinalist at the 1957 Italian Open and won a silver medal at the 1959 Pan American Games. In the latter event he defeated Mexican Francisco Contreras in the semi-finals but lost the final to Luis Ayala, thus capturing the silver medal.
Bédard was the top-ranked Canadian player in singles every year from 1955 to 1965. During this time he lost only once to a fellow Canadian in competition, to Reider Getz of Vancouver, who beat Bédard in the 1964 Quebec championship.
Bédard and his partner Henri Rochon lost the doubles match in their quarter-final tie against Mexico, played at the Mount Royal Tennis Club; fortunately, Lorne Main won both of his singles rubbers, including the Round 4 match over Mario Llamas, which gave Canada an insurmountable 3–1 lead. (It was the last time Canada beat Mexico until 2001.) In the next round, also played at Mount Royal, Canada won the first three rubbers to seal victory against Cuba. He played his first singles match, losing the Round 5 dead rubber to Orlando Garrido in four sets. His next match too was a singles Round 5 dead rubber four set loss, this time to American Tut Bartzen.
In 1954, Canada opened with a tight tie win over Chile 3–2, again in Montreal. After Main came back from 2 sets to 1 down in Round 1, Bédard got his first Cup singles win, in straight sets over Ricardo Balbiers. Main and Paul Willey next lost in straight sets to Andres Hammersley and Chilean star Luis Ayala. Main came through to seal victory with hard fought win over Hammersley, 6–4, 11–13, 3–6, 6–4, 6–3. Bédard lost the Round 5 dead rubber to Ayala, 1–6, 3–6, 1–6.
Canada began 1955 Cup play with an expected comfortable opening win over the West Indies. Bédard defeated Trinidadian Ian McDonald in four sets in Round 1 and teamed with Don Fontana to win the doubles rubber in straight sets, as Canada won 5–0. Canada next faced 1954 runner-up and eventual 1955 champion Australia in the America Group final. Played in Montreal, Bédard had the inenviable task of opening proceedings against World No. 2 (amateur) Ken Rosewall, and lost the match in four sets. Bédard and Fontana lost the doubles rubber in four sets as well; these were the only two sets during the tie that Canada won, in consolation.
The following year Canada again opened with a win over the West Indies, this time in Port of Spain and dropping only one set. This set up an encounter with the United States in Victoria. Fontana was soundly defeated by Ham Richardson to open the tie, 1–6, 2–6, 2–6. In Round 2, Bédard won the first set against Herb Flam, 6–2, before succumbing to his more accomplished opponent, 2–6, 1–6, 9–11. The two Canadians then came back from dropping the first set to go up two sets to one against Ron Holmberg and Barry MacKay in the doubles, only to lose the last two sets, and with it the tie. Bédard lost a dead rubber to Richardson in straight sets and Paul Willey gave the Canadians a consolation point in winning Round 5 over MacKay.
In 1957, Canada played just one Cup tie, losing 2–3 to Brazil in Montreal. Bédard played the opening match and twice came from a set down against Carlos-Alberto Fernandes only to lose the fifth, 5–7. Fontana squared matters in winning Round 2 over Armando Viera, also in five sets. In the crucial doubles rubber, Fernandes and Viera proved too good, winning in four. Fontana then went down in straight sets in Round 4.
Canada started the 1958 campaign superbly, playing at home on clay in Toronto, sweeping aside Cuba without conceding more than 4 games in any set. At the same venue, the Toronto CS & C Club, they next faced the Americans. Canada managed to win just two sets. Fontana was soundly beat by MacKay, one, two, and five. Bédard played Whitney Reed closer but also went down in straight sets, 7–9, 2–6, 4–6. He and Fontana then lost the doubles in straight sets as well. The U.S. went on to retake the Cup in the finals from holders Australia.
The following year after an opening round bye, Canada faced Australia in Montreal, a team featuring three future icons: Roy Emerson, Rod Laver, and Neale Fraser. Canada fared just as they did against the Americans the year before at the same venue, winning only two sets in two dead rubbers. Fontana opened against Emerson, going down 2–6, 2–6, 4–6. Next Bédard lost to Laver, 6–8, 3–6, 4–6. Australia then won the tie by taking the doubles rubber, with Emerson and Fraser defeating Fontana and Bédard, 6–3, 6–3, 6–1. In consolation, Bédard and François Godbout took the first sets off of Emerson and Laver in Rounds 4 and 5 respectively.
Canada played just one tie in 1960, an opening round loss, once more to the United States by a score 0 matches to 5 score. On clay in Quebec City this time, Bédard started well, winning the first two sets against Tut Bartzen. Fontana took only 6 games off of Barry MacKay in Round 2. The two Canucks made a stand in the first set of the doubles taking it to 12 games all before succumbing and losing the next two sets handily. Robert won Canada's third set of the tie in Round 4.
In 1961, Canada once more lost in the first round of Cup competition – they would not win a Cup tie again in fact until 1966. Bédard was certainly not at fault for the loss to Mexico as he won the opening rubber – 8–6, 6–4, 6–0 over Mario Llamas – as well as his Round 5 match, a dead rubber, over Rafael Osuna. François Godbout did not fare as well, losing both of his singles matches. The two Quebecers played a close doubles match but came up short, losing 12–10, 7–9, 6–8, 4–6.After six years absent from play, Bédard returned for a 1967 tie versus Great Britain, played in Bournemouth on shale. (From 1966 through 1969 Canada competed in the Europe Group.)
Young Canadian star Mike Belkin got proceedings off well for the visitors defeating Mike Sangster in four sets. In Round 2 Robert twice won a set to level before losing his match to Roger Taylor in the fifth 5–7. Belkin and Keith Carpenter then battled Taylor and Bobby Wilson to a 12–10 fifth set, which they lost. With victory at hand for the Brits in Round 4 Belkin started very strongly against Taylor, winning the first two sets by a 6–2 score. The home player however came back to win the final three sets 6–4,7–5, 6–3. Bédard then lost the Round 5 dead rubber to Sangster in straight sets.
College tennis player
Bédard won the Canadian National outdoor singles championship in 2006 for Age 70 players, defeating Crichton Wilson in the final.
Bédard was awarded the Queen's Jubilee Prize in 1977. He was inducted into the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame and Quebec Sports Hall of Fame in 1991. He was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1996. He was inducted into the Aurora Sports Hall of Fame in 2013 as an inaugural inductee.
Bédard was a tennis colour commentator for coverage of a round robin tournament held in Canada in 1967 and again in 1968, that featured four of the world's top amateur players. Coverage was broadcast on CBC television. He was joined in the booth by play-by-play announcer Bob McDevitt.
Outside of tennis/personal
An amateur tennis player in the days before Open tennis, Bedard has been a long-time educator, first as a French and geography school teacher at Bishop's College School in Sherbrooke, Quebec and as headmaster at St. Andrew's College in Aurora, Ontario where he and his wife Ann lived.
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- The Canadian Encyclopedia. "Bédard, Robert". Retrieved 12 February 2011.
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- Grand Slam Tennis Archives. "U.S. National 1956 Men's Singles drawsheet". Retrieved 26 February 2011.
- Grand Slam Tennis Archive. "U.S. National 1959 Men's Singles drawsheet". Retrieved 26 February 2011.
- Grand Slam Tennis Archive. "U.S. National 1961 Men's Singles drawsheet". Retrieved 26 February 2011.
- Davis Cup.com. "Robert Bedard's Davis Cup page". Retrieved 12 February 2011.
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- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. "CBC Championship Tennis". Retrieved 12 February 2011.