NEWPORT may not be a tennis hotbed in the 21st century but 50 years ago the city played host to the sport’s biggest stars for one week every summer.

Newport Athletic Club at Rodney Parade was the home of the Welsh Championships from 1946 until the tournament came to an end in 1974.

And in those 28 years the great and the good of tennis world flocked to Gwent, often just days after competing at Wimbledon.

Australian legend John Newcombe beat compatriot Bill Bowrey in the men’s singles final in 1967, just a week after winning the Wimbledon title and two months before he also lifted the US National Championships [now the US Open] trophy.

Britain’s Mark Cox and Roger Taylor, Australian greats Roy Emerson and Ken Rosewall also won the trophy in the 1960s and early 1970s before American Armistead Neely was the last to be crowned champion in 1974.

There was also an Australian triumph in the women’s singles at Rodney Parade in 1967 with Judy Tegart beating Britain’s Ann Jones in the final.

All-time greats Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong and Virginia Wade won the title in the following years before American Julie Heldman won the last two titles in 1973 and 1974.

One man who fondly remembers the tournament is Tim Thraves.

The 67-year-old can be found at Rodney Parade every other week during the football season in his role as matchday announcer for Newport County AFC.

But 51 years ago he was a nervous teenage line judge at the Welsh Championships at the same venue and it’s an experience he’s never forgotten.

“My father was on the board at Newport County and he was a patron of the tennis championships so I had the honour of being right in the thick of the action,” he recalled.

“I was only 16 in 1967 and that was the first time I did it.

“I did it for a few years and it could be pretty intimidating to be judging these top players.

“They had four stands and there were 1,500 to 2,000 people there so the pressure was on to get it right – there was no Hawkeye in those days.

“Being in the middle was the worst of the lot because you had huge serves booming down on you and zooming past your head at 100mph so it was pretty frightening at times.”

Thraves still has his 1967 tournament programme signed by the stars – a treasured memento from his time rubbing shoulders with and trying not to irritate tennis’ top stars.

South Wales Argus:

A notice in the programme thanks The South Wales Argus “for their generous support in donating the prize money.”

Thraves added: “That was the last year before the open era and the top prize was £5, second prize was £3 and third prize £2.

“John Newcombe had won Wimbledon on the Friday – they didn’t play on the Sunday in those days – and three days later he was in Newport.

“I was lucky enough to get all the stars to sign my programmes over the years – Newcombe, Virginia Wade, Billy Jean King, Roger Taylor, Tony Roche and [commentator] Dan Maskell.

“All sorts of people came, it was extraordinary.

“It was such a big thing for Newport and it was right there at the Athletic Club.”

Do you remember the Welsh Championships? Email your memories and pictures to

South Wales Argus:

Newport’s newest club – The Celtic Manor Lawn Tennis Club – will mark its official launch with a special open day from 10am to 2pm tomorrow.

The event is part of the Great British Tennis Weekend and Newport Tennis Centre at Newport International Sports Village will also be running a free open day between 10am and 4pm on Sunday, August 5.