The tennis world mourns the loss of a great American tennis champion and World War II veteran, Art “Tappy” Larsen. He passed away on December 7 in California, at the age of 87. Larsen was honored in a military burial service at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward, Calif. Despite a late start to his tennis career, due to military service, Larsen achieved the No. 1 ranking in the United States in 1950, and he was ranked in the world top-10 several times in the 1950’s.
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In 1950, Larsen won the U.S. National Championships in a five-set match at Forest Hills. He also captured the titles at the U.S. Clay Courts (1952), U.S. Hard Courts (1952), and U.S. Indoors (1953), making him the first man to win the titles on four surfaces. Tony Trabert is the only other person to have accomplished this feat. In 1954, Larsen was a finalist at the French Championships. Larsen was a member of the United States Davis Cup team in 1951 and 1952. He compiled a 4-0 record, helping the team advance to the finals both years. Larsen was honored for his tennis achievements with induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1969.
“Art was a wonderful tennis player who had great finesse in his game,” said Hall of Famer Tony Trabert. “He had a unique personality, and he was a good friend and I will miss him.”
In World War II, Larsen served in the US Army, 15th Cavalry, 17th Squadron. He was involved in heavy combat reconnaissance missions and was awarded four bronze campaign stars (Normandy, France, Central Europe and Germany). Larsen is said to have focused his energy on tennis as a form of therapy upon return from World War II, and he was admired for his focus and tenacity as a player. He picked up the nickname “Tappy” because he had a habit of tapping things, such as the net, for good luck.
A California native, Larsen attended the University of San Francisco, where he was a member of the 1949 NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship team.
Larsen is survived by his companion of more than 30 years, Aline Mestas. He also leaves a sister, Joyce A. Stengel, nephews Willis C. Stengel and Carl A. Stengel, niece Patricia Rickner and their families; all of whom fondly remember enjoying tennis lessons and matches with their uncle.
Source: The International Tennis Hall of Fame