Tennis Prose



Norman Holmes Immortalized By Tennis Great

By Scoop Malinowski

There is no chance you have heard of Norman Holmes. It’s a tennis name that is never mentioned.

The one time in recent decades the name Norman Holmes was mentioned in the tennis universe was unforgettably prolific though.

An all time great Grand Slam legend mentioned Norman Holmes in his biography in 2002.

In his early years as a pro, the seven-time Grand Slam champion wrote of this memory of Norman Holmes when he was 18: “My biggest discovery about tennis so far was that things seemed to get a whole lot more exciting as I went up the ladder. Paris in 1977 was my first real taste of the big time and I’d never seen guys work so hard. I’ll never forget watching an American named Norman Holmes playing someone who was the French version of Norman Holmes, in the second round of the qualifiers. It was incredible how hard they were going at it – hustling and diving onto the court until their whites were completely covered with red clay. Maybe all of a hundred people were watching but it was one of the all-time best matches I’ve ever seen. Norman Holmes won the match, qualified and eventually rose to around 100 in the world. He wasn’t a world beater that afternoon but that wasn’t the point. Watching him made me think: ‘If this guy can try that hard, there’s no reason why I can’t. Who knew how far I could go if I pulled out all the stops?”

Norman Holmes reached 76 in the world in June 1976 and made the third round at Wimbledon and US Open in 1973 and 1971, respectively. At the 1977 French Open qualifiers, Norman Holmes was 27 years old and in his eighth year on the tennis tour after being an all SEC player at the University of Georgia (1968-71).

Norman Holmes, born in October 4, 1949 in Melbourne, FL, played pro tennis until 1983, his last match was doubles in Kitzbuhel with Aussie Trevor Allen, a 67 64 23 ret. loss to Kevin Moir and Christo Steyn. This match came after not playing since 1976 in Santiago, Chile, a doubles loss in the QF to Jose Higueras and singles loss in R16 to ATP no. 69 Belus Prajoux 64 62.

In 1976 Norman Holmes lost matches to Jaime Fillol, Carlos Kirmayr, Ismail El-Shafaei, Bernard Mitton, Jose-Luis Clerc. By 1977 at French Open at age 27 Norman Holmes was literally playing for the survival of his career.

The career highlights of Norman Holmes were impressive for a subjourneyman player. He lost to world no. 1 Jimmy Connors 1-2 ret. in Maui in 1975. He lost to ATP no. 11 Rod Laver in North Conway QF 60 62 in 1976 after beating John Lloyd in three sets. He lost to world no. 4 defending and eventual repeat champion Bjorn Borg at 1975 French Open first round 26 36. He beat Torbin Ulrich at 1974 St. Petersburg FL 63 36 64. He lost to Roy Emerson at 1973 Kitzbuhel 76 63. He reached third round of 1971 US Open, beating Tom Edlefsen and John Sharpe, before losing to Milan Holecek 62 36 16 06. He reached third round at 1973 Wimbledon beating Doug Crawford, Frantisek Pala in five sets before falling to Robert McKinley in four sets.

Norman Holmes achieved a very good career in pro tennis and the admiration and high praise from John McEnroe on page 55 in his 2002 book “You Cannot Be Serious.”

Where is Norman Holmes now? He’s on Facebook but his page appears inactive, and he possibly lives in Indialantic, FL. His page says he worked at Suntree Country Club. There is a Norm Holmes Tennis Complex named in his honor in his hometown of Melbourne, FL. There is also an obit for Norman B. Holmes Jr, who died in March 30, 2014 at age 64.



  • Scoop Malinowski · November 9, 2023 at 12:20 pm

    Update : This whole article could be a mis-memory by McEnroe and an error in his book. ITF records for Norman Holmes show he did not play 1977 French Open qualies but he did play 1977 Wimbledon qualies, losing 1R 63 75 to Mexicans Emilio Montano. Either McEnroe’s memory or the ITF records wrong.

  • Michael Beautyman · November 10, 2023 at 12:30 am

    Norman Holmes was not 76 in 2014.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 10, 2023 at 1:09 am

    Corrected Mike, 64.

  • Sam · November 11, 2023 at 4:04 pm

    Okay, Norman B. Holmes, Jr., actually died on March 27, 2014, at age 66:

    It seems like the Norman Holmes you’re looking for, Scoop, is Norman Joseph Holmes, whose birth date is listed on as October 5, 1949. Since many birth dates on that site are slightly off, that’s probably still the one you’re looking for. 😉 He would be 74 now.

    By the way, do you have a picture of him?

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 11, 2023 at 6:37 pm

    Sam, it has to be the same Norman Holmes. Can’t find any pictures of him. McEnroe seemed to be saying Holmes intense competitive spirit was a big influence on him as a young pro, it’s the ultimate compliment.

  • Douglas Day · November 11, 2023 at 7:06 pm

    And in other journeyman news: after winning his hometown title Ugo Humbert is French number one and 20 in world.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 11, 2023 at 8:11 pm

    Well Doug, Mannarino won Sofia and he is ATP 25 but 20 in the live rankings. 20 is now AM’s career best ranking, previously it was 22 in 2018. AM’s won 3 titles this year, it’s his best year, 5 career titles. At 35 that’s phenomenal.



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