Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Quist, Adrian Karl (1913–1991)

by Kerry Regan

This article was published online in 2016

Adrian Karl Quist (1913–1991), tennis player, business executive, and sporting commentator, was born on 23 January 1913 in North Adelaide, eldest of five children of New South Wales-born Karl Hugo Quist, importer and sports-store proprietor, and his South Australian-born wife Carmen Lurline, née Wright. Adrian’s grandfather Christian Ludwig Qwist had migrated from Denmark to the Victorian goldfields in 1853, and became a leading gold- and silver-smith in Sydney. His sons Christian Ludwig and Karl Hugo were prominent sportsmen—Christian a sculler, Karl a cricketer. Adrian was educated at Glenelg Public School and Pulteney Grammar School, where he excelled at cricket and was captain of the school’s tennis team. In 1928 he became a clerk with North British and Mercantile Insurance Co. Ltd.

Encouraged to concentrate on tennis by a visiting family friend—the English cricketer E. H. Patsy Hendren—Quist had local success as a junior and was chosen for Linton Cup teams from 1930 to 1933. He won the Australian junior doubles title in 1930 (with Don Turnbull) and 1932 (with Len Schwartz), and the 1933 junior singles championship, assuring his selection for the Davis Cup team when Harry Hopman became unavailable. Quist was a member of the team from 1933 to 1939, the year Australia first won the cup in its own right, and was playing captain in 1948. His Davis Cup record—winning 23 of 33 singles matches and 19 of 22 doubles—stood for many years. He won Australian doubles titles with Turnbull (1936, 1937) and then with John Bromwich (1938–40, 1946–50). In 1936, 1940, and 1948 he was Australian singles champion. Overseas victories included the 1935 French and Wimbledon doubles with Jack Crawford; United States (1939) and Wimbledon (1950) doubles with Bromwich; and 1960 French and United States doubles with Frenchman Jean Borotra.

In 1937 Quist had been appointed a director of Dunlop Sports Pty Ltd and moved to Melbourne. The company transferred him to Sydney in June 1940 as manager of its New South Wales division. Having served voluntarily in the Citizen Military Forces for two years from March 1939, he was mobilised for full-time duty on 24 March 1942. Asthma had prevented him from enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force. In August he was commissioned as a lieutenant and thereafter he was employed as an amenities officer in units in Western Australia and New South Wales. He transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 18 October 1945. While in the army he had played only exhibition tennis around Australia.

On 12 September 1941 Quist had married English-born Sylvia Josephine Muriel, daughter of Albert and Erna Keighley, at St Mark’s Church of England, Darling Point. They were divorced in 1950. Short, suave, dark-haired, and lithe, Quist had great natural sporting ability. He regarded his volley and overhead game as his strengths, utilised so well in doubles. He and Bromwich were among the first combinations to use the serve and volley technique that was well suited to grass and defined the modern game. Impressed by the less restrictive clothing worn overseas, he was an early convert to wearing shorts despite official criticism at home. He was responsible for introducing to Australia the herringbone-soled Volley sandshoe, based on a yachting shoe he and Bromwich wore in the United States of America in 1939. Manufactured by Dunlop, it became a best-seller.

Between 1963 and 1967 Quist was general manager of Dunlop’s sports goods division and held directorships of other subsidiaries taken over by the company under Eric Dunshea, including Universal Textiles (Australia) Ltd, Anthony Squires Holdings Ltd, Swedex Pty Ltd, and Frank O’Neill Industries Pty Ltd. He continued to play a role in tennis as a commentator and broadcaster. With a voice described as having ‘a soft, confidential tone’ (Underwood 2010), he provided insightful observations during Australian Broadcasting Commission radio broadcasts of the Davis Cup. When professional tennis started to take over international competition he supported Jack Kramer in his quest to provide players more control over sponsors and national and State associations. Quist thought that a player’s natural talent and drive made a champion and that coaches and managers claimed too much credit. He saw that the tie-break system, invented by his friend Jimmy Van Alen, allowed competitors to play to an older age but criticised professionals for lack of commitment to the Davis Cup. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame (1984) and Australian Tennis Hall of Fame posthumously (1998).

From the 1950s Quist had lived at Point Piper, travelled overseas frequently, and maintained friendships with Jaroslav Drobny and Gottfried von Cramm. Later in life Quist regularly wintered in Hawaii. He died on 17 November 1991 in hospital at Darlinghurst, survived by his daughter and son, and was cremated. Over two decades before and after World War II he had enjoyed a remarkable international career, the highlight being probably the 1939 Davis Cup tie when, with the United States two matches up, his unexpected five-set victory over Bobby Riggs enabled Australia to go on and win.

Research edited by Karen Fox

Select Bibliography

  • Huxley, John. ‘Passing Shots from a Wimbledon Warhorse.’ Sydney Morning Herald, 15 June 1991, 38
  • Quist, Adrian. Interview by Neil Bennetts, 3 January 1980. Transcript. National Library of Australia
  • Quist, Adrian. Tennis: The Greats: 1920-1960. Compiled by Jack Egan. Sydney: William Collins and ABC Enterprises, 1984
  • Underwood, Roger. ‘Boxing Day Heroes.’ Quadrant Online, 26 December 2010, https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2010/12/boxing-day-heroes/. Copy held on ADB file
  • Sydney Morning Herald. ‘Gentleman Champion Who Wore Shorts.’ 19 November 1991, 4

Additional Resources

Citation details

Kerry Regan, 'Quist, Adrian Karl (1913–1991)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/quist-adrian-karl-21550/text31790, published online 2016, accessed online 20 April 2019.

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