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The Independent Online
Arthur Ashe's historical triumph as the first black player to win a major tennis tournament overshadowed Tom Okker's appearance in the inaugural US Open final in 1968 but for the loser, who remains the finest player his country has produced, the occasion prefaced five years in the world's top five.

The Flying Dutchman, as he became known, reached the Wimbledon semi-finals 10 years later before retiring in 1981, aged 37, having also enjoyed great success in doubles with the American, Marty Riessen. He was the Netherlands' Davis Cup captain for two years in the mid-1980s and now plays the burgeoning seniors tour.

Away from tennis, Okker is a partner in the Jaski art gallery, close to Amsterdam's celebrated Vincent van Gogh Museum, specialising in the works of modern painters from the Dutch capital as well as Copenhagen and Brussels.

``My interest goes back to the mid-1970s, when I would visit galleries around the world while playing tennis, and began my own collection,'' he said. ``In time it became a kind of obsession.''

Once a resident of Switzerland, Okker, now 51, today lives in Hazerswoute, about 30 minutes' drive from Amsterdam, with his wife, Anna-Marie, and three children. As well as paintings, his home houses many works by the English sculptor, Lynn Chadwick.

He is back in New York for the US Open seniors. ``It is a good tournament but, of course, in 1968 it was at Forest Hills, which had much more charm than Flushing Meadow.''

Jon Culley