A British player dominated the world of men’s tennis in the 1930s. Fred Perry was the finest British player of the 20th century. Three successive Wimbledon singles titles have established him as one of the game’s legends.
His cunning forehand became his lethal weapon. Hitting the ball early with his individual grip, he would sweep it firmly into the corners so that he could advance to the net and attack with his firm volleys. Tall, hair dark and sleek, fit and full of confidence, Perry had the look of a champion. He was a fierce competitor; “I didn’t aspire to be a good sport, ‘champion’ was good enough for me.”
A pivotal member of Britain’s Davis Cup team, two singles victories against France led Britain in 1933 to a triumphant victory (the first for over 20 years) in that world team competition. He won, that same year, his first major title at the US championships. Then, in 1934, aged 25, Perry won his first singles title at Wimbledon by defeating Australia’s Jack Crawford. It was a victory of a hard-edged northerner over a ‘gentleman’ with which not all in the establishment were comfortable.
Britain retained the Davis Cup in each of the following three years. By the end of 1936 Perry had won three successive championship victories at Wimbledon, three in the US championships and one title each in France and Australia. Perry became the first men’s champion to gain a ‘career grand slam’ by winning all the major singles titles, if not in the same year.
In 1984, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his first Wimbledon title, a three-quarter size statue of Fred Perry, by sculptor David Wynne, was commissioned by the All England Club. A look of competitive intensity is still on his face. The sweeping forehand is still ready to strike.