Any Wimbledon fan worth their salt already knows that the last British man to win that coveted Singles title was Mr Fred Perry way back in 1936. But how many of you know that the national treasure was a champion ping pong player in his youth?
The Wimbledon of old was a very different tournament to the one that has now become the grass court highlight of the ATP Tour. Originally established in smaller grounds at Worple Road, even the game of tennis itself almost looked like a different sport. Using rackets with small heads and long handles, players would gently punch at the ball and had very little backswing on their ground strokes.
However just as today’s Wimbledon Championships attracts the world’s greatest tennis players even before the open era the greatest amateur players in the world would flock to its immaculate lawns. From the aforementioned Fred Perry, female stars like Suzanne Lenglen and arguably the greatest amateur player in history – Don Budge. In fact Budge’s achievements rival some of our current top tennis stars, in 1938 and still as a ranked amateur Budge became the first player to complete a career Grand Slam. He won titles at Wimbledon, the French Open, the US Open and the Australian Open all in the same year and also gave tennis fans at the time the most exciting Davis Cup match in history.
Befitting the world’s oldest grass court Grand Slam tournament, there are plenty of resources available both on and offline where you can find out about tennis legends such as Fred Perry and Don Budge, and those pioneers in the ladies events such as Suzanne Lenglen and Chris Evert. Get your knowledge about this British institution up to speed this summer by swotting up on all those great resources online – Wikipedia, YouTube and of course SteveG!
Here’s a great moment to get you started from more recent Wimbledon history when Roger Federer started his journey to becoming the greatest men’s tennis player in the world by defeating the legendary Pete Sampras in 2001.