The Last Champion, By Jon Henderson
Sunday 28 June 2009
The Fred Perry shirts sported by Andy Murray are a visible reminder of the last Briton to win the men's singles title at Wimbledon, but the young Scot will have to go some to match the Englishman's three consecutive titles from 1934-36.
Surprisingly, this is the first biography of Perry. He wrote two autobiographies, but Jon Henderson's diligent research and refusal to take Perry's word for anything without triple-checking has produced the first clear-eyed account of an extraordinary life.
Perry first exhibited his single-mindedness by winning the world table-tennis championship at 19 before concentrating on tennis. Never at ease with the establishment in Britain, he turned professional in 1937 and moved to America, seduced by a more classless society. Nor was the seduction one-way as he enjoyed liaisons with, among many others, Marlene Dietrich and Bette Davis in between four marriages.
Henderson is sympathetic to his subject while not blind to his faults, which included more than a hint of arrogance – "Thank God I'm not playing me today," he announced when strolling into one locker room. But he certainly had the game to go with the gamesmanship.
Published in hardback by Yellow Jersey, £18.99
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