Obituary: Pat Hughes

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The Independent Online
Pat Hughes was regarded as one of the finest tennis doubles players of his time. He won a string of titles with various partners from the late Twenties to the outbreak of the Second World War.

His greatest achievement was winning the Wimbledon doubles with Charles Tuckey in 1936 when they beat another British pair, Charles Hare and Frank Wilde, 6-4, 3-6, 7-9, 6-1, 6-4. Hughes had previously won the French doubles with Fred Perry in 1933, and the Australian title, also with Perry, in 1934. Only the US title eluded him for the Grand Slam.

Born at Sutton Coldfield in 1902, Hughes was taken to Belfast as a child, where he was introduced to tennis at school. He practised consistently and never missed an opportunity of watching the great players of his day. He developed a mixture of spins with his service and was also an expert volleyer and most effective with the lobs.

He was not regarded as a great server, but his serve was always deceptive. No two would come down alike, even though they looked the same. He also had a great return of serve which often shook the heavier servers and helped to break up their game.

Returning from Belfast, Hughes studied at the London School of Economics. While there he pursued his interest in tennis, and visited Wimbledon as often as possible. He first came to public attention through a tournament run by the London Evening News and never looked back.

Although he reached No 3 in singles in Britain, it was as a doubles player that Hughes became most prominent. He has, however, one singles record which still stand the test of time, in that he is the only Englishman to have won the Italian singles. That was in 1931 when he beat the great French star Henri Cochet in the final. The same year Hughes also won the Italian doubles and mixed doubles.

After gaining his degree in economics he took a post as lecturer at Southampton University. He subsequently held an appointment in the National State Bank in New York, but the call of tennis became so strong that he decided to devote his life to it, not only as a player but also as the director and tennis manager of Dunlop Sports. Tennis had opened up a new world for him. Wherever tennis was played Hughes would find his way there - his career became like a world travel guide.

Hughes came up in the era that produced Fred Perry, Bunny Austin, Charles Tuckey, Harry Lee, and Henry Billington, the grandfather of Britain's current hope Tim Henman. Along with Perry, Austin and Tuckey, Hughes helped take the Davis Cup from France in 1933 and keep it for the next four years. He was ill in 1937 when, after Perry had turned professional, Britain lost the cup to the United States.

Those were the days of the amateur, before open tennis took over, but Hughes always advocated open tennis and in his capacity as tennis manager at Dunlop, helped arrange many exhibitions. For Hughes, the team always came before personal glory, which is of course in keeping with a top-class doubles player.

Hughes was a great friend of Lew Hoad, the Australian player, and used to spend his winters with him in Spain. A man of good fun, more so when abroad, Hughes was also a very private man. He never married and in his later years lived in Walton-on-Thames.

George Patrick Hughes, tennis player: born Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands 21 December 1902; died Walton-on-Thames, Surrey 8 May 1997.

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