Bunny Austin dies aged 94

Henry 'Bunny' Austin, who formed Britain's greatest Davis Cup pairing with Fred Perry during the 1930s, died on Saturday - the day of his 94th birthday. He was last seen in public when he took part in Wimbledon's Parade of Champions in July, pushed in a wheelchair. He died peacefully at a nursing home in Coulsdon, south London.

Henry 'Bunny' Austin, who formed Britain's greatest Davis Cup pairing with Fred Perry during the 1930s, died on Saturday - the day of his 94th birthday. He was last seen in public when he took part in Wimbledon's Parade of Champions in July, pushed in a wheelchair. He died peacefully at a nursing home in Coulsdon, south London.

Austin was a losing finalist at Wimbledon in 1932 and 1938 - he was the last Briton to reach the Wimbledon final - and lost the French Open final in 1937. He will be best remembered for his Davis Cup exploits, though.

After losing the 1931 final against France, Britain won the title in 1933, 1934, 1935 and 1936 before losing the final in 1937 and have not won since. Austin, known for his elegant groundstrokes, played singles alongside Perry in all four winning finals, building a 6-2 winning record in the singles.

A former Cambridge University captain, known as 'Bunny' since his days at Repton public school, his record of 36 wins in 48 Davis Cup rubbers remains the best by a Briton.

"The highlight of my life was Davis Cup, more than Wimbledon," Austin said last year. Despite his success Austin was always overshadowed by Perry who won Wimbledon three times in the mid-1930s.

"When Fred talked about the Davis Cup he only talked about himself and gave the impression he won it off his own racket," Austin said. "I was very fond of Fred but he was terribly self-centred. I have been in his shadow all my life but it doesn't grate because I look back with pleasure on my career."

Austin left his mark on Wimbledon by being the first man to wear shorts at the All England Club in 1934. His sartorial departure came because he suffered from jaundice and was handicapped by the weight of his sweat-soaked long trousers in hot weather.

After being thrashed 6-1, 6-0, 6-3 by Don Budge in the 1938 final, Austin gave up tennis and dedicated himself to working for Moral Rearmament. "The end of my tennis career was to be beaten very easily by Don Budge, which was very sad," he said. "If I had had a great final it would have been different."

He spent the second World War in the United States and did not return to Britain until 1961. Despite serving as a private in the US Army, he had his membership of the All England Club taken away from him in 1941. It was returned 43 years later after his friends lobbied fellow members. Only two out of 150 voted against him - one of them Fred Perry.

His film star wife, Phyllis Konstam, died in 1976 but he is survived by a son, the antiques dealer John Austin, and a daughter, Jennifer Bocock, who lives in Alberta, Canada.

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