Perry the only Briton to prove master of French clay

The Beatles were just beginning to take over the world of pop music when Britain last had a player in the men's singles semi-finals at the French Championships, before Tim Henman fought his way to the last four here in Paris this week.

The Beatles were just beginning to take over the world of pop music when Britain last had a player in the men's singles semi-finals at the French Championships, before Tim Henman fought his way to the last four here in Paris this week.

In 1963, Mike Sangsterfrom Torquay had the misfortune to run into Roy Emerson, the eventual champion, who won 12 Grand Slam singles titles - a record that stood until the Pete Sampras era. Emerson's opponent in the final was Pierre Darmon, of France, who eliminated Britain's Bobby Wilson in the quarter-finals.

Roger Taylor, who later became Henman's Davis Cup captain, advanced to the quarter- finals in Paris in 1973. Taylor lost to Ilie Nastase who went on to win the title.

Bill Knight was Britain's only other quarter-finalist since the Second World War. Knight lost to Nicola Pietrangeli, of Italy, the eventual champion. In his role as head of men's national training at the Lawn Tennis Association, Knight was instrumental in Henman's development.

Fred Perry, is the only Briton whose name is prominent in the list of men's singles champions. The Labour MP's son from Stockport defeated Gottfried von Cramm, of Germany, in the 1935 final, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. Perry lost to von Cramm in the 1936 final, and in the 1937 final Bunny Austin lost to Henner Henkel, of Germany, in straight sets.

Perry's statue graces the All England Club, marking his three consecutive Wimbledon men's singles titles. Austin was Britain's last representative in a men's singles final at Wimbledon, losing to Donald Budge, of the United States, in 1938.

That was the year in which Budge completed tennis's original Grand Slam of the four major singles championships, although Perry was first to complete a collection of the Wimbledon, French, United States and Australian singles titles, but not in the same year.

Henman's maternal grandfather, Henry Billington, lost in the French quarter-finals in 1939, when the draw was 64.

British women have had more success on the Paris clay. Sue Barker was the last winner, in 1976, defeating the Czech Renata Tomanova. Ann Jones won in 1966 and 1961 (as Ann Haydon), Christine Truman won in 1959, Shirley Bloomer in 1957, Angela Mortimer in 1955, and Margaret Scriven in 1934 and 1933.

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