Sporting Heroes: Anthony Wilding - Wimbledon champ died on Western Front

 

Before there was Federer, Borg or Laver, even before there was Lacoste, there was Anthony Wilding.

Born in 1883 in Christchurch, New Zealand, to English parents, Tony came into the world destined to succeed. His father was a keen cricketer, but made his fortune as a lawyer. The family home had two tennis courts, one for summer and one for winter.

At 17, Tony won the Canterbury Championships before travelling to England to study law at Cambridge University. In 1904, he won one round at his first Wimbledon. Later that year he won the Scottish National Championships. He would go on to be picked for Australasia’s first Davis Cup team in 1905.

In 1906, Tony won tournaments across Europe and even won the Sheffield and Hallam doubles title with his father. He was called to the bar in England and became a member of Inner Temple.

He won the London Covered Court Championships before returning to New Zealand, where he took both singles and doubles titles at the Australasian Championships (now the Australian Open).

In all, Wilding won 11 major titles, including the Wimbledon singles in 1910, ’11, ’12 and ’13, and four Davis Cups with Australasia. He holds all-time records for outdoor tournament wins (114, tied with Rod Laver), clay-court tournament wins (75), and singles titles won in a season (23 in 1906). And all this while continuing to practise law and playing cricket for Canterbury.

When war broke out in 1914, he briefly joined the Marine Corps before being transferred to Intelligence. He was killed in action in France in 1915, a few days after being made captain of an armoured car division.

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