Why tennis establishment shunned Fred Perry, Britain's previous Wimbledon men's winner in 1936

 

When Andy Murray was asked, prior to the final, what Fred Perry might have told him going into the biggest match of his life, Murray quipped: "Why are you not wearing my kit?"

Perry's name is synonymous with sportswear, especially the iconic polo shirt that launched in 1952. But he was, until today, Britain's last Wimbledon champion.

Born in Stockport in 1909, he was the world number one for three years, taking in four Davis Cup wins for Britain and eight major singles titles - including three Wimbledon championships between 1934 and 1936.

However, in a game still ruled by the middle classes, Perry's working class roots meant he was not quite as popular among British tennis fans as you might expect.

He was known as an upstart, and his ruthless ambition on the court came as something as a shock to spectators accustomed to more gentlemanly displays. A quick mover, he had an all-court game and hit a mean 'early-ball' running forehand.

When he won his first title against the Australian Jack Crawford - comfortably, with a score of 6-3 6-0 7-5 - he overheard a Wimbledon committee member saying it was a day "when the best man didn't win".

His All England Club member's tie, the acknowledgement of his Wimbledon win, was dropped over the back of his seat in the dressing room. There was no word of congratulations, and the incident still irked him late into his life. "Instead of Fred J Perry the champ I felt like J Fred Muggs the chimp," he said. "The Perry balloon was certainly deflated."

Perry's off-court activities were just as notable as his tennis. He dated Marlene Dietrich, teaching her to play tennis "with great patience and lots of little passionate hugs, punctuated with rapid kissing between flying balls," according to her daughter Maria Riva.

He dated Jean Harlow and Loretta Young, played tennis with Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx at the Beverly Hills Club, and became close with Bette Davis to the extent they were "not exactly family, but almost".

At the end of 1936, he left Britain to join a professional circuit in the USA. It meant he could make money from tennis, but he could no longer play what was at the time an amateur tournament at Wimbledon.

After the Second World War, he coached and commentated, as well as building his eponymous clothing brand. Towards the end of his life, he was accepted back into the tennis fold and in 1984 a bronze statue was erected at the All England Tennis Club to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his first Wimbledon title.

Perry died in 1995 at the age of 85. He was in Melbourne at the time, attending the Australian Open

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea