Fred Perry

Frederick John Perry (18 May 1909 – 2 February 1995) was a British tennis and table tennis player and former World No. 1 from England who won 10 Majors including eight Grand Slam tournaments and two Pro Slams single titles, as well as six Major doubles titles. Perry won three consecutive Wimbledon Championships from 1934 to 1936 and was World Amateur number one tennis player during those three years. Prior to Andy Murray in 2013, Perry was the last British player to win the men's Wimbledon championship, in 1936,[4] and the last British player to win a men's singles Grand Slam title, until Andy Murray won the 2012 US Open.

Fred Perry
Full nameFrederick John Perry
Country (sports) Great Britain
Born(1909-05-18)18 May 1909
Portwood, Stockport, England
Died2 February 1995(1995-02-02) (aged 85)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Height6 ft (1.83 m)[1]
Turned pro1936 (amateur tour from 1929)
Retired1956
PlaysRight-handed (one-handed backhand)
Int. Tennis HoF1975 (member page)
Singles
Career record608–239 (71.7%) [2]
Career titles55 [2]
Highest rankingNo. 1 (1934, A. Wallis Myers)[3]
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian OpenW (1934)
French OpenW (1935)
WimbledonW (1934, 1935, 1936)
US OpenW (1933, 1934, 1936)
Professional majors
US ProW (1938, 1941)
Wembley ProQF (1951, 1952)
Doubles
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian OpenW (1934)
French OpenW (1933)
WimbledonF (1932)
Grand Slam Mixed Doubles results
French OpenW (1932)
WimbledonW (1935, 1936)
US OpenW (1932)
Team competitions
Davis CupW (1933, 1934, 1935, 1936)

Perry was the first player to win a "Career Grand Slam", winning all four singles titles, which he completed at the age of 26 at the 1935 French Open. He remains the only British player ever to achieve this.[5] Perry's first love was table tennis and he was World Champion in 1929. He began playing tennis aged 14 and his tennis career at 21, when in 1930 an LTA committee chose him to join a four-man team to tour the United States.[5]

In 1933, Perry helped lead the Great Britain team to victory over France in the Davis Cup; the team's first success since 1912, followed by wins over the United States in 1934, 1935, and a fourth consecutive title with victory over Australia in 1936.[5] But due to his disillusionment with the class-conscious nature of the Lawn Tennis Club of Great Britain, the working-class Perry turned professional at the end of the 1936 season and moved to the United States where he became a naturalised US citizen in 1939. In 1942, he was drafted into the US Army Air Force during the Second World War.[6]

Despite his unprecedented contribution to British tennis, Perry was not accorded full recognition by tennis authorities until later in life because between 1927 and 1967, the International Lawn Tennis Federation, ignored amateur champions who later turned professional.[4][7] In 1984, a statue of Perry was unveiled at Wimbledon, and in the same year he became the only tennis player listed in a survey of 2,000 Britons to find the "Best of the Best" British sportsmen of the 20th century.[7]

Early life

The house where Fred Perry was born, located at 33 Carrington Road, Stockport

Perry was born in 1909 in Stockport, where his father, Samuel Perry (1877–1954), was a cotton spinner.[8] For the first decade of his life, he also lived in Bolton, Lancashire, and Wallasey, Cheshire, because his father was involved in local politics. When living in Wallasey he attended Liscard Primary School and Wallasey Grammar School. Perry moved to Brentham Garden Suburb in Ealing, west London aged eleven years when his father became the national secretary of the Co-operative Party after World War I.[8] His father became the Labour and Co-operative Party Member of Parliament (MP) for Kettering in 1929.

Perry first began to play tennis on the public courts near his family's housing estate.[8] He was educated at Ealing Grammar School for Boys.

Amateur career

Fred Perry
Nationality England
Medal record
Men's table tennis
Representing  England
World Championships
1929 Budapest Singles
1929 Budapest Doubles
1929 Budapest Team
1928 Stockholm Doubles
1928 Stockholm Mixed Doubles
1928 Stockholm Team

In 1928–29 Perry won several medals in the single, double and team events in the World Table Tennis Championships.[9] He had exceptional speed and played with the Shakehand style, attacking the ball low and on the rise.

Along with the US, French and Australian Amateur championships, Perry won the Wimbledon men's title three times in succession between 1934 and 1936. His final triumph was a 6–1, 6–1, 6–0 victory over the German Baron Gottfried von Cramm which lasted less than 45 minutes. It became the quickest final in the 20th century and the second shortest of all time. Perry had been able to pick up the information from the Wimbledon masseur that von Cramm had been treated for a groin strain and was as a result having difficulty moving wide on the forehand.[10] During his amateur playing career he trained with Arsenal football club to focus on his fitness.[1]

Fred Perry (right) with Pat Hughes at White City in Sydney, Australia, in 1934

Perry's success attracted the adoration of the crowds at Wimbledon particularly as he contrasted sharply with the privileged background of most patrons and players associated with the All England Club at the time. The upper echelons of the British tennis establishment greeted his success more coolly, regarding him as an "upstart". After winning his maiden Wimbledon title, Perry recalled overhearing a Wimbledon committee member remark that "the best man didn't win." His All England Club member's tie, awarded to all winners of the Championships, was left for him on a chair in his dressing room.[11]

In the Davis Cup, Perry led the Great Britain team to four consecutive victories from 1933 to 1936, with wins over France in 1933, the United States in 1934 and 1935, and Australia in 1936. Perry competed in a total of 20 Davis Cup matches, winning 34 of his 38 rubbers in singles, and 11 out of 14 in doubles.[5]

Professional career

After three years as the world No. 1 tennis amateur player, Perry turned professional in late 1936. This led to his being virtually ostracised by the British tennis establishment.[8] He made his professional debut on 6 January 1937 at the Madison Square Garden against the best professional player, Ellsworth Vines, winning in four sets.[12][13] For the next two years he played lengthy tours against Vines. In 1937, they played 61 matches in the United States on their big tour, with Vines winning 32 and Perry 29. They then sailed to Britain, where they played a brief tour. Perry won six matches out of nine, so they finished the year tied at 35 victories each. The following year, 1938, the big tour was even longer, and this time Vines beat Perry 49 matches to 35, while a short tour of the Caribbean and Central and South America ended at four victories a piece. Don Budge won the Grand Slam in 1938 as an amateur and then turned professional and played a series of matches against both Vines and Perry in 1939, beating Vines 22 times to 17, and beating Perry by 28 victories to 8.[14][15][16]

Perry also won the US Pro title in 1938 and 1941, held in Chicago in both years.

Broadcasting career

Fred Perry had a long career as a tennis broadcaster. He worked as a summariser and reporter for BBC Radio from 1959[17] to 1994[18] and for many years was a familiar voice during BBC radio's coverage of Wimbledon. He also commentated on TV on the BBC from 1951 to 1952 and ITV's coverage of Wimbledon from 1956 to 1968, after which ITV stopped broadcasting the championships. ITV "employed me as a would-be counter-attraction to my old friend Dan Maskell on BBC Television. We were simply not able to compete and I wasn't unhappy when ITV gave it up as a bad job. The BBC had two channels to ITV's one, and were not inhibited by commercial breaks every fifteen minutes and the imposition of a strict time limit on the coverage, as ITV was", explained Perry in his autobiography.[19] In later years, Perry was sometimes interviewed by BBC Television during their Wimbledon coverage. In 1979 Perry spoke to Des Lynam at Wimbledon about his life in an episode of the TV series "Maestro". The programme was shown again as a tribute after his death.

Personal life

Perry was one of the leading bachelors of the 1930s and his off-court romances were reported in the world press. Perry had a romantic relationship with actress Marlene Dietrich and in 1934 he announced his engagement to British actress Mary Lawson, but the relationship fell apart after Perry moved to the US. In 1935 he married American film star Helen Vinson, but their marriage ended in divorce in 1940. In 1941 he was briefly married to model Sandra Breaux. Then, in 1945, he married Lorraine Walsh, but that marriage also ended quickly. Perry's final marriage to Barbara Riese (the sister of actress Patricia Roc) in 1952 lasted over forty years, until his death. They had two children, Penny and David. David led his father's clothing line prior to a buyout.

In July 1937, an England vs America pro-celebrity tennis doubles match was organized, featuring Perry and Charlie Chaplin playing against Groucho Marx and Ellsworth Vines, to open the new clubhouse at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club.[20]

Perry had an older sister, Edith; they were both born in Stockport, Cheshire. Edith greatly supported her younger brother throughout his sporting achievements. Perry had a half sister, Sylvia.[21]

Death

Perry died at Epworth Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, after breaking his ribs following a fall in a hotel bathroom.[22]

Sporting legacy

A statue of Fred Perry at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon

Perry is considered by some to have been one of the greatest players ever to have played the game. In his 1979 autobiography Jack Kramer, the long-time tennis promoter and great player himself, called Perry one of the six greatest players of all time.[23]

Kings of the Court, a video-tape documentary made in 1997 in conjunction with the International Tennis Hall of Fame, named Perry one of the ten greatest players of all time. But this documentary only considered those players who played before the Open era of tennis that began in 1968, with the exception of Rod Laver, who spanned both eras, so that all of the more recent great players are missing.

Kramer, however, had several caveats about Perry. He says that Bill Tilden once called Perry "the world's worst good player". Kramer says that Perry was "extremely fast; he had a hard body with sharp reflexes, and he could hit a forehand with a snap, slamming it on the rise—and even on the fastest grass. That shot was nearly as good as Segura's two-handed forehand." His only real weakness, says Kramer, "was his backhand. Perry hit underslice off that wing about 90 % of the time, and eventually at the very top levels—against Vines and Budge—that was what did him in. Whenever an opponent would make an especially good shot, Perry would cry out 'Very clevah.' I never played Fred competitively, but I heard enough from other guys that 'Very clevah' drove a lot of opponents crazy."

Perry, however, recalled his days on the professional tour differently. He maintained that "there was never any easing up in his tour matches with Ellsworth Vines and Bill Tilden since there was the title of World Pro Champion at stake." He said "I must have played Vines in something like 350 matches, yet there was never any fixing as most people thought. There were always people willing to believe that our pro matches weren't strictly on the level, that they were just exhibitions. But as far as we were concerned, we always gave everything we had."[24]

Another comment from Kramer is that Perry unwittingly "screwed up men's tennis in England, although this wasn't his fault. The way he could hit a forehand—snap it off like a ping-pong shot—Perry was a physical freak. Nobody else could be taught to hit a shot that way. But the kids over there copied Perry's style, and it ruined them. Even after Perry faded out of the picture, the coaches there must have kept using him as a model."

Clothing label

The Fred Perry Clothing Label
The classic Fred Perry design

In the late 1940s, Perry was approached by Tibby Wegner, an Austrian footballer who had invented an anti-perspirant device worn around the wrist. Perry made a few changes to create the first sweatband.

Wegner's next idea was to produce a sports shirt, which was to be made from white knitted cotton pique with short sleeves and a buttoned placket like René Lacoste's shirts. Launched at Wimbledon in 1952, the Fred Perry tennis shirt was an immediate success.[8] Initially it was only available in two colours – white and black.[25] The brand's logo is a laurel wreath. It was based on the original symbol for Wimbledon.[8] The logo, which appears on the left breast of Fred Perry garments, is stitched into the fabric of the shirt.[26]

The white tennis shirt was supplemented in the late 1950s with coloured versions for table tennis, in which white shirts are not allowed. These became popular in the 1960s as a symbol of mod culture. The brand had been associated with skinheads and the National Front in the 1970s.[27] In France, the brand is popular with both the far-right and far-left.[28]

The brand was initially run by the Perry family, namely his son David, until it was bought by Japanese company Hit Union in 1995. However, the Perry family continued to work closely with the brand, keeping Fred's legacy alive.[29][30]

The brand was the clothing sponsor of British tennis player Andy Murray from the start of his career until 2009.[31]

In September 2020, Perry stopped selling its black and yellow polo shirts across North America after they became the "unofficial uniform" of the far-right organisation, the Proud Boys,[32][33][27] and called on Proud Boys members to stop wearing their clothing.[34][35]

Honours and memorials

UK

Fred Perry Way sign in the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport

A bronze statue of Fred Perry was erected at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, London, in 1984 to mark the 50th anniversary of his first singles championship. It is located at the Church Road gate.

English Heritage blue plaque at 223 Pitshanger Lane, Ealing, London

Perry's home town of Stockport has numerous memorials to the former tennis champion. For instance there is a blue plaque commemorating the house where he was born. In September 2002, a designated walking route called the Fred Perry Way was opened through the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport. The 14 miles (23 km) route from Woodford in the south to Reddish in the north, combines rural footpaths, quiet lanes and river valleys with urban landscapes and parklands. Features along the route include Houldsworth Mill and Square, the start of the River Mersey at the confluence of the River Tame and River Goyt, Stockport Town Centre, Vernon and Woodbank Parks and the Happy Valley. The route also passes through Woodbank Park, where Perry played some exhibition tennis matches.

In November 2010, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and John Perry, Fred Perry's grandson, opened Fred Perry House in Stockport. The building, which is the borough's new civic headquarters, will be used by various local government agencies.[36] In June 2012, an English Heritage blue plaque was unveiled on the house at 223 Pitshanger Lane, Ealing, London, where Perry lived between 1919 and 1935.

World

Perry was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1975.

Perry received a Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa, from Washington and Lee University on 4 June 1987.[37] He had coached the W&L tennis team in 1941 and again in 1947.[38]

In the United States, two drives in El Paso, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and a street in Springfield, Tennessee, are named after Fred Perry.

World Table Tennis Championships

Gold 1; Silver 1; Bronze 4
  • 1928 Stockholm: Silver Doubles; Bronze Mixed Doubles; Bronze Team.
  • 1929 Budapest: Gold Singles; Bronze Doubles; Bronze Team.

Major finals

Singles: 10 (8 titles, 2 runners-up)

Result Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Win1933U.S. ChampionshipsGrass Jack Crawford6–3, 11–13, 4–6, 6–0, 6–1
Win1934Australian ChampionshipsGrass Jack Crawford6–3, 7–5, 6–1
Win1934Wimbledon ChampionshipsGrass Jack Crawford6–3, 6–0, 7–5
Win1934U.S. Championships (2)Grass Wilmer Allison6–4, 6–3, 3–6, 1–6, 8–6
Loss1935Australian ChampionshipsGrass Jack Crawford6–2, 4–6, 4–6, 4–6
Win1935French ChampionshipsClay Gottfried von Cramm6–3, 3–6, 6–1, 6–3
Win1935Wimbledon Championships (2)Grass Gottfried von Cramm6–2, 6–4, 6–4
Loss1936French ChampionshipsClay Gottfried von Cramm0–6, 6–2, 2–6, 6–2, 0–6
Win1936Wimbledon Championships (3)Grass Gottfried von Cramm6–1, 6–1, 6–0
Win1936U.S. Championships (3)Grass Don Budge2–6, 6–2, 8–6, 1–6, 10–8

Doubles: 4 (2 titles, 2 runners-up)

Result Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents Score
Loss1932Wimbledon ChampionshipsGrass Pat Hughes Jean Borotra
Jacques Brugnon
6–0, 4–6, 3–6, 7–5, 7–5
Win1933French ChampionshipsClay Pat Hughes Vivian McGrath
Adrian Quist
6–2, 6–4, 2–6, 7–5
Win1934Australian ChampionshipsGrass Pat Hughes Adrian Quist
Don Turnbull
6–8, 6–3, 6–4, 3–6, 6–3
Loss1935Australian ChampionshipsGrass Pat Hughes Jack Crawford
Vivian McGrath
6–4, 8–6, 6–2

Mixed doubles: 5 (4 titles, 1 runner-up)

Result Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents Score
Win1932French ChampionshipsClay Betty Nuthall Helen Wills Moody
Sidney Wood
6–4, 6–2
Win1932U.S. ChampionshipsGrass Sarah Palfrey Cooke Helen Jacobs
Ellsworth Vines
6–3, 7–5
Loss1933French ChampionshipsClay Betty Nuthall Margaret Scriven-Vivian
Jack Crawford
2–6, 3–6
Win1935Wimbledon ChampionshipsGrass Dorothy Round Nell Hall Hopman
Harry Hopman
7–5, 4–6, 6–2
Win1936Wimbledon ChampionshipsGrass Dorothy Round Sarah Palfrey Cooke
Don Budge
7–9, 7–5, 6–4

4 finals (2 titles, 2 runners-up)

Result Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Win1938US ProIndoor Bruce Barnes6–3, 6–2, 6–4
Loss1939US ProHard Ellsworth Vines6–8, 8–6, 1–6, 18–20
Loss1940US ProClay Don Budge3–6, 7–5, 4–6, 3–6
Win1941US ProClay Dick Skeen6–4, 6–8, 6–2, 6–3

Performance timeline

Fred Perry joined professional tennis in 1937 and was unable to compete in the Grand Slams tournaments.

Key
W  F  SF QF #R RR Q# A NH
(W) Won; (F) finalist; (SF) semifinalist; (QF) quarterfinalist; (#R) rounds 4, 3, 2, 1; (RR) round-robin stage; (Q#) qualification round; (A) absent; (NH) not held. SR=strike rate (events won/competed)
Tournament Amateur career Professional career SR W–L Win %
'29'30'31'32'33'34'35'36'37'38'39'40'41'42'43'44'45'46'47'48'49'50'51'52'53'54'55'56'57'58'59
Grand Slam tournaments: 8 / 22 101–15 87.07
Australian A A A A A W F A A A A A Not held A A A A A A A A A A A A A A 1 / 2 9–1 90.00
French A A 4R QF QF QF W F A A A Not held A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A 1 / 6 22–5 81.48
Wimbledon 3R 4R SF QF 2R W W W A A A Not held A A A A A A A A A A A A A A 3 / 8 36–5 87.80
U.S. A 4R SF 4R W W SF W A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A 3 / 6 34–4 89.47
Pro Slam tournaments: 2 / 11 19–9 67.86
U.S. Pro A A A A A A A A A W F F W A A NH A QF QF A A A A A A A QF A A 1R 1R 2 / 9 17–7 70.83
French Pro NH A A A NH A A A A A A Not held A NH A A 0 / 0 0–0 N/A
Wembley Pro Not held A A NH A NH A Not held A A QF QF A NH A A A A 0 / 2 2–2 50.00
Total: 10 / 33 120–24 83.33

See also

  • List of male tennis players
  • List of World Table Tennis Champions
  • List of England players at the World Team Table Tennis Championships
  • All-time tennis records – men's singles
  • Open Era tennis records – men's singles
  • Sergio Tacchini
  • Lacoste

References

  1. Peter Jackson (3 July 2009). "Who was Fred Perry?". BBC. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  2. "Fred Perry: Career match record". thetennisbase.com. Tennis Base. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  3. "Myers Seeds Fred Perry No. One; But Three Yanks Place", The Lewiston Daily Sun, 13 September 1934.
  4. "Fred Perry, Wimbledon's true champion, dies at 85". The Independent. 3 February 1995. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  5. Fred Perry – Obituary The Telegraph. Retrieved 27 June 2011
  6. "Who was Fred Perry?". BBC. 3 July 2009. Retrieved 5 June 2011.
  7. Fred Perry: the icon and the outcast BBC History Magazine. Retrieved 27 June 2011
  8. Peter Jackson (3 July 2009). "Who was Fred Perry?". BBC News. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  9. "ITTF_Database". Ittf.com. Archived from the original on 16 October 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  10. ""Event Guide - History, Fred Perry" at .wimbledon.org". Aeltc2010.wimbledon.org. Archived from the original on 27 June 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  11. "Why tennis establishment shunned Fred Perry, Britain's previous Wimbledon men's winner in 1936". The Independent. 7 July 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  12. Magill, Frank N., ed. (1999). Dictionary of World Biography (1. ed.). Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn. pp. 2979–2982. ISBN 978-1579580483.
  13. "Perry Wins First Match as Professional". Kalgoorlie Miner. 22 January 1937. p. 8.
  14. "BUDGE WINS, 6–2, 6–2, 6–3; Don Beats Vines in Montreal and Will Arrive Here Today". The New York Times. 7 March 1939. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  15. "BUDGE TRIUMPHS, 8–6, 6–2; Don Beats Perry for 28th Time at White Plains". The New York Times. 9 May 1939. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  16. The Bud Collins History of Tennis: An Authoritative Encyclopedia and Record Book. New Chapter Press. 2008. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-942257-41-0.
  17. "Sports session – BBC Home service – 4 July 1959, BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk.
  18. "Wimbledon 94 – Radio 5 – 21 June 1994, BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk.
  19. Fred Perry: An autobiography (1984), p. 191
  20. "The Marx brothers on film: souped-up comedy". Financial Times. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  21. Doward, Jamie (10 May 2009). "How Britain's prince of tennis wooed Hollywood's top stars". The Observer. London. Retrieved 3 June 2009.
  22. Burton, Mark (3 February 1995). "Fred Perry, Wimbledon's true champion, dies at 85". The Independent. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  23. Writing in 1979, Kramer considered the best ever to have been either Don Budge (for consistent play) or Ellsworth Vines (at the height of his game). The next four best were, chronologically, Bill Tilden, Fred Perry, Bobby Riggs and Pancho Gonzales. After these six came the "second echelon" of Rod Laver, Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Gottfried von Cramm, Ted Schroeder, Jack Crawford, Pancho Segura, Frank Sedgman, Tony Trabert, John Newcombe, Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, Björn Borg and Jimmy Connors. He felt unable to rank Henri Cochet and René Lacoste accurately but felt they were among the very best.
  24. The History of Professional Tennis, Joe McCauley.
  25. "casualauthentic.com". Archived from the original on 26 February 2021. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  26. Fred Perry Logo: Design and History. FamousLogos.net. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  27. Woolf, Jake (11 July 2017). "Fred Perry Wants Alt-Right Bros to Stop Wearing Their Polos". GQ Magazine. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  28. "Skinheads, anti-fascists and the Fred Perry connection". France 24. 7 June 2013. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  29. The Independent, Everyone for tennis: Fred Perry celebrates 60 years as a sportswear icon 13 October 2012
  30. David Owen, Fred Perry’s surprise big hit Financial Times, 14 November 2005
  31. "Murray ends Fred Perry sponsorship deal". The Independent. 4 November 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  32. "Fred Perry stops selling polo shirt after it becomes associated with far-right group". Sky News. 28 September 2020. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  33. Miller-Idriss, Cynthia (29 August 2019). "Why does the far right love Fred Perry? Mainstream fashion is its new camouflage". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  34. Matthers, Matt (26 September 2020). "Proud Boys Portland rally: Fred Perry tells right-wing group to stop wearing its iconic T-shirts". The Independent. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  35. "Proud Boys love Fred Perry polo t-shirts. The feeling is not mutual". Washington Post. 10 July 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  36. "Official Opening of Fred Perry House". Stockport Council. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  37. "Washington and Lee honorary degrees" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 May 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
  38. Ring-tum Phi, Washington and Lee student newspaper, and Calyx, Washington and Lee student yearbook,

Bibliography

  • McCauley, Joe (2003). The History of Professional Tennis.
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