80th Anniversary of Fred Perry’s first Wimbledon title
Friday, 4th Jul 2014
Britain dominated the world of lawn tennis in the mid 1930s. For three years, Fred Perry was the undisputed world number one, winning a string of major titles and a hat-trick of Wimbledon titles through 1934-1936.
Today, Fred Perry holds an iconic status. With his victories embedded in history along with his incredibly successful sportswear brand, his legacy is immensely influential to this day.
Born Frederick John Perry on 18 May, 1909, in Stockport. His father Sam was a cotton spinner who worked for the local Co-operative Party, and was summoned to London to work full-time at the party HQ. Fred attended Ealing County School, London and it was there that he was introduced to the world of table tennis.
Fred practiced the game every night and in 1928, he had won the world championship. At which point, he retired from the sport to concentrate on his new obsession – lawn tennis.
He had discovered the game whilst on a family holiday in Eastbourne four years earlier. Stumbling upon a local tournament, he was curious to who the cars parked near the courts belonged to; the spectators or the players? When his father replied ‘the players’, Fred declared that he would become one himself. At the time, tennis belonged to the upper classes, and this was an audacious statement from a working class boy from Stockport.
Fred began training under one Pop Summers, who insisted that he master the art of returning the ball early. It was the only stroke Fred practiced for months. Finally, it integrated into his natural game play and began to devastate his opponents.
Fred Perry’s domination of British tennis began in 1933. He helped lead the Great Britain team to victory over France in the Davis Cup, the first victory in 21 years. The following year he won the Australian Open.
It was 1934 when Perry got his first Wimbledon title. Triumphing over Australian Jack Crawford in the men’s singles, he still faced many who saw him as “not one of us”. Journalists watching him defeat Crawford commented on the “strange lack of excitement” among spectators. Fred’s elation at taking the title turned to anger when he overheard a Wimbledon committee member talking to Crawford after the match, exclaiming, “This is one day when the best man didn’t win”.
Despite the social prejudice, Fred Perry went on to have his name inscribed on three consecutive Wimbledon titles, as well as major singles trophies in France, United States and Australia. Suffocated by the stifling class system and prejudice, within the English lawn tennis association, Fred left Britain to help form the professional tennis circuit in America. Leaving British tennis with a void it struggled to fill for many decades.
The 80 Year Signature Collection, was released on the 6th July, 80 years to the day that Fred Perry first triumphed at Wimbledon. See it online here.