Us Brits have a love affair with the game of tennis. For two weeks every summer we park ourselves in front of the tv and watch Wimbledon. Over the years we have been lucky enough to have some fantastic champions who have given us more than just their blood sweat and tears to British sport. We take a look at 5 British Tennis greats and their contribution to British sport.
For those of us not old enough to remember Fred Perry won three consecutive Wimbledon Singles titles between 1934 and 1936. He also accomplished the career grand slam by winning the French Championships in 1935 and remains the only British player ever to achieve this. Perry held the world number one spot and helped Great Britain win the Davis Cup four times. His resume is certainly up there with the best players ever to play the game and Jack Kramer, Perry’s promoter named him as one of the top 6 players to every play the game in his 1979 autobiography. His name will always be synonymous with his Wimbledon titles and visitors to Wimbledon will see the statue in his honour at the All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon.
Virginia Wade will be forever remembered for lifting the Wimbledon Ladies Singles title in 1977 on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Wimbledon Championships and the silver jubilee of her majesty the Queen Elizabeth II. In a stellar career Wade won both the US Open in 1968 and the Australian Open in 1972. Unlike many other top stars of the time Wade also played doubles and lifted four grand slam titles in her career. With 55 singles titles, an OBE and a member of the Tennis Hall of Fame in Rhode Island, Virginia Wade is very much a British Tennis great.
The name Fred Perry has haunted many top British tennis players over the decades none more so than Tiger Tim Henman. Tim Henman brought tennis to the front pages in the 1990s and early 2000s as the Great British public rediscovered their love affair with tennis. For those that were not lucky enough to get tickets for Henman’s big matches on Centre Court, British tennis fans congregated on the hill outside Court One and renamed it Henman Hill. The hill was always packed and decked out in red white and blue giving an incredible atmosphere and Henners was never one for a straightforward three set victory. Tim Henman seemed to specialise in the spectacular as he made stunning comebacks from the brink cheered on by the partisan Centre Court crowd. Henman must surely have dreamt that in a career with four Wimbledon quarter finals and 4 semi finals that he would make the final and lift the title but unfortunately not. Fourteen time grand slam champion Pete Sampras stood in Henman’s way and on the occasion that he went out Henman went out agonisingly in the semis to Croatian big server Goran Ivanisevic.
Andy Murray is Scotland’s finest tennis player ever, one of the greatest of all time and a bona fide member of the extremely exclusive top 4 with Rafael Nadal Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Andy has been at the top of the mens game for almost a decade now and winning the biggest events on the ATP tour. Doubts always surrounded Murray’s ability to perform on the biggest stage as he had yet to lift a grand slam title .Murray finally got the monkey off his back in the US Open 2012 as he defeated childhood friend Novak Djokovic in five absorbing sets in under the lights of the gigantic Arthur Ashe stadium in New York. The foundation for this victory was the Olympic Singles final only a few weeks previous as he defeated Roger Federer, 7 time Wimbledon Champion to lift the Gold medal for Great Britain.
Like Henman and many others before him the pressure was always the greatest when Andy played on the hallowed turf of Wimbledon. Andy finally made history after 77 years of waiting on a roasting hot Sunday in July 2013 as he completely dominated his friend Novak Djokovic and turned the formbook on its head to lift the Wimbledon trophy and collect his second grand slam. With French coach Amelie Mauresmo and Swede Jonas Bjorkman Murray is nearing his best form and it will only be a matter of time before the Scot is hoisting another big title over his head.
In 2008, Australian born Londoner Laura Robson thrust herself in the tennis limelight as a shy fourteen year old. Unseeded and unheralded Robson won her very first grand slam event at Junior Wimbledon, the first British player to do so since Annabel Croft in 1984. Robson has developed slowly and made the transition from junior to senior tennis gradually. She first played with fellow Brit Andy Murray in the Hopman Cup in Perth and narrowly lost to Spain in the finals. This partnership continued to the London Olympics in 2012 as the pair laughed and chuckled to the finals of the mixed doubles winning the silver medal to Belorussia’s Vika Azarenka and Max Mirnyi. Laura Robson and Heather Watson of Guernsey are very much the darlings of British tennis at the moment. Both ladies share the mantel and the expectations of a nation and have both been ranked as high as the top 40 in the world. Both girls are tipped to make it to the top and they have time on their side.