Murray's US Open title gives Britain different kind of champion to Perry

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2012, 3:24am


Andy Murray has a steady girlfriend, shuns alcohol and relaxes by taking his two dogs for long strolls in the countryside.

Fred Perry, the last British man to win a grand slam title by capturing the US championship in 1936, would have done things differently - and probably a lot more noisily.

Perry, who died aged 85 in Melbourne in 1995, was married four times, counted 1930s Hollywood sirens Marlene Dietrich and Jean Harlow among his lovers, renounced his British citizenship and served in the US Air Force in the second world war. He also fell out spectacularly with the British tennis establishment, who bristled at his professional status and his humble origins.

Born the son of a cotton factory worker in 1909 in England's industrial north, Perry's father was a committed socialist.

After the family moved to London, Perry learned to play table tennis and tennis, but endured a roller-coaster relationship with Wimbledon officials. Always an outsider in the stuffy surroundings of amateur lawn tennis, Perry thrived in the more egalitarian atmosphere of the United States, where the gregarious, athletic Englishman was an instant celebrity.

John Henderson, author of biography The Last Champion, explained Perry's popularity.

"He was an extremely good looking, red-blooded lad. The girls liked him and he liked the girls. It went from there," wrote Henderson. "One US columnist said: 'Women fell for him like ninepins, and when he went to Hollywood, male film stars went and sulked in Nevada.'"

By the time of Perry's death, he had finally become accepted into the British tennis culture.

"Fred Perry was a superlative ambassador for our sport throughout the world. He was a great character, big hearted and a true champion in every sense," said former All England chairman John Curry.




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