On This Day

  • July 3 down the years

The last British man to win Wimbledon

Fred Perry was a master of his craft © Getty Images
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A big day for Wimbledon tennis finals.

1936 saw the last British tennis player to win the men's singles. Fred Perry took the title for the first time in 1934 (6 July). Today he won it for the third year in a row - in his easiest final by far. He'd beaten Gottfried von Cramm in straight sets the previous year and did it again now - but the skilful German, who'd beaten Perry in the recent French final, pulled a thigh muscle in his first service game and could barely run for the rest of the match. He stuck it out to the end, but should have retired a lot earlier; Perry's 6-1 6-1 6-0 did no-one any good. The following year, after Perry turned pro, von Cramm lost in the Final for the third time in a row.

In 1937, Britain's Dorothy Round regained the women's singles title she'd won in 1934 (7 July). With Helen Wills Moody staying away again (2 July), Round won a tough final against Jadwiga Jedzręjowska, winning the first set 6-2, losing the second by the same score, then coming from 4-2 down in the third to take it 7-5. Her backhand was as stern as ever while the Polish girl's forehand was less powerful than usual. Round was the last British woman to win the title until 1961 (8 July). The men are still waiting.

2010
Argentina appeared to be favourites by the time they reached the quarter-finals of the football World Cup. They were sweeping aside all before them, they had the world's best player in Lionel Messi and their manager was arguably the greatest footballer of all time. However, their manager was also Diego Maradona, the ticking time bomb who had courted controversy throughout a career littered with drug scandals and infamous acts of cheating. Somehow, Maradona had decided to leave two of his best defensive players, Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso, out of his Argentina squad despite the fact both players had been integral to an Inter Milan side that had just won the Treble. Without the pair, Argentina were battered 4-0 by Germany in South Africa, in a game that rendered Messi helpless as the men behind him failed to cope with the Germans' lethal counter-attacking game.

In 1909, Arthur 'Wentworth' Gore became the last British man to win the title before Perry in 1934 and the oldest player to win the men's or women's singles. Gore was already the oldest, having won the title the year before. He was 41 by now, but he outlasted MJG Ritchie, whose first name was Major and who was no spring chicken himself at 38. Ritchie won the first set 8-6 and the second 6-1. But Gore had always been able to hit his famous forehand drive all day. He won each of the last three sets 6-2. The following year, he became the oldest player in any Wimbledon singles final.

The 1993 women's singles final was the 100th at Wimbledon - but it's better known for the tears shed by Jana Novotná. Already one of the world's best doubles players, she reached eight Wimbledon finals in that event, winning four. In 1993, she finally broke through in singles. She's got the game for Wimbledon, they'd been saying. Mobility, good serve, waspish volleys. It's all in the mind, you know. Well, for once the brain took a back seat and let the instinctive talent drive her all the way to the final. There she lost a first-set tie-break but won ten of the next twelve games to lead 6-1 4-1 with her serve to come. Not for the first or last time, defending champion Steffi Graf crumbled under pressure. Not for the first or last time, she was let off the hook. She'd been gifted the 1991 final by Gabriela Sabatini. Now she watched as Novotná reached 40-30, a point away from a 5-1 lead - then the brain took over and reminded Novotná of the score. She double-faulted, dropped her serve, missed two points for a 5-2 lead - and the rest was car crash telly. Graf won five games in a row to win the title for the third year in a row. A tearful Novotná lost the doubles final as well and the singles final to a 16-year-old four years later (5 July) before winning it at last in 1998.

2010
There were no tears for Serena Williams, who unsurprisingly hammered Vera Zvonareva in one of the most predictable Wimbledon finals of all time. Victory was Williams' fourth at the All England Club, and it came via a 6-3 6-2 scoreline.

In 1954, another player won the Wimbledon singles for the third year in a row and the last time ever. Unlike Perry, Little Mo Connolly didn't choose her moment to leave. She'd already won all four Grand Slam titles, including her first US when she was 16. Today she beat the formidable Louise Brough in the final for the second time, again showing all her determination in winning one close set and one more easily. But this was her last Grand Slam title. Less than three weeks later, a fall from a horse ended her career (see 17 September). She was only 19.

The 1901 women's singles final was Blanche Bingley Hillyard's last. At long last. She reached her first in 1885 and this was her 13th, still the record for any Grand Slam tournament. Today she lost 6-2 6-2 to former champion Charlotte Cooper Sterry, whom she'd beaten in the last two finals. Bingley finished runner-up seven times, including five to young Lottie Dod (6 July 1887). Sterry's win made her the first player to win the triple crown of singles, doubles, and mixed, even though the last two were held outside Wimbledon.

In 1920, Bill Tilden became the first American to win the men's singles title. He allowed the Australian holder Gerald Patterson to win the first set, then broke down Patterson's backhand, which used the same face of the racquet as the forehand, too weird and weak against Tilden's icy brilliance. Big Bill won the last three sets easily, saved a match point in retaining the title the following year, then won it for the third time in 1930 (5 July).

1993
After winning the second Test 20-7 in Wellington, the British Lions should have been out of sight by half-time in the third. New Zealand spent the first half-hour giving away penalties for stamping, barging, high tackles, and pulling down mauls. Although Lions captain Gavin Hastings missed two penalty kicks, a try by centre Scott Gibbs, who had a storming tour, put them 10-0 ahead. But the All Blacks usually get it right after losing a match. They brought in a sharp new centre in Lee Stensness and moved the ball wide to force Peter Winterbottom and big Dean Richards out of the mauls and into the wide open spaces. Stensness made a try for Frank Bunce, and another by captain Sean Fitzpatrick put New Zealand 14-10 up at half-time. With fly-half Grant Fox kicking 15 points, they won 30-13. Martin Johnson was concussed by an accidental punch from his second-row partner Martin Bayfield, and Winterbottom retired from top-flight rugby. But the Lions had really been refereed out of the series in the first Test (12 June).

1994
A year of firsts for Michael Schumacher. World title and French Grand Prix victory. He won the race for a record eighth time 12 years later (16 July).

1959
South Africa's greatest golfer Gary Player won a Major for the first time. The top Americans weren't attracted by the prize money on offer, so Player beat the weakest field in any British Open. A last round of 68 gave him a six-shot swing over Fred Bullock and five over Flory Van Donck, who both finished two strokes behind. Player beat infinitely better opposition in winning eight more Majors spread over 19 years (9 May), including a third British Open in 1974 (13 July).

1924
At the Olympic Games, Britain won gold in the running-deer double-shot team event. They beat Norway by a single point. Nothing very newsworthy in that - except that one of their members had been decorated for bravery during the First World War. Philip Neame was the only Olympic champion to win the Victoria Cross.

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